Mardi Gras 2022: Celebrating our differences together

23 February 2022
What does it mean to be part of Mardi Gras with your university?
We’re proud to be marching in our 7th Mardi Gras Parade on Saturday 5 March. We spoke to four current students who are joining our float about what marching in Mardi Gras means to them, and about their experiences as members of the LGBTIQ community.
Yuning sitting on rainbow stairs outside Manning wearing graduation robes

Yuning Zhang, PhD candidate, Business School

"Marching in Mardi Gras with University of Sydney means a big celebration of a true self with my chosen family and a big fight for my Sydney Uni queer friends who are not able to openly speak up for themselves. The University not only witnessed my growth regarding my own career path and academic development, but also created a super supportive environment helping me express myself, finish my self-identifying process and break down the heavy traditional expectations on me.

What I am looking forward to about the march the most is to catch up with old friends and meet new friends.

The number one thing I have learned from being in the LGBTIQ+ community is it is very normal to have anxiety from the fear of unknown. What we should do is to recognise the anxiety, not deny it and seek support.

The most important message of Mardi Gras is to be brave and not silent. Just embrace and accept ourselves genuinely, stand up and speak out for ourselves, for our amazing community, for our loved ones, for the people who are unable to fight for themselves."

Léa in blue dress looking at camera

Image credit: @photoson76

Léa Etournaud, Criminology and Psychology

"I grew up in a safe environment, within the LGBTQ+ community and allies. Arriving in Australia, I met so many people who were ashamed of their sexualities, and who praised me for screaming mine out loud. To me, it was something as easy as telling people my name. I am now more grateful for my advantages and try to offer the same safe environment to others. 

I'm proud of being a University of Sydney student, and I'm proud of being a member of the LGBTQ+ community! I'm so glad I have the opportunity to represent both. I'm really excited to meet new incredible people!

I want children to learn that it's not just 'acceptable' to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community, but that it's normal. And it's also something that can be celebrated!"

Joseph side on looking at camera, flowers are stuck to the side of his face

Joseph Black, Masters of International Law

"Marching in Mardi Gras means quite a lot to me. It means breaking out of my shell, collaborating with others to be seen and stem discrimination, and celebrating. It means contributing to new realities, realities in which we're not judged for our sexualities and genders, we're not judged for the colours of our skins, and we're celebrated for our humanness, our aliveness, just because we are who we are. 

As a member of the LGBTIQ+ community, I've learned a lot. I've learned that no one experience is the same and everyone is unique. It's beautiful to be you, to detach from the herd, and to be seen. I've learned that many people are cruel, and will try to marginalise you, but there are many, many supportive people out there. I've learned that discrimination is real, has real impacts on diverse people, and people with intersectional identities are particularly subject to discrimination in our societies. Oftentimes, relying on law to stimulate change is not enough, but we can engineer substantive change from the grassroots up.

We are all different but are one. Diversity is beautiful. It's time to live - don't be imprisoned by respectability and others. It's time to be seen."

Sephira standing in front of a blue mural

Sephira Luo, PhD candidate, School of Architecture

"I came from an authoritarian background where being different is frowned upon, so I learnt to hide my true self to “fit in”. Mardi Gras with University of Sydney offers me a supportive community that I feel belong to and I could express myself without fear. I am mostly looking forward to dancing during the march. I always prefer non-verbal communication and expression, and dancing helps me channel my thoughts with the music and my surrounding environments and it offers me inner serenity.

Having a voice in the community is a privilege. There are still many members living under the shadow, having trouble expressing or identifying themselves because of the social environment they live in.

Freedom is always worth fighting for. Whether you choose to speak up in public or support others behind the scenes, please have faith and keep going."

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