Record number of people with disability in Mardi Gras

28 February 2018

More than 150 people with disability will be marching in the 2017 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras on Saturday 4 March.

People with Disability Australia (PWDA), along with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance

(CPA) and Northcott are marching together this year with the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) with the support of Google, the NDIA and the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. PWDA and CPA have marched together in the Mardi Gras parade for more than a decade, and Northcott has been a partner since 2014.

“We are people with disability, and many of our members identify as LGBTIQA+. We are part of the community, and have participated in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras for over a decade”, said Matthew Bowden, Co-CEO of People with Disability Australia.

“We see our disability and sexuality as a key parts of our identities.

“People with disability have diverse sexualities and gender identities, and need to have access to sexuality and relationship education. We’ve also advocated for the human rights of people with HIV and AIDS for many years”, Mr Bowden said.

The LGBTI Health Alliance reports that 22.7 per cent of people aged 16 and over identify as having a disability or long term health condition, and 58 per cent of transgender people over the age of 18 report having a disability or chronic health condition.

PWDA board member, Jarad Andrew McLoughlin, will be part of the Mardi Gras parade.

“As a proud gay, autistic man, I am excited to be a part of PWDA’s Mardi Gras float this year. Marching in the Mardi Gras is a way I can lift the profile of people with disability – demonstrating that we have a right to express our diverse sexualities. We can be openly proud about our sexuality”, Mr McLoughlin said.

Alex Dennis will also be part of the float. He wants to show that people with disability should be visible in the LGBTIQA+ community. He felt isolated growing up – with few resources or LGBTIQA+ people to connect with.

“I found growing up it hard to be myself as a gay man with a disability”, Mr Dennis said.

“It is important to highlight that yes, we have a disability and do things different to the norm out there but we are here, we are queer and we are not going to be ignored anymore! We need to remember that there are parts of community, like people who are LGBTIQA+ and have a disability and already feel ashamed, scared and really somewhat neglected and we need to change our ways and be inclusive to everyone possible regardless of their age, sexuality, ability or disability”, Mr Dennis said.

The Cerebral Palsy Alliance is committed to supporting its clients who identify as LGBTIQA+.

“As an organisation, we participate in the Mardi Gras to show we recognise and respect people with disability who are LGBTIQA+”, CPA’s General Manager Client Services, Jo-Anne Hewitt said.

“We support people with disability to achieve their goals and to experience full inclusion in their community. The Mardi Gras is an important event for the LGBTIQA+ community and we believe that our clients who identify with that community, and want to attend, have the right and the opportunity to do so”, Ms Hewitt said.

People with disability have been involved in decorating the Mardi Gras float and six kilograms of glitter were used!