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Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Forces Bisexuals Back Into the Closet

Compiled by ATM Staff

[SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA] -- In mid-February, the Australian Bisexual Network (ABN) launched a protest against the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Ltd. (SGLMG) for discriminating against bisexuals seeking to become members. "It is the 21st birthday of Mardi Gras and the theme of the 1999 Mardi Gras Festival is Equality in Diversity. However, the ongoing rejection of people who identify as bisexual from membership of the SGLMG can only be viewed as a form of sexual apartheid," said Wayne Roberts, ABN national coordinator.

Under its 1996 policy, SGLMG grants automatic membership only to people who identify as homosexual, gay, lesbian, or transgender. According to Roberts, membership applicants who ticked the box for bisexual, queer, heterosexual, or other "faced, at the least, having to prove their worthiness to be members, and, at the most, being rejected altogether." Roberts further noted that the policy was originally intended to reduce homophobic violence and sexual harassment at the Mardi Gras and Sleaze Ball parties from those people who were attending from outside the gay, lesbian, and queer communities.

Since the decision came into force, ABN has been contacted by bisexual-identified people who have been rejected by SGLMG even after submitting evidence of their involvement in and commitment to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. "Even when they have taken advantage of the 'Appeal Process' and appeared before the Board of Mardi Gras, their application for membership has been rejected," Roberts said.

According to Roberts, current SGLMG members have reported that their applications for renewal have been rejected because of the new "tick box" on the form. Moreover, Roberts said, ABN has heterosexual and bisexual women who have reported ticking the "lesbian" box and receiving automatic membership, no questions asked.

"One can assume this has also occurred where straight men have ticked the 'gay' box and been granted membership," Roberts said. "The ABN sees this as totally unacceptable when active and open bi members of our queer communities are rejected while other people with no commitment to the queer community just have to tick the 'right box' and get automatic membership. Mardi Gras gives out the message, 'If you want a membership, then lie and tick the box of the identity we want you to be'."

Roberts added that the Australian Bisexual Network supports Mardi Gras' desire to prevent violence and harassment at their events, but that this is not the means to that end.

"ABN cannot remain silent and see unjust policy grant automatic memberships to people who lie about their sexuality or who may have no involvement in the BGLT communities except at party time," Roberts said, "while those that are involved and are open and honest are rejected for no other reason other than their honesty in identifying as bisexual, queer, or heterosexual."

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