Mardi Gras says ‘no banners’ to poly group

Remember how I wondered about the symbolism of removing ‘gay and lesbian‘ from the name of Sydney Mardi Gras?  I wondered if love is really such a universal virtue that we can all gather under its banner. Well, it now seems we can’t.

From today’s poly mardi gras float list:

**IMPORTANT PLEASE READ AND PASS ON**
I have just got off the phone from Victor from the Sydney Mardi Gras about our entry.

Victor was very clear that Sydney Mardi Gras does are not include us as part of the LGBTIQ community. He said that while we can express our support for the LGBTIQ community, we cannot have any signs that talk about polyamory or say things like “polyamory is ethical/natural etc”.

I have also had no reply to my email asking them exactly what the definition of queer is, and was told that we are not considered LGBTIQ even though our group is primarily composed of LGBTIQ members. When I pointed this out, he offered to “help me understand” the new Mardi Gras categories.

I am pretty angry and insulted about this, and let him know that we were already not considering participating because a large number of community members were upset at not being considered part of the LGBTIQ community.

I am inclined not to participate because of this. However, I obviously I need to represent the community on this, and I don’t know how everyone else feels. I have told him I will consult with other community members and touch base with him on Friday. We will need to have an entry form submitted by Monday if we are going to be in it, stating that we will not have messages about what polyamory is as part of our float.

It isn’t new to point out that what many gay marriage activists want is not just equality with heterosexuals, but sameness with them.  They claim to be fighting for ‘Equal Love’ but in fact they are fighting for one very specific configuration of love: the monogamous couple, married in the eyes of the law, promising forever together.  There is nothing queer or progressive or radical about it.

Poly relationships aren’t of necessity more equal, radical or progressive either, but as a practice they are unquestionably queer, mounting an embedded and practical critique of heterosexist norms of monogamous, dyadic romance.  It is profound hypocrisy for Mardi Gras to think it can police what kinds of consensual, adult, non-violent expressions of love are acceptable in its parade.

Update: HipPOLYta comments below that Mardi Gras didn’t recognise the poly group as queer and have allowed them into the parade on the condition their banners specify they are queer polyamorists.

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30 thoughts on “Mardi Gras says ‘no banners’ to poly group

  1. The “new Mardi Gras categories”? What are they? I remember years back when I marched with the Bi group we heard that Madame lash had been refused entry, but not the reason why. I no longer march in this event because for anyone living outside Sydney it’s pretty clear that it gives lip service to its ideals and is primarily a City based event with guests from elsewhere.

    As regards “gay marriage”, I support Marriage Equality which is a different thing entirely, rather than an extension of the franchise , which is what happened in New York last year (trans and intersexed folk weren’t covered).

      • Well the first merely adds the franchise so that in addition to marriage being defined as “a man and a woman” it also includes “man and a man” and “woman and a woman”, but there’s a problem with that if you are trans* or intersexed. If you’re intersexed you might not have either gender, and if you’re trans* you may indeed be able to marry under this, but if your new gender isn’t recognised it would hardly be appropriate either way (e.g. a trans woman being allowed to marry as a man)!

        So that being the case instead of defining gender at all in the act, why not have it as something between “two consenting adults” which would cover almost everything. Of course Poly-marriage wouldn’t be covered by that, but it would at least be a start.

      • This is actually a reply to Laura Ess’s reply to this comment.

        As a polly individual, I fully support the fight for equal marriage focusing on being ‘between two consenting adults’. This is a major milestone worth aiming for.

        Then, once that milestone is reached, it will be time for the polly community to pull out it’s mimetic weapons and go to town on the system.

        I wish you good fortune in your endeavors.

  2. As the debate continues to be centred about relationship recognition through the Marriage Act – this being the last bastion for LGBTi relationship equality given that de facto relationships have exactly the same rights regardless of the gender of the individual with whom you form your relationship – it could be said by Mardi Gras folks that Poly-amorous relationships definitely do not tick any box within the LGBTi community let alone in the broader heterosexual and majority intersex world.

