A spotlight on Mardi Gras: feeling seen, heard, and safe in western Sydney

person walking while holding rainbow colored flag
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

United We Shine is this year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras theme. It signifies that when we band together, we shine brighter.

Noel Posus is the Senior Consultant Coaching & Manager Support at Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) and a proud gay man. Over the last six years, Noel has worked in various coaching, management, leadership, development and culture roles within Organisational Development & Learning, in the People & Culture directorate.

Noel believes creating a workplace where employees bring their whole and true selves to work leads to increased job satisfaction and productivity – which is why an LGBTIQA+ inclusive workplace allows employees to feel valued, safe, and respected.

Noel Posus, Senior Consultant Coaching & Manager Support at WSLHD

It provides them with access to the same freedoms and opportunities as everyone else, without exception.

“In relation to WSLHD culture, we’ve just launched the Aboriginal Workforce Strategy and developed some great tools such as the Leaders Guide for Working with Disability. We also run Mental Health First Aid Training which is so key to making people feel supported in the workplace,” Noel said.

“One of the culture areas we’re looking at next is LGBTQIA+ and we’ve just launched an internal Intranet site with information and resources. This is a first step for us at WSLHD.” Noel continued.

“I acknowledge that I don’t represent all parts of the LGBTQIA+ community, and so I don’t want to presume I speak for everyone. That said, I feel we need better conversations around current events including what’s impacting the LGBTQIA+ community in politics and legislation, mental health and how human beings can behave better with other human beings. Mardi Gras is a great conversation starter for all this.”

Noel believes this is especially important in the western Sydney community.

Western Sydney is a very large community and I think that people tend to think that LGBTQIA+ people only live in and around Sydney’s eastern suburbs; but this is not true!” Noel said.

“We are everywhere; approximately five to 10 percent of the population identify as LGBTQIA+. There are a lot of us who live in this community.”

What Noel appreciates most about the two weeks of the Mardi Gras festival is that it is a great opportunity to put a spotlight on what is means to be an LGBTQIA+ person, and to help educate, heal and come together as a community. However, he also mentions the importance of not just taking this approach during Mardi Gras season.

“Mardi Gras isn’t just about dressing up in outrageous and fabulous outfits and having a parade every year,” Noel said.

“However, if once a year, wearing sequins draws attention to that, then that’s great (and more than a bit of fun!). My community has saved me and healed me and to put it simply, what I want most is for everyone to feel accepted and safe.”

So how can non LGBTQIA+ people support the LGBTQIA+ community?

“People can become an ally by educating themselves; learn what the letters mean, read resources, learn about the history of Mardi Gras, watch films; whatever you normally do to educate yourself on a topic, do it!” Noel said.

If more of us became a little more educated and just asked questions and learned from each other, I think it would make a big and positive difference, particularly because “United We Shine” includes standing with our allies when we all need to stand up to injustices. We can never take for granted what we’ve achieved, we need to remain vigilant, and we need to help others who still need our help.”

What does LGBTQIA+ stand for?

person holding multi colored heart shaped ornament
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

L – lesbian – term for women sexually and romantically oriented toward other women
G – gay – any person attracted to the same gender
B – bisexual – those who are sexually and romantically attracted both to men and women
T – can have several different meanings but typically deals with gender identity:
• trans – an inclusive term for anyone whose gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth
• transsexual – can mean someone transitioning from one sex to another using surgery or medical treatments; not in common usage
• transgender – term for someone who identifies as a different gender than what was assigned on their birth certificate
Q – stands for questioning or queer, intersex and asexual:
• questioning – when a person is exploring their sexuality, gender identity and gender expression
• queer – an inclusive term or as a unique celebration of not molding to social norms
I – intersex – for individuals who don’t fit into specific gender norms of woman or man; can also be used for those with reproductive anatomy that isn’t biologically typical
A – asexual – for those who don’t feel sexual attraction to either sex or that don’t feel romantic attraction in the typical way
• The plus sign at the end of LGBTQIA+ can include members of other communities, including allies — people who support and rally the LGBTQIA+ cause even though they don’t identify within the community itself.

Other identities included in the LGBTQIA+ are:
• agender – refers to those who do not identify as any gender at all
• demisexual – describes someone who requires an emotional bond to form a sexual attraction
• genderfluid – describes one’s gender identity as self-expression and not static
• graysexual – refers to the “gray area” between asexuality and sexuality
• non-binary/genderqueer – a term used for those who do not conform to binary gender identities
• pansexual/omnisexual – a term for individuals with desire for all genders and sexes
• polyamorous – a term for those open to multiple consensual romantic or sexual relationships at one time
• sapiosexual – describes a person who is attracted to intelligence, regardless of a person’s gender identity
• two-spirit – a term used by Native Americans to describe a third gender (sometimes included as 2S in the main acronym as LGBTQIA2S+)

Courtesy of: https://abbreviations.yourdictionary.com/what-does-lgbtqia-stand-for-full-acronym-explained.html