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I'm A Young Gay Man, But I Won't Be Attending Mardi Gras

I couldn't just be gay. I had to be hot and naked, too.

03/03/2017 9:55 AM AEDT | Updated 03/03/2017 9:56 AM AEDT
Jason Reed / Reuters
"I think the parade has devolved into a prolonged foreplay session for an orgiastic dance party."

As a Sydney-adjacent gay man I've made the pilgrimage to the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade a number of times but this year I have decided to stay home instead.

At my first Mardi Gras, I was a naive 19-year-old with an unfortunate Justin Bieber fringe. I was stuck on the side of the road trying to catch a glimpse of the parade and sipping on a sneaky Mount Franklin bottle filled with cheap vodka. It was an eye-opening experience but it wasn't exactly liberating like I had expected. I didn't even get any numbers.

At my final Mardi Gras I realised why I wasn't enjoying myself as much as I was pretending. My problem? I was wearing too many clothes.

For my second and third Mardi Gras, I had more confidence and even shared a couple of kisses. However, I still didn't feel like I was having the full Mardi Gras experience that everyone else seemed to be having.

At my final Mardi Gras I realised why I wasn't enjoying myself as much as I was pretending. My problem? I was wearing too many clothes.

I looked around the dancefloor of the after party at the Hordern Pavillion and I realised I was the only person wearing a collared shirt. Amid a sea of leather harnesses, assless chaps, jock straps, giant pecs and waxed torsos, I was dressed for entry to an RSL.

I undid another button but I still felt silly. I could have taken my shirt off and danced with all the other sweaty, shirtless men but I feared that I would be judged for my lack of muscles.

For a celebration of pride and inclusiveness I walked away feeling ashamed and isolated. Too fat to be a twink, too skinny to be a bear, not hairy enough to be this, not muscular enough to be that. How foolish I was to think I could just be gay. I needed another label to truly fit in. More accurately, I needed to look like a DNA model.

Perhaps I'm being simplistic and unkind, but I think there is a real problem in our community where visibility is tied to muscularity. The parade is designed to showcase all the different queer people who contribute to our wider society, but please let's have the hot ones march in the front.

I love that people have a platform to show how out and proud they are. I just wish it didn't all boil down to who has a six-pack.

I love the idea of the Mardi Gras. I love that there is a celebration of queer identity and the many different subsets and groups. I love that people have a platform to show how out and proud they are. I just wish it didn't all boil down to who has a six-pack. Maybe I'm just bitter and need to create my own float for bookish gay boys who like wearing shirts.

I am now in a committed relationship and we are almost at our two-year anniversary. My boyfriend and I have both decided not to attend this year's Mardi Gras because we think the parade has devolved into a prolonged foreplay session for an orgiastic dance party. As a couple, we don't feel like the Mardi Gras is for us anymore, and that's a shame. It should be a celebration for the entire community, regardless of shape, size, or relationship status.

Instead, we will probably stay home, watch some Netflix, and play with our puppy. We might even write a letter to our local MP, asking them about the progress of marriage equality or safe schools. We will celebrate our relationship and sexual identity in our own private, non-performative way. Who knows, without the pressure to conform or label myself, I might finally feel liberated.

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