    Perhaps when the dust settles on “marriage” after people force Abbott to capitulate, or change votes away from him and his party, then there is a again scope for Mardi Gras to be focussing on other issues outside of marriage and the poly-amorous peeps will be again included.

    (post script: when I link heterosexual to intersex it is solely due to the desire of many, some say most, intersex people to be regarded as heterosexual and therefore their community of identity is anywhere but the LGBTi community. I also acknowledge and embrace the desire of many in the LBGT community to welcome Allied communities such as Intersex when this is their community of choice).

    • Just to set you straight on something, Greg: I can’t help but notice you dropped the Q from the acronym to suit your argument, but Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (the overarching entity formerly known as New Mardi Gras) sees its constituency as the “LGBTQI community” (sic).

      I would also point out that SMGLG had no problem with including the poly group – the debate is about their freedom to express their sexuality in messages on their banners, just like that accorded to Equal Love marchers.

    • A very real fear amongst many trans folk though is that because the gay and lesbians are the majority supporters of these changes, the perception (both public and within G&L circles) is that they are the only stake holders in the issue, and that winning the right to marry is the be all and end all of pressing human rights here.

      And that’s a huge problem after it IS gained, because rallying support for other changes and reforms needed for other parts of the “queer alphabet” will be much more difficult. Last year I attended a queer student conference in Perth and was told by one proponent of marriage reform that “these issues had to come first and that after after marriage equality had been gained, we’d help you get your issues dealt with” (the your referring to trans stuff I guess). I was stunned by this attitude because it showed total ignorance of what those issues were, and denial that anyone other than gays and lesbians had a stake in marriage reform.

      Everyone who’s replied here seems to know better, but encountering such views does not inspire confidence.

      • Wow. That’s a horrible reaction. Considering that trans people are still struggling for basic understanding and respect, it’s pretty insulting to say that we’ll deal with those issues once we get a piece of legislation which is largely symbolic and which is already supported by the majority of Australians.

    • Hey, I’m not sure that it’s fair to categorise intersex people as wanting to be regarded as heterosexual in any greater proportions than the rest of the population (for example one could say that the majority of those unambiguously assigned male want to be regarded as heterosexual.) Given that intersex people come in a variety of genders and sexualities I think it’s safe to say that being intersex doesn’t make someone significantly more or less likely to prefer being read as straight (unless there are stats to the contrary, in which case: Please link me!)

  3. I don’t see why it’s necessary to tie a moronic decision by Mardi Gras to the marriage equality campaign. Mardi Gras has been doing stupid shit like this for years.

    In response to Laura’s comment, a reformed Marriage Act would (assuming it follows the model of other country) define marriage as being between two *people* – language that takes gender, gender identity and sexuality out of the frame. This kind of reform would not exclude trans* and intersexed people.

    In response to Daniel’s comment about marriage activists trying to enforce a heteronormative, monogamous ‘sameness’ on queer people, I think that’s a generalisation and something of an insult. I have been questioning the value of the institution of marriage my whole adult life, and yet I am married. We’re also in a polyamorous relationship (there are four of us, although only two are married). I’m not in favour of monogamy, heteronormativity or sameness, but I am in favour of marriage reform, because as long as marriage exists (and I’d abolish it today if I could) it should be open to all people.

    If you think a change to the Marriage Act is somehow going to turn all queer people into proto-heterosexual monogamous suburbanites, you have little respect for the diversity of queer people out there. (Most queer people, of course, are already proto-heterosexual monogamous suburbanites, as they always have been, and good luck to them).

