Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (SGLMG) said after community feedback it had removed the restrictions on escort agencies, sex on premises venues and brothels from participating in the 2023 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade.

The parade application guidelines had initially read, “SGLMG will not accept applications from escort agencies, sex on premises venues, brothels and tobacco companies.” The restriction on tobacco companies remains.

‘Condition Is Outdated’

In an email statement to Star Observer, SGLMG said, “We have received a number of enquiries since Parade applications recently opened, and after undertaking a review of our Parade Terms & Conditions, have removed this condition that prevents escort agencies, sex on premises venues and brothels from applying to march in our Parade – provided applications abide by all entry T&Cs. SGLMG will not accept applications from tobacco companies.

“In recent years, we have welcomed groups such as the Scarlett Alliance and SWOP as marchers, so we believe upholding this condition is outdated and does not align with SGLMG values. 

Iain Brady, the CEO of sex work advocacy group SWOP NSW,  welcomed the news of the policy update, saying: 

“SWOP NSW congratulates SLGMG on responding rapidly to correct the policy and the website. 

“We agree that Mardi Gras should be as inclusive, vibrant and complex as our community is.”

‘Many Sex Workers Are Part Of LGBTQI Community’

Explaining their frustration with the original policy, Brady said, “Many sex workers are part of the LGBTQI communities, and our histories are strongly intertwined. Sex workers were prominent among the actual Mardi Gras protestors in 1978 and prior to that at the Stonewall riot in NY.”

Brady continued, “I agree that ‘inclusive’ doesn’t include Tobacco companies, but it should include venues and businesses that are LGBTQI+ aligned/owned. SSP and SOPV [Sexual Service Provider and Sex on Premises Venues] have been a vital part of sexual life for Sydney’s LGBTQI+ communities – vital to their sexual expression, sexual exploration and fulfilment and sexual health. Why on earth would SGLMG not want them included?”

Ty Dovans, manager and owner of 357 Sauna, also welcomed the news while echoing concerns as to why it was policy in the first place.

“357 Sauna has served the community for 21 years we were horrified that along with brothels and escorts we could not have a float or join in the Mardi Gras parade for 2023,” Dovans told Star Observer.

“I am glad the decision was reversed and sense was restored.” 

Applications for the parade, which is scheduled for Saturday, February 25, 2023, opened on July 6 and close on August 15. After two years at the Sydney Cricket Ground due to Covid19 restrictions, the 2023 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras returns to its original venue, Oxford Street. 

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