Defence in step with gay respect
Mardi Gras 2013
Mardi Gras Parade, Taylor Square Photo: James Alcock
IT WAS one small, uniformed step for military personnel but a giant leap for gay and lesbian recognition.
Australian Defence Force members marched in uniform for the first time at the Sydney Mardi Gras in front of waving crowds lining Oxford Street on Saturday night.
Behind the Dykes on Bikes, who led the way, and followed by the First Australians float and one for the people who started it all 35 years ago were 120 defence personnel.
Several Canberrans also marched proudly in the Mardi Gras, none more so than Jo Kamira, one of about 20 parading with the Capital’s PFLAGs – Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays.
Ms Kamira’s husband, parents-in-law and teenage daughter were also part of the PFLAG group, the family marching together alongside and in support of their son, grandson and brother, handing out cards which read: ‘‘You are loved.’’
‘‘We’re handing those out to the crowd to let parents and families and young GLBTI (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex) kids know that you know, there’s homophobia out there, but for every bigot there’s also a whole heap of people that really love them and support them,’’ Ms Kamira said.
‘‘It’s hard enough being a kid, let alone being a kid that questions their sexuality.’’
The Canberra contingent joined a larger group of PFLAGS from around the country, which included the Greens leader, Senator Christine Milne, something Ms Kamira was particularly excited about before the parade.
‘‘I’m hoping I don’t disgrace myself and genuflect in front of her or do something like that,’’ Ms Kamira said.
Other groups representing Canberra in the parade included Diversity ACT, Camp-Berra and Capital Queers.
The defence contingent was led by Air Commodore Tracy Smart, a director-general in Joint Health Command and the military’s highest-ranking lesbian.
The navy was at the front, followed by the army, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Morgan. They were followed by the air force and then defence family and friends. The army contingent included engaged lesbian couple Corporal Renae Fritzell-Flint and Corporal Danielle Gurkin, who are both physical trainers from Army Recruit Training Centre Kapooka.
Corporal Fritzell-Flint, who has marched since 2001, said: ‘‘To be able to wear military uniform, something we do every day, is great.
We wear it with pride and to be recognised after 20 years of being discriminated against is fine. There is a very open and accepting cultural diversity in the army. We work together in the same unit and same section and our bosses are excellent.’’
Corporal Gurkin said it was humbling to know that Defence supported everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender or age.
‘‘We will march exactly as we would do anywhere else,’’ she said before the event.