Journey to Mardi Gras 2019: Welcoming you exactly as you are

Journey to Mardi Gras 2019: Welcoming you exactly as you are

Why will you march?

Mardi Gras means so much to so many people, but at its heart, it’s part of someone’s story, their journey. It’s also part of Uniting’s journey.

We acknowledge and celebrate that many things have changed as we prepare to get frocked up and fabulous to march in our fourth parade float.

This year, 10 of our client’s will take centre stage, marching side-by-side with us. Michael and Celia are among them – two people with very different reasons for wanting to be a part of the parade.

One attended the very first Mardi Gras party in 1979, while the other was promised to be taken to the event by a partner, but sadly they passed away.

Here are their stories.

Meet Michael – the Mardi Gras Veteran

Uniting home and community care client and seasoned Mardi Gras marcher, Michael, will be making a special trip to Sydney from his home in Port Macquarie for the parade.

Mardi Gras

Michael is a Mardi Gras veteran.

Last year when Michael was looking for help to keep him living independently at home, he was referred by his friend, Sue, who told him, “Go to Uniting – they’ve got the Rainbow Tick.”

“I can no longer drive so I now have two support workers that visit twice a week to help me out,” Michael explains.

Michael has always been an active LGBTI community member. He was also involved in the coordination and promotion of Melbourne’s LGBTI dance parties through his morning breakfast show with Joy FM – the first gay and lesbian radio station in the world.

“I’ve always been gay. And I was at the very first Mardi Gras party in 1979 – we all could feel it was the start of something bigger.”

Since then, Michael has marched and celebrated in an impressive 14 Mardi Gras. “We even won two awards when I was part of the Vic Presence float,” he remembers.

“People just want to be themselves”

When asked why Mardi Gras is important to everyone, Michael comments, “People just want to be themselves – and celebrate being themselves.”

Although Michael was expecting to have a lower profile in Port Macquarie, the limelight continues to find him.

“When I moved here I thought I was going to keep a really low profile but I’m already doing Tuesday mornings on Hit FM. It keeps me connected.”

Meet Celia – the first-time marcher

After years of watching the Mardi Gras parade on TV, 85-year-old LGBTI ally, Celia, is showing her support and marching – or more accurately, zooming along on her scooter – with our Uniting team.

Celia saw a poster inviting people to participate in this year’s parade at her Uniting aged care home in Newcastle.

“I’ve watched and admired the parade for years on television and always thought, ‘Gee, that must be nice to be part of it all – all those colours and costumes; the different people and energy,” said Celia.

“My husband promised he would take me one year, but he sadly passed away before he could. So, I saw the poster on the board and thought, ‘Why not?’”

“Really, Mum?”

“I think my children were quite surprised when I told them. They said to me, ‘Really, mum?’ But, they’re all for it; so long as my health remains OK. And they know I will be fully supported by the Uniting team.”

“Last week, my granddaughters even gave me two mauve leis which I will wear and put on the handle bars of my scooter, because I can’t really walk that far now.”

Celia wasn’t well when she moved to her current home with Uniting three years ago but she’s doing much better thanks, in part, to the social atmosphere of the place.

“It’s good now. There are always activities and different functions you can go to. It keeps you connected and gives you something to look forward to.”

Over the years, Celia has watched how the Mardi Gras has evolved into a celebration for the whole community.

“I was surprised to see the Uniting Church in the parade and nurses and even police marching – everyone, really… which is great, because it’s like saying, ‘Everything’s OK; you don’t have to hide.”

“When I was growing up in England, we would never discuss anything about being gay or having a different [sexual] identity. But these days, you see all the film stars with their partners. Well, you have to accept it’s just normal life, isn’t it?”

Celia is now counting down the days to Mardi Gras. “I’m so excited to join in, show my support and be part of the parade. It’s going to be a great experience. I can’t wait.”

Welcoming you exactly as you are

For us at Uniting, Mardi Gras provides an important connection to LGBTI community members, their families and other allies. This event provides us with an opportunity to deliver our message of inclusion to a large audience – letting people know that “we welcome you exactly as you are”.

It’s our chance to let the Mardi Gras community know they are safe and welcome when they engage with our services, or better still, want to be a part of our story.

Learn more and get in touch

Read Graeme’s story to learn more about our LGBTI-friendly services.

To hear more about how Uniting celebrates LGBTI inclusion, get in touch on 1800 864 846 or email us. We’d love to speak with you.

Want to work for Uniting? Here’s a list of our latest opportunities and how to join the team.

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