As the sun beat down on our glistening glitter-infused bodies, it occurred to me that Fair Day this year felt like a special homecoming experience. Here were thousands of LGBT+ people of every flavour gathered to celebrate something as small and yet powerful as existing. Which seemed, after being jettisoned into pandemic isolation, missing friends and many anxious hours waiting for COVID tests to clear, at least a little bit like our return to fun in the sun.
Also, it was f*cking hot. BUT, the blue skies were welcome! Both metaphorical and literal.
Following the trail of music from the multiple stages across the park grounds, it was just a thrill to stop and people watch. You take a bit of this colour for granted after you’ve been in the community for a while, but walking around with my straight girlfriend, I got to see her taking it all in for the first time.
Drag queens strutted and swayed in brightly coloured boddices, a dog wearing a pink scarf bopped past, nestled in a silver-haired lesbian’s arms. Leather daddies moved in packs with the other type of pup in tow. Shirtless guys gathered to inspect each other’s pre-parade tans, while rainbow families both young and old moved through the thoroughfare.
Community stalls dotted in every direction. It was a refreshing reminder that we are a diverse bunch. On days like this, not only can we see that we are surrounded by people who share our interests and passions, but also that there are opportunities for each of us to connect with community. Another pal I was with split off to go sign up to a couple of community sporting groups while I looked on with admiration. He and I had previously spoken about our own childhood experience of homophobia on the field, so to find queer sporting clubs where you can experience sports in a safe space and reclaim the experience is so powerful. While I didn’t sign up to anything myself, I did write a mental note to come to at least one of the games for moral support. Also, to watch some men in tiny shorts.
I took a while to sit in the grass and just catch up with some old friends and new faces. After living through waves of COVID isolation, it’s left many of us a little stranger, though any unease in our social interactions quickly evaporated as we leant in to share our stories of survival. How nice it was to be surrounded by people just like me.
Looking around I asked the group, “Were there always this many people? Where did they go? Why haven’t they been in my DMs?” But jokes aside, being in their company was quite magical. You forget that just by existing in a public space, you are open to meeting new friends and lovers. You just have to bravely pick one thing you like about their outfit and let them know. New friends acquainted and with a frozen coke in hand, I got up out of the shade and continued my march to the next set of stalls.
Friendly community members wandering with clip boards marked my arrival at the ACON hub. They were looking to get guys to complete the Gay Community Periodic Survey, and I found myself sitting and furrowing my brow while I tried to recall the number of sexual partners I’d had over the last 6 months. It’s not every day you can contribute towards better health services for your own community. After 5 minutes I was done, and my gaze shifted to the next sight.
People wearing bright orange shirts and signs gravitated around an inflatable ring, which were all about a new campaign HIV and STI testing campaign: Test Now – It’s your ticket to ride. Inside the ring was a large mechanical bull rotating in its bouncy enclosure. It bucked, throwing those willing onto the cushioned floor below, all to the sounds of laughter and the occasional fan clack. A crowd gathered at the sides and all who joined the queue were excited for their turn. This seemed to set the tone for the day – all of us, so keen to be here. Getting back on the proverbial bull. Living, making memories. Being with our friends and making new ones. It’s a moment to take in and feel grateful for.
It’s also a moment to be reminded, that if you are rolling in the hay with your lovers, to go get tested for HIV and STIs. I’ve gotten my test in anticipation of Mardi Gras and now I feel at ease should I meet my future Prince Charming.
My day came to an end as I made my way past the glittery Fair Day letters pegged into the earth. Miraculously I was not sunburnt. Instead, I left feeling recharged, my heart a little fuller than it was on the way in. I hope it was the same for all of you who were able to attend too.