    • In this post I’m referring to the fight for gay marriage and the way it has been fought, not to gays getting married. I’m sorry you feel insulted but I think you have misunderstood my argument. It has been fought on a basis that emphasised the essential sameness of what gays and straights want from life: that’s why Mardi Gras and Greg Adkins seem to feel that poly messages on banners could jeopardise the marriage equality message. Turning LGBT activism into a single issue movement in the noughties has constrained the range of options visible and open to young LGBT for how they might approach relationships and think about their identity and engage with gay community. That’s not a theoretical argument – it’s exactly what Mardi Gras is doing in this case.

      • Hmmm. I don’t want to take further exception because I strongly agree with your original post and don’t want to take the debate in another direction, but a trio of points:

        1. What is so wrong with people desiring the kind of lives their straight peers enjoy? Why are we so against queer people who choose to live in monogamous, suburban relationships with two kids, two cars, two mortgages and a labrador? That life is not for me but I’m capable of accepting that some people might prefer it and I don’t think it challenges my view of what it means to be queer to accept those people. Occasionally I think the ‘heteronormative, monogamous’ name-calling verges on a kind of bigotry.

        2. Has Greg Adkins and/or SGLMG actually said that the reason they don’t want the polys to carry banners is because it might negatively impact the equal marriage campaign? That isn’t apparent from the quote.

        3. We’ve become a ‘single issue movement’? News to me. I know lots of people working on adoption and parenting rights, immigration, anti-bullying, mental health, homophobia in sport, homophobia more generally, HIV issues, queer community building, international issues and more. You’ll find if you look just past the big ‘marriage equality’ tree, there’s a whole forest.

        • Queer critique is concerned with denaturalising and illustrating how a particular social order is maintained through very subtle constraints and nudges that operate on how and what people desire. I have no concern with particular people who desire the Volvo, the white picket fence and the yellow Lab. I am concerned about the culture that puts them at the top of a social hierarchy and how that impacts upon people who don’t desire that lifestyle.

          In Greg Adkins’ case, quoting from his comment below, yes he has: “Perhaps when the dust settles on ‘marriage’ … then there is again scope for Mardi Gras to be focussing on other issues outside of marriage and the poly-amorous peeps will be again included.”

          In the case of Mardi Gras, that’s my interpretation. Their supporters justified removing LGBT because being specific is supposedly exclusive; now they justify exclusion by saying poly isn’t LGBT enough. The complete lack of consistency makes me think they’re covering up a different reason: wanting to make Mardi Gras as acceptable as possible to heterosexual people, because they believe all the deviance on display harms the case for gay marriage.

          And activism in the noughties was a whole forest of the same kind of tree, sprouted from one particular rhizome: the idea that gays are so like straights that discrimination is arbitrary.

      • I find Greg’s intervention most ironic, since for as long as I can remember he has been berating me and others for being too narrowly focussed on marriage to the exclusion of all else. Which I’m not – but that’s for another time and place. Our major festival ought to be mature enough by now to have a range of viewpoints on the marriage issue – or any other issue – represented, and should certainly not be in the business of telling people whether or not they ‘belong’ in our community (which is merely an imaginary political convenience anyway), even if the message they send doesn’t fit with the political orthodoxy decreed by the management – incredible arrogance.

    • .”..a reformed Marriage Act would (assuming it follows the model of other country) define marriage as being between two *people* – language that takes gender, gender identity and sexuality out of the frame. This kind of reform would not exclude trans* and intersexed people.”

      Which would be ideal though which other model ‘from other country” would make a great deal of difference. In the USA for example it seems that marriage is a State by State thing. In New York last year the act was extended to only to add same-sex marriages. On the same day it was passed, another act that would have ensured basic rights for trans people in NY was rejected!

      Reliance on overseas models is a mistake.

  4. Its is important to be represented. Banners can appear at any time! Sanctioned or not! As a gay many in a polyamorous relationships I am still somewhat in the closet, not as a gay but because we love more than one person equally and honestly.

  5. And exactly how “LGBTIQ” are ANY of the political groups (ALP, Liberals etc) that march? Or do they get to fly their banners because they have more money?

