Kathy Marks: Gay pride meets corporate ambition

Sydney Notebook: While same-sex marriage remains illegal, the mention of politics makes many gay people yawn
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The Independent Online

Were it not for the forest of empty beer bottles in my flower bed yesterday, topped by a rakishly positioned feather boa, I might have forgotten about the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade, which wended its way through my neighbourhood on Saturday evening.

The parade, now celebrating its 33rd year, has become a bit of a damp squib. It's still a flamboyant affair, with plenty of sequins and leather on display. But in recent years it has lost its edginess and the crowds have dwindled. When I moved to the area 10 years ago, the main thoroughfare, Oxford Street, was so packed in the days before the parade that you could barely navigate your way along the pavements. Transvestites tottered around on platform heels, and the sense of anticipation was palpable.

Now many gay people shun the event, either leaving town to avoid the hassle of road closures, or finding a better party to attend. "It's for tourists," says one friend. "For locals, it's a bit passé. I don't want to see the Ikea float, or the St George Bank float. The whole event has become boring and corporatised. There's no irony in it any more." Some wonder whether Mardi Gras has lost its mojo along with its raison d'être. The parade began as a protest march for gay rights. But those rights have, to a large degree, been won. Kevin Rudd's Labour government has introduced 85 same-sex law reforms since coming to power in 2007. And while same-sex marriage remains illegal, the mention of politics makes many gay people yawn.

Unimpressed by undressed

While naked flesh was widely on display on Saturday night, it was a different story at a popular nudist beach, Little Congwong. Police raided the beach last weekend and ordered 80 people to cover up. Sydney does have several legal nudist beaches, but Little Congwong is not among them. Residents complained and police, for some reason, were accompanied by officers from the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Emperor's clothes missing

This morning there will be plenty of officially sanctioned nudity in a public space: on the steps of the Opera House, no less. The US photographer Spencer Tunick is in town, and, as ever, there is no shortage of people prepared to disrobe for him. Tunick himself, though, is at something of a disadvantage. His luggage went missing on a flight from Hawaii. "I am truly the emperor with no clothes," he says.