The consensus among opponents and supporters of the Sydney Mardi Gras’ name change at today’s information and feedback session was that Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (SGLMG) should have consulted more explicitly with members about their intentions before making the changes – something the organisation has now acknowledged.
There was also talk among the fifty or so people who attended of members organising an Extraordinary General Meeting to put the name change to a vote – though the general feeling was that it would be counterproductive to do this before the 2012 Sydney Mardi Gras Festival with preparations for the event in full swing.
“We have got a season to produce,” SGLMG CEO Michael Rolik told the room, “We’re a volunteer organisation with a staff of six people.”
“We have the party to produce and the parade. Its just not possible to [hold an EGM before the festival] – we’re a plane that’s leaving the runway. In doing that there would be a risk to the quality and execution of the event.”
Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras chair Peter Urmson told the room that the board accepted in retrospect that it should have given members more information about the changes they had been planning, and would not launch such a major change in future without more explicit consultation and information going to members.
Urmson also committed the organisation to holding further consultation on the name change and alternative options before the start of the 2012 festival season.
“I will commit that we will put a process in place and explore those options in the new year … prior to season,” Urmson told the room.
Opponents of the name change cited concerns that the gay and lesbian focus of the parade would no longer be mentioned by foreign news media covering the parade and that without “gay and lesbian” the name there would be little to distinguish it from other major parades and carnivals around the world.
However some opponents of the name Sydney Mardi Gras did accept the need for a name which was more inclusive of transgender, bisexual, intersex, label free and queer identifying people, but said they wanted a name that explicitly labelled the event as non-heterosexual/heteronormative in nature.
Board member Damon Hartley said the board had spent three months looking at alternative names before determining that Sydney Mardi Gras would be the most practical for use for the festival in combination with using the business name Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras for the entity that stages the event.
But he said the board would welcome hearing any suggestions if people believed they had thought of a better one.