Well, it’s that time of the year when sequins, glitter, unbelievably high heels, drag queens, rainbow flags and, of course, the faint sounds of both ABBA, Kylie and Lady GaGa come together to announce the annual Sydney & Lesbian Mardi Gras.

However, this isn’t the real reason why Mardi Gras exists. Mardi Gras began when a bunch of people got together back in 1978, following the stonewall uprising back in New York, to fight and rally for change in Sydney and Australia more broadly, with the intent to promote equality, inclusion and acceptance of the whole LGBTIQ community.

Sadly, this message has been lost over the last few years, even decades, with parts of LGBTIQ community being somewhat shunned because they don’t fit the perfect world the community seems to think we all should represent.

I am talking about the many people who have disabilities who identify as either Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex or just plain Queer, and who tend to be an afterthought both during and after the mainstay Mardi Gras parade and festival as a whole.

As a gay man who was born with a disability, called Spina Bifida, I found it extremely hard not just to come out to my family, but also to come out and find others who are in the same boat as me – as in having a disability and wanting to find others who understand.

When I came out to my family at the age of 21, just over 11 years ago, my parents were worried for me not because I was gay, but because I was a gay man with a disability. They were worried that I would either be taken advantage of or bashed up somewhere in the city.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not a flaming, screaming so-called “typical” gay man, but I don’t shy away from who I am and shouldn’t have to. However, I and many others I have spoken with feel similar frustrations about being accepted within the LGBTIQ community.

If it wasn’t for organisations like Northcott, People with Disabilities Australia (PWDA) and Cerebral Palsy Alliance, who have worked tirelessly to promote our inclusion within society by putting on group floats, I don’t know what the situation would be.

But this by itself isn’t enough and change needs to happen and happen quickly. We need to learn to accept everyone regardless of whether they are LGBTIQ or straight, black or white, disabled or not, fat or thin.

We have to embrace and accept that there are people within the LGBTIQ community who are more vulnerable to stereotyping simply because they don’t reflect the perfect image most LGBTIQ people think the community should be.

In general, we have to realise and accept that people with disabilities, no matter what their disability, are part of the LGBTIQ community and that we are all fighting for the same thing: equal rights, such as marriage equality, and simply to be who we are and what we want to be.

Let’s embrace all sections and parts of the LGBTIQ community and stand together as one to fight the good fight and get the same equal rights.

Alex Dennis

For more from Alex, click here.

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