Friday, March 13, 2009

Successfully Nude at Mardi Gras

Last weekend saw the 31st annual Lesbian Gay Mardi Gras in Sydney. My friend and colleague, Rollan McCleary, was there and has written a piece about it on his blog. As a bit of background, Rollan is a nude activist and has on a number of occasions with others attempted a nude presence at Mardi Gras. Certainly at comparable events overseas such as at Toronto and San Francisco, nudity has never been a problem and there are often large nude contingents in the Stonewall Day/LGBT Pride/LGBT Freedom day parades overseas. But not in Australia. Australia has some of the industrial world's worst laws on public nudity. Here in Qld, local artist Ken Wenzell fought a two year legal case after being arrested by police for nude sunbathing on a secluded beach at the Sunshine Coast.

Sydney's Mardi Gras might be FABULOUS and OUTRAGEOUS but the organisers have always been quick to stop public nudity in the past. This year Rollan and others planned to march near-naked carrying placards protesting the laws against public nudity. Rollan was wearing a fishnet jock but circumstances worked out that he was able to to remove it during the parade and walk naked for over a kilometre. As someone commented to Rollan at parade's end: “You’re a lucky guy. It all worked out just as you needed - so well anyone would think God himself arranged it all”…. And Rollan, who is Christian, continues on his blog: '“Oh, yes” I said a bit taken aback and unsure how to reply.'

Read all about it, and Rollan's latest publishing venture, in Joan Rivers Wanted to Interview Me.

1 comment:

  1. While I wouldn't quite call myself any regular “nude activist”, at the recent Mardi Gras I certainly saw myself as protesting real injustices prevailing in especially Qld – which pursues nudists on deserted beaches and still doesn't have a single legal free beach – and then the anachronism in terms of Pride marches of no gay nudists allowed on them in Australia. Elsewhere in the world most Pride events like Toronto's, which is less raunchy than Sydney's, have no problems with gay nudist participants. However....

    The big question now is whether what I had thought made a needed precedent this year has backfired. It is suspicious that a week after Mardi Gras Sydney's World Naked Bike Ride event was nearly stopped by police who wouldn't allow men to be naked or the women to be topless – recall that MG has long allowed that with its dikes on bikes. Was this a kind of police revenge upon the fact that when I had done the parade nude I had done so under the banner, “(W)orld (N(aked (B)ike (R)ide org. for Gay and Nude Rights – Everywhere”. Police didn't stop me - they don't normally like to stop the parade for anything – but is it possible they had taken special note? And I mean specifically the Sydney police because, interestingly, elsewhere as in Byron Bay, Newcastle and even Melbourne, which previously only allowed women cyclists to be nude for the event, both sexes were given scope this year. Of course in Brisbane once again the police message was cover up.

    In short, the laws governing protests and nudity, archaic and needing reform as they do to be in line with most of the rest of the West and certain basic rights, tend to follow the opinion, even whim, of local police. And sadly, too, magistrates tend to follow whatever police say even if it's rather incredible. For example, at one of the trials of artist, Ken Wenzel for being nude on a deserted Qld beach, one officer made out he had never seen a naked man in his life so he was apparently representatively shocked on the public's behalf. Police are wonderfully shocked by nudists and seem to pursue them more rigorously - they're easy game - than outright criminals (ask people on the Gold Coast who know police are out on beach buggies chasing nudists on the Spit though whole streets of houses are broken into). Today there are complaints about police in Sydney absent from even the major airport brawl that led to murder. One hopes they weren't absent round the harbour beaches!

    It looks like the task of changing attitudes is quite massive here but of course it would help if gays with any hold on opinion were at all supportive of gay nudists. They definitely aren't. I won't go into details here but basically the opinions, the stories, and any injustices suffered by nudists aren't normally or at all going to get into the Pink Press. And from DNA magazine, which shockingly is the only gay magazine in Oz – a more serious Advocate magazine type treatment of some gay issues would be helpful - I have not even had an acknowledgement of an offer of a version of the “Joan Rivers Wanted to Interview Me” article that is up on my Blog.

    The situation here is so oddly unique I am left wondering if Australia has problems with nudity because it has a few difficulties with transparency and honesty itself beyond the nation's familiar frankness.