Many LGTBQI writers, and more mainstream publications, persistently misrepresent the first Mardi Gras. They conflate the morning demonstration with the night parade. They say the Oxford Street event was calling for the decriminalisation of male homosexual acts, the end of discrimination and celebrating ‘love and diversity’. In fact, the morning event was a typical ‘70s protest. GSG timed it to tie in with San Francisco’s call for international support against Anita Bryant’s and John Briggs’s attacks by staging a demonstration on the 9th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
GSG timed the ‘festival’ to get gay men and lesbians to get out of the Oxford Street bars. This is why it began at 10.30pm, progressed from Taylor Square to Hyde Park, played gay anthems and salsa music and encouraged everyone to wear fancy dress. Although Margaret McMann dubbed it a Mardi Gras, the organisers billed it as ‘a festival’ and ‘a street party’. Once it hit the headlines, the mainstream press called it ‘a protest march for homosexual rights’- which it wasn’t. Its participants had various reasons for attending. Some supported GSG’s intentions, others wanted to support their gay friends and other people just wanted to have fun. Of course, the mood changed in College Street. People stopped dancing and reveling, linked arms, changed their chants, rushed forward into William Street and then into Darlinghurst Road.
Authors: Gavin Harris and John Witte.