    I think this is a very dangerous precedence towards a reclassification and subsequent neutering of our “queer” selves in order to be vastly more palatable to the wider “straight” audience (because lets face it, the parade is the biggest spectator sport in Australia/the World).

    Our rights werent achieved all those years ago by being white-washed and blending in and having a unified voice with the masses. On the contrary – blood was spilt, people locked up, lives destroyed so that fiture generations of “queers” could be open and proud instead of vilified and reviled.

    The “queer” community has rarely been unified and our difference has been the unifying force that has driven change. We havent always tolerated each other’s voices, but strove for a common goal of acceptance and look how far (until now) we have come.

    At this point I fail to see where Mardi Gras’ acceptance is…

  6. the objection seems to be with the banners’ language… can we have a style guide? if the banner says we support polyamory between consenting queers would that be ok? is it the lack of stated queerness or the polyamory that is the problem?

  7. So, is Scarlet Alliance going to be forced not to display any pro-sex work banners from now on? What about ANZ? This is ridiculous. When they dropped the alphabet soup, we were told it was because Mardi Gras had become about so much more. How is the poly float, which challenges long-held notions of love and sexuality, not perfectly matched for the parade?

  8. Actually after considered discussion with MG we are now going to be marching under a “Queer Polyamorists” banner, and can say what we want about poly. The problem was that they originally likened polyamory to a bowling team (!) and said we were only allowed to have banners showing support for LGBTQI, not saying anything about polyamory. I think they didn’t really understand polyamory – along with most of our society. Part of the problem is the lack of definition around the term ‘queer’ and who gets to decide who qualifies as ‘queer’ (familiar argument?). However the bulk of the poly community identifies as queer, most of us would agree with Belle that it is perfectly matched to MG, and our community encompasses people from all genders and orientations.

    So it has worked out well for this year, and there’ll be more discussion with MG about the nature of poly for next year’s float.

    Polyamorists have universally supported the equal marriage issue. There is some concern that in order to get that issue the recognition it needs for legislative change, there has been some distancing by equal marriage activists from the large chunk of the queer community that doesn’t practice monogamy. We generally understand the need to focus on one issue to get it through, but there’s a concern that we may then find ourselves ostracised by the people we have supported. I think it’s telling that Stephen feels comfortable being out about being gay but not about being poly.

    • That’s good news, although ‘queer polyamorists’ to me sounds like a tautology; queer is not just a synonym for LGBTI but a body of critical thought with a long-standing regard for poly. This response also shows SGLMG see the march as being about tribe membership (‘we’re queer too’!) rather than ideas and messages (‘poly is great!’) — they’ve forgotten their history.

  9. Does Mardi Gras understand what queer is ? Or have they defined it so narrowly that it is simply a synonym for lesbian and gay (and maybe bi-sexual).
    When a few years ago they banned the Animal rights group they demonstrated that they had no concept of the importance of the intersection of oppressions.
    Now they are demonstrating that they don’t understand queer.

  10. I am a non poly person, in a queer relationship, but i have much more in common with any poly individual, than any idiot who thinks like this.

    I am behind you all 100%. Most of us are! The thing queers need to remember is if they want an end to discrimination, they they need to stop discriminating, i would have thought that would be a simple idea, obviously not.
    We are so desperate to get equality for some, that us ‘freaks’ get through by the ‘we just normal, i swear we are just like you’ wayside. I knew this was a downward spiral, i just didn’t realise how quickly we would fall!

    Solidarity and love to you all xoxo

  11. Sydney Mardi Gras is now there to make money for Fox Studios and intern new PR graduates. Start your own organization for queers. You’re even not wanted there, so why even try?

    • LOL sorry to laugh but the idea of Mardi Gras as a money maker for FOX is a bit outlandish. Truth is they’re cash strapped and thus conservative in their approach…

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