If one thing has become clear in the last 48 hours, it is that the organisation charged with running Sydney’s 33-year-old celebration of gay rights is at another crossroads.
Public reaction to Thursday’s release of a new logo, a renewed company name – Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras – and the removal of the words gay and lesbian from the name of the festival has sent web forums into overload and the organisation by surprise.
It is the removal of the words gay and lesbian from the festival name that has generated the most debate and cast a heavy shadow across Mardi Gras HQ.
Debate has been rigorous, heartfelt, intense and diverse. And no matter what the view – and they are many and varied – all are argued with a passion that demonstrates how important this event is to our community.
Mardi Gras says it is about being all inclusive; a celebration of all diversity. An opportunity to step forward and grow into a truly global celebration.
Angry community members say the removal of the words gay and lesbian is an affront to the members of the community that has been at the heart and soul of the event over the last three decades.
Others say until we are all afforded equality before the law that the words gay and lesbian are vital to ensure ongoing visibility.
Those welcoming the change say it is helped them feel more included in an event that, while always welcoming of other members from the so-called alphabet soup, had never explicitly stated as such.
Others are indifferent, taking a wait and see approach before firming a solid opinion.
Of course all sides are right – because personal opinion is just that – personal.
We all have individual reasons for liking or disliking this latest move by Mardi Gras. Those reasons are based on any number of things including, but certainly not limited to, our past experiences with the parade and/or party; how we first became aware of the event; volunteering for season; organising an event to be held over the festival; having parents/friends/family stand by our sides in the parade; feeling like we found somewhere we could belong without fear of judgment or ridicule.
What is important for Mardi Gras now is how we as a community choose to exercise that opinion.
We all have a choice. We can embrace the change – regardless of our personal opinion – and throw our support behind the organisation – because we have done it before.
We can walk away, declaring it a step too far, and leave the care and organisation of the festival up to someone else.
Or we can swallow it and vow to seek election to the Mardi Gras board to have it changed.
The consequences of all these options are obvious, and far reaching – and Mardi Gras will no doubt be anxiously watching its ticket sales which will no doubt reflect how we feel about the events of the last two days.
But what of Mardi Gras? What choices does it have?
While the community’s decision on this issue is crucial, so too is the organisation’s next step.
Attendances at the community forums on which Thursday’s announcement were reportedly based were lack lustre and faces were pretty much the same each time. It is only now, after that cliched horse has bolted, that Mardi Gras is getting the feedback it was seeking.
That makes for some tricky decision making behind-the-scenes and what will no doubt be some very heated debate at a board and staff level.
Mardi Gras survived financial collapse a decade ago; it survived the embarrassing split of the party and parade two years ago and the massive financial loss that was a direct result of that cock-up.
Can it afford to back track on this new direction after the global glut of publicity and public outcry?
Time will be the decider.