Australian comedian and trans advocate Jordan Raskopoulos believes safe spaces like Mardi Gras are vital for LGBTI people.
When she publicly came out two years ago, it was one week before the iconic Sydney pride festival.
“These spaces are here to remind us that it’s okay to be proud, and Mardi Gras is a declaration of that pride.”
Since coming out as trans, Raskopoulos has been outspoken when it comes to trans rights and mental health advocacy, and has championed younger generations of trans and gender diverse Australians.
She believes that while many hard-fought rights have been won in the community, isolation is still a major issue affecting LGBTI people.
“Before we come out we live in communities of one, and we don’t know there are people who share our experience,” she said.
“When I was a teenager there was nothing for me to look up to except for trans people on Jerry Springer, and they were ridiculed.
“I think we’re moving in a direction that gives younger people more exposure to trans role models, which is wonderful, bit I think they still experience isolation.”
When it comes to mental health, Raskopoulos says talking about it more openly can help to eradicate any stigma.
“Having a healthy brain shouldn’t be seen as different to any other part of your body being healthy,” she said.
“It might take exercise, or work, or medication, and that’s okay.
“I have a problem with anxiety and initially it was painful, but there are strategies to cope with it and I can draw strength from it as well.”
For this year’s Mardi Gras parade, Raskopoulos will be an ambassador for Medibank and lead their #BetterWithAKiss float, which will feature a kiss-cam for festival revellers.
She says there will be screens on the float that will project video footage of “consensual pashing” along the sidelines of the parade.
“I think there’s always going to be a need for Mardi Gras because there are people in our society who want us to go backwards,” she said.
“It’s important to remember that everything we’ve learned can be taken away for us.
“Mardi Gras is about fighting for acceptance, celebrating our pride, and protecting everything we’ve achieved.”