Nathan McCook

“I know, I’ll definitely come out of this a little happier,” he says. “I thought I’d never act on my feelings, I’d never to do anything, but it’d be fine and I’d live my life extremely happily.”But now it’s the complete opposite of that and I’m living the life I’ve chosen to live. I never thought I’d do that.”

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6 March 2021

A participant is seen in a huge elaborate rainbow-themed butterfly costume

Thousands gathered inside Sydney cricket ground on Saturday for the city’s annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras celebration.

Revellers usually line the city’s streets for a huge parade but plans were altered this year over Covid-19 concerns.

Some 36,000 attended the stadium event instead – though a small protest march also took place on the usual parade route after an exemption was issued by health officials.

A female biker, with her fist in air, rides with rainbow flags and balloons in front of the crowd
Rita Ora performs with dancers on a truck during the parade event
A large crowd are seen inside cricket stadium celebration
An activist march held outside with people carrying a huge flag for transgender rights

Saturday’s main event was the 43rd Mardi Gras parade held in the city – described online as “a stunning and sparkling showcase of LGBTQI+ culture and community”.

The parade was televised and featured colourful costumes and a headline performance from singer Rita Ora.

Some 5,000 took part in the parade, which for 2021 was themed “Rise” which organisers said was chosen “after the challenge and hardship” of the last year.

Two male spectators look up at sky as crowds gather for the event
Someone is seen on a motorbike with lots of rainbow flags
A man wears a jewelled gold face mask and large gold wings during parade

Many of the marchers also had political messages – including calls for transgender and sex worker rights.

While gatherings of thousands are unthinkable in much of the world right now, the state of New South Wales has gone 48 days without local coronavirus transmission.

Australia has only recorded about 29,000 cases and 900 deaths in total throughout the pandemic.

Spectators are seen wearing elaborate costumes
A woman taking part in parade leans in and touches hands with spectators

Other ticketed Mardi Gras events and house parties being held locally had limits of 50 people in place, with police keeping a highly visible presence around the city to make sure protocol was respected.

“We knew Mardi Gras was going to look very different in 2021, so I’d like to thank the community for coming together today and celebrating peacefully and safely,” New South Wales Police Assistant Commissioner Talbot said in a statement.

“We are in a unique position in Australia to be able to host events of this scale during a global health pandemic, and I commend the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras team for planning such a well-organised, Covid-safe event.”

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