This speech was made by one of the young Twenty10 participants during Claire’s Kitchen at Slide Restaurant to launch the Mardi Gras Youth Festival.

My name is Jonash and I am 17 years old. This has been a fantastic event that was amazing to be a part of. Thank you once again to the fantastic Claire, as well as the hard-working staff of Slide.

I’m here today not only to look pretty but also to tell you about Mardi Gras Youth Festival. There is a fantastic new program of events that is happening this year, a program that provides a great opportunity for queer young people to become involved and really embrace the theme for this year’s festival, Brave New Worlds.

Though some may only think of Mardi Gras as a nonsensical parade wherein boys can dress up as girls and vice versa, it has a much greater and deeper resonance to the queer community and their friends and family.

I personally am able to recall the first time I heard about Mardi Gras -“ I must have been about 10 or 11. Sandra Sully was still reading the news for Channel Ten. It was a news bulletin boasting of the success of the Mardi Gras parade. It struck me as such a beautiful celebration of life, and that was even before I knew it was specifically for the GLBT community. I was hooked.

This year will be my first year attending the festival. Knowing that I am finally able to attend and participate makes me so proud.

For me, it also marks a certain security and pride within myself. It outwardly demonstrates that I am proud of the person I am today.

The theme for the 2008 Mardi Gras Festival is Brave New Worlds. My vision for a Brave New World is a world where all people -“ gay or straight -“ are able to live a life without shame or discrimination. A life without fear for what they believe in. A life of peace and freedom.

This isn’t just a vision for the future. It is something I want to see happening now. A brave new world dawned in 1978 when a community took a courageous step to instigate change. Their legacy is our reality. I say we must honour what they started and celebrate who we are and what we stand for.

The first week of the festival is packed full of 10 events targeting young people. Having youth-focused events is important because young people, particularly those like me who are under 18 years of age, are not always taken into consideration by organisers of bigger events.

There are many young people who are only just coming to terms with their sexuality. It is of vital importance that there are programs and events that help support them and show them that there is a place for them.

All events are free of charge and free of alcohol and drugs. The 10 youth events include the 21 Down dance party at Slide; barbecues in Campbelltown, Hornsby and Gosford; art workshops in Parramatta and Hurstville; a forum on spirituality; a movie marathon and an art exhibition for young women artists.

What am I looking forward to? OMG! Everything!

Just imagine you are a young person living in Hornsby, someone who is just starting to feel comfortable about his or her sexuality. The Bienvenue Barbecue held in Hornsby may not seem like that big a deal to attend, but it could be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life.

Such an event is a fantastic opportunity for people just beginning to explore their sexuality allowing them to interact and learn more about the community around them.

Such a simple event as a barbecue in Hornsby helps young people to become more comfortable and aware of their sexuality and the GLBT community.

And then there is the parade, of course. The Twenty10 float in the Mardi Gras parade is open to all young people to participate in. The float celebrates the strengths and bravery of young people today and into the future.

Young Queers from Planet Twenty10 will be flying up Oxford Street -“ an army of super heroes showing their special powers to the world.

Which makes me think, what is my super power? I believe that my super power is the power of empathy -“ the power to listen and to seek to understand. I plan to use my power to better our world.

What is your super power? What is your vision for a Brave New World?

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