On June 24, 1978 in Sydney, a thousand or so people gathered to attend the first Gay Mardi Gras, held on the ninth anniversary of Stonewall, declared a day of international gay solidarity. The day’s events consisted of a rally and march at Sydney Town Hall in the morning, a public meeting at Paddington Town Hall in the afternoon, and a festival that night at Taylor Square. Despite having obtained a permit to hold a rally in the streets, police decided to join in the celebrations by attacking those attending that night’s party, which in turn became a protest over such repressive acts. Or as Aysha Leo and Will Temple (Is it time to say sorry?, NEWS.com.au, February 29, 2008) put it:
The Mardi Gras had started as a legal pride parade down Sydney’s Oxford St for a few hundred people in commemoration of the Stonewall riots that marked the start of the fight for gay liberation in the US a decade earlier. But when the marchers arrived at Hyde Park at the bottom of the street police confiscated the sound system. The gathering, which was now numbered about 2000, started marching towards neighbouring Kings Cross until police blocked two ends of the main thoroughfare – Darlinghurst Rd – and started arresting those involved. 53 marchers – including Peter Murphy – were charged variously with being in an illegal procession, hindering police and resisting police from the night of June 24, 1978.
gaymatchmaker paid tribute to the boys and grrls of ’78, but it appears that politics is about appearances, and the situation facing a Pakistani man, Ali Humayun, is apparently “too political” for the hundreds of thousands of people who now watch the passing parade in Sydney each year. Sadly, because he has come out as a queer man, Ali, who is currently imprisoned in Villawood, faces being murdered by members of his own family should he be deported to Pakistan. Given the recent change in Federal Government, one might expect a change in policy with regards the imprisonment of asylum seekers, but as yet, despite the official abandonment (February 8, 2008) of the $300 million ‘Pacific Solution’, the HoWARd Government’s decision to excise islands from Australia’s territory remains seemingly in place, as well as the policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers — first introduced, of course, by the previous ALP Government.
- Community Action Against Homophobia Press Release
Tuesday 4th March
Ali Humayun banned from Mardi Gras Parade
New Mardi Gras banned a “Free Ali Humayun” banner from being shown on Saturday’s Mardi Gras parade. The banner was a large professionally produced colour picture of Ali Humayun, a queer Pakistani man who has been locked up in Villawood Detention Centre for over three years. The banner had the words “Free Ali Humayun” emblazoned on it, the Community Action Against Homophobia website and was placed on the front of CAAH’s truck.
A representative from the New Mardi Gras board told CAAH to take the banner down because it was “too political”. CAAH complied, thinking the banner would be able to be presented while walking. This was not the case.
An ex-detainee of Villawood detention centre was holding the Ali banner high and five minutes into walking off into the parade, a New Mardi Gras representative grabbed the banner from his hands and told CAAH “you will not come back to Mardi Gras if you show this banner”. CAAH tried to convince the NMG representative that showing the banner was a democratic right, only to be told “this comes from the head of the Mardi Gras board.”
Ali Humayun is out to his Muslim family in Pakistan. His father and brother have told him they will kill him if he returns home. It is clear Ali will be persecuted if he is deported back to Pakistan. Instead of accepting the danger Ali Humayun will be in if he returns home and giving him refugee status the Australian government has locked Ali Humayun up for over three years. The Federal Ombudsman has recommended his release, along with many other long term detainees. Rudd was elected into office promising detainees were not to be locked up for more than 90 days. Yet there are detainees who’ve been locked up for more than 1000, and still no action comes from Rudd.
“It is deplorable that New Mardi Gras banned Ali Humayun’s presence at the Mardi Gras parade.” said Allan Priestly, CAAH Co-convenor. “It was the only way he could have a voice at the parade, given the Rudd government still has him locked up.”
Rachel Evans, CAAH-Co-convenor said “We call on New Mardi Gras to support queers in Pakistan – support freeing Ali Humayun and give assurances to the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex (GLBTI) community that this racist censorship will not happen again. Mardi Gras was born out of the queer communities refusal to accept the closet or the censorship bigoted governments and police foisted upon us. Thirty years on and New Mardi Gras is trying to censor solidarity actions with the most oppressed queers in our community. Shame New Mardi Gras, shame” concluded Evans.
“We want to free Ali Humayun,” said Alan Priestly. “We want New Mardi Gras to support this campaign and help us. Together, united we can do this”.
Mark Goudkamp from Sydney’s Refugee Action Coalition said “The Ali Humayun case is one all in Australian should know about. The censorship of New Mardi Gras is an outrage. We request that all gay and lesbian support organizations come on board and support the immediate release of Ali Humayun.”
Call Rachel Evans 0403 798 420 or Alan Priestly 0410 879 068 for more info…
See also : Sasha Soldatow, What is this gay community shit? The Sydney Gay Mardi Gras and the Left, 1983. In some respects, Soldatow’s observations apply equally to other times, places and communities, including the contemporary anarchist movement, where notions of ‘community’ are constantly invoked, and to suit different and often conflicting agendas.
In that pamphlet I wrote that the emerging gay community was dismantling a whole history of radical political action. So-called community aspirations were taking over from the preceding debates of sexual politics, debates that involved both women and men attempting to renegotiate and reinvent the temperament of gender. Simply put, the whole gay community thing was twaddle; it was a matter of emerging gay capitalists smelling the dollars that could be milked from men’s cocks…
How do I fit in this rainbow machine?
Pride and waves of flags in this beauty-boy scene
Shaved bodies, tight tummies all ’round
I am such a lost queer walking down the streets of boys’ town
Fashion dictates if you’re wrong or right
Abercrombie Fitch Gap what a fright
Versace Prada Diesel and many more
Label flashing shit what a bore
Punk queers shit let’s put it where it’s at
Bald or hairy thin or thick you know I like that fat
Pull off your punk shirts and let’s not hide
Let’s rework that thing they call pride