It’s 1.20pm in Sydney. The annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Parade and Party is due to get underway in around 8 hours time (though the parade is always late in starting) and – wouldn’t you know it? – it’s raining.
This may be due to the influence of a cyclonic low moving south from Queensland but, inevitably, the Reverend Fred Nile – as iconic and enduring, (perhaps nearly as well-loved), a symbol of Mardi Gras as Dykes on Bike – will claim that His divine hand is responsible. Fred’s already popped up on Sydney media today to declare that the presence of Cardinal Pell’s cousin, Monica Hingston, as this year’s Chief-Of-Parade is “insulting” to his Eminence. We live in hope I guess….
Fred will no doubt be present on the parade route, in his usual spot: a bus shelter near the corner of Brisbane and Oxford Streets where – accompanied by a handful of elderly acolytes, and surrounded by a phalanx of police – he will urge repentance on all concerned. Hemmed in by thousands of parade viewers, he’s always a captive audience for thousands of Parade participants keen to simulate the unnatural acts of Fred’s most fevered imaginings, in front of his very eyes.
He claimed that God had rained on the parade in 1996 and 1998 and in 2000 he joined with the Archbishops’ of Sydney to call for a Parade Boycott. It was possibly the most spectacularly unsuccessful boycott in history. In 1999 he commissioned a plane to skywrite “Turn To Jesus! high above the hedonistic throng. Fading light meant that the crowd only got to read “Turn” before the rest of the exhortation vanished in the darkening sky. Unfortunately for Fred, many people interpreted it as a message from Gay Recruiters Inc.
Why Fred’s Divine Rainmaking abilities have never been utilised for drought relief is an enduring mystery but there we are.
It’s going to be a wet parade, whoever is responsible, which will hopefully also dampen the traditional annual post-Parade SMH letters debate about how many people lined the parade route. These estimates range from; – 5 Christians caught unwillingly at the Crown St lights (Fred), to much of the population of the eastern states (some poofs who were obviously on something). The Police usually come up with 150-200,000. Who knows? Who cares? It’s all good fun, particularly if you’re in it. I have been many times, but not this year.
Given the gravitas of my position as a board member of ACON (and given also, some might unkindly say, the initial signs of very early middle-age ), I’ve volunteered to skip the Parade to work at the party, assisting with ensuring the safety of the 17,000 partygoers. Saint or what, eh?
In the old days I would still have been there when the party closed at 10.00am.
T shirt slung through a belt loop of my pants, sunnies on, dancing as if nobody could see me (reputedly, a maxim of the Dalai Lama’s – which is kind of interesting). But…….my shift finishes at 4am……………..so we’ll see.