Support for arts and culture

Loud and proud: The groups making queer life better at Sydney WorldPride

Story sharing, truth-telling and even a little bit of soul. These grant recipients share their stories.

The Coming Back Out Salon by All The Queens Men Image by Bryony Jackson

Sydney WorldPride is the globe’s biggest LGBTIQA+ celebration.

It runs from 17 February to 5 March. More than 500,000 people will enjoy arts, music, sports, parties and First Nations programming.

We spoke to queer organisations that received a City of Sydney grant about how they’re building local connections and community during the festival.

Queer voices soar at international choral festival

Out & Loud has celebrated LGBTIQA+ pride through song since 2001. Every 3 years choirs from around Australia and the Indo-Pacific come together to share the joy of singing.

In a special Sydney WorldPride event, Out & Loud & Proud is hosted by Sydney Gay & Lesbian Choir.

From 19 to 23 February, workshops and performances will take place. More than 400 singers will come together in harmony at a huge finale celebrating queer voices on the world stage. It’s all ages, showcasing voices of teens right up to those in their 80s.

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir will perform at Out & Loud & Proud, part of Sydney WorldPride
The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir will perform at Out & Loud & Proud, part of Sydney WorldPride

For the choirs, singing is just the beginning, the event’s creative director Adam Majsay said.

“People come for the music but they stay because they find something more. They find something that helps them understand themselves better and also feel a sense of belonging to a story that’s bigger than just themselves."

Singers come from the full diversity of LGBTIQA+ communities, including people from opposite sex marriages who came out later in life, those who marched in the first Sydney Mardi Gras in 1978 and older members who supported family and friends through the AIDS crisis.

“What is extraordinary is the number of members of our choirs who have found their life partners and raised families with people who they’ve met through the choirs,” Majsay said.

For LGBTIQA+ communities, singing isn't just about expression – it has a political history. In the early 90s, to be openly gay or lesbian and perform in public was a real political statement and potentially a risky undertaking.

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir performed at a festival during that time and the organisers asked the group to change its name to avoid upsetting people. The choir stood its ground, refused to change its name and went on to win the competition.

“It’s easy to forget it hasn’t always been this way in Australia ... it currently isn’t this way everywhere in the world either. We’re very fortunate to run with a program like this,” Majsay said.

Experience the Out & Loud & Proud gala concert on Thursday 23 February at Sydney Town Hall.

The event is supported by the City of Sydney’s festival and events sponsorship.

Coming out with pride – whatever your age

Making its Sydney debut for WorldPride, the Coming Back Out Salon celebrates older LGBTIQA+ people, some of whom came out later in life. It’s all about reconnecting with others in person following the pandemic.

The first version of the event, the Coming Back Out Ball, was held in Melbourne during the same-sex marriage postal vote in 2017. The ball brought LGBTIQA+ people together when their rights were the centre of fierce public debate.

“There’s still new people that arrive each time we present these events. We meet new people all the time,” event organiser Tristan Meecham of All the Queens Men said.

“The need for this is growing and it continues to be an important space for older people to come together and be who they are.”

An afternoon concert and tea dance at Sydney Town Hall will create space for older people and their allies to eat, drink, dance, reminisce and dream together. It aims to celebrate older people as leaders and pioneers in LGBTIQA+ communities.

During Covid, the event organisers planned to present dance clubs throughout Australia which were moved online. Many people who wouldn’t normally attend in person danced along with the group in their living rooms. The Coming Back Out Salon is the first in-person event since lockdowns.

The all ages Coming Back Out Salon celebrates older LGBTIQA+ people
The all ages Coming Back Out Salon celebrates older LGBTIQA+ people

While the event recognises older members of LGBTIQA+ communities, people of all ages are welcome to attend.

“The feedback is we need more intergenerational connections with young and old, we need more space for people to feel included,” Meecham said.

Take to the dancefloor at the Coming Back Out Salon on Saturday 18 February at Sydney Town Hall.

Supported by the City of Sydney's creative grants program.

A first for queer First Nations work

A groundbreaking collection of First Nations LGBTIQA+ poets, writers and storytellers is being published to coincide with Sydney WorldPride.

Tranby Aboriginal Co-operative, an Aboriginal community-led organisation, through its publishing arm BLACKBOOKS, is the driving force behind the first ever published anthology of queer Aboriginal poetry: NANGAMAY dream MANA gather DJURALI grow First Nations Australia LGBTIQA+ Poetry. The anthology is edited by Alison Whitaker and Steven Lindsay Ross.

Tranby set up the outLOUD First Nations LGBTIQA+ story and writing project to amplify First Nations LGBTIQA+ voices.

Ngiyampaa/Ngemba artist Uncle Jeffrey Samuels visits Tranby Aboriginal Collective
Ngiyampaa/Ngemba artist Uncle Jeffrey Samuels visits Tranby Aboriginal Collective

“This anthology reflects and affirms the diversity of First Nations Australia and through its publication we invite all Australians to listen deeply to the voices of our First Nations LGBTIQA+ communities,” BLACKBOOKS publisher Tony Duke said.

“In Australia and across the world it is important to create and support ongoing opportunity for First Nations LGBTIQA+ voices to be heard.”

The collection brings together 47 poems from 32 poets, the majority of which are published for the first time. The invitation to participate gave a focus to support the confidence and skills of the unpublished poets and to take that next step with outLOUD through a series of workshops and podcasts sponsored by the City of Sydney.

Other contributors in the anthology are national and international award winners. Ages of contributors range from 19 to 77 and poetic styles range from delicate haikus through free form expression to structured pieces.

Topics shared in the book include Country, identity, sexuality, love, social justice and family.

For the launch of the book, queer artists from Boomalli Aboriginal Artist Co-operative, which just celebrated its 35th year, were invited to select a poem and respond with an artwork. These works will be exhibited as part of Boomalli’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras exhibition opening on Friday 17 February.

The buzz around the anthology is building, with poetry readings at Fair Day, part of Sydney WorldPride celebrations, and a panel stage presentation at Adelaide Writers’ Week.

“I’m hoping the offering will touch people and affirm the lives and identity not just for First Nations queer people but of all queer people in this country. I think everyone will find a resonance in our beautiful Blak Book,” Duke said.

All proceeds from NANGAMAY dream MANA gather DJURALI grow First Nations Australia LGBTQIA+ Poetry will go towards the ongoing work of BLACKBOOKS and the outLOUD First Nations LGBTIQA+ story and writing project.

Supported by the