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The psychedelic festival that is the Mardi Gras parade hits Sydney’s streets this weekend.

Rain is forecast. Not that a bit of water will dampen the enthusiasm of our lesbian and gay population – most of them will have had to deal with a lot more than a few drops of water on their feather boas.

Tomorrow night is their time to celebrate their sexuality and equality publicly and it is also an opportunity for many young kids who get caught up in the festival spirit to finally find the peace, confidence and strength to ‘come out’.

The spirit of Mardi Gras embodies hope to those young people who are still in hiding and fearful of the discrimination of still being seen as ‘different.’

pink_feather_boa

pink_feather_boa (Photo credit: JMacPherson)

Listening to 2DayFm this morning, (or 2GayFm as they renamed), there was an outpouring of stories from gay men calling in to describe their experiences of ‘coming out’. One caller described Christian parents who forced him into conversion therapy for seven years before coming to terms with his homosexuality.

It’s not easy being seen as different.

And it’s also not easy having to educate and change our parents’ preconceptions and expectations. Many of us parents are guilty of having inflexible expectations for our children, even though as teenagers we swore we would never put pressure on our own kids.

The pressure to live up to society’s expectations and to make our parents proud can lead people to live a lie that provokes misery leading to depression.

I try not to exert that kind of pressure on my children but it’s hard not to fall into the trap of wanting our children to achieve where we failed, to win those awards that slipped out of our own grasp, or to meet a life partner that we approve of.

In spite of the challenges we have experienced with Kurt and his ADHD, I’m so glad that his beliefs and needs have forced and educated me to embrace the concept of a different path to the one I was taught to believe was the only successful one.

Kurt has changed my perceptions of what ‘success’ and ‘happiness’ in life mean.

One of my first serious boyfriends was this long-haired, vegan guy from the wrong side of the tracks, who spent much of his time protesting outside McDonalds. He was an intelligent guy, but politically opinionated, a self-confessed atheist and he ruffled the feathers of my staunchly right-wing father. I could tell that my father was disappointed that he had paid for a private education for me to improve my chances of mixing with the right social contacts, and I’d chosen this left-wing hippy.

Sydney Mardi Gras 27 Feb 2010

Sydney Mardi Gras 27 Feb 2010 (Photo credit: hto2008)

Fortunately, nothing my father could say or do, (which included taking this beau of mine to the most difficult off-piste, black slopes of Europe to ski and threatening to push him over the edge), could change my feelings for this boy and much of what I learned from his persistence to be himself, (no matter what the consequences), educated me about freedom of choice, the divide between rich and poor and the true beauty of individuality.

Unfortunately, no matter how much I tried to like it, Tofu just never did it for me in the same way that Big Macs did.

So to all those men and women who will be merrily cavorting in the streets of Sydney tomorrow night at Mardi Gras, I salute your choices, I envy your bravery in the fight for equality and I know for a fact that the rain will do nothing to dampen your spirit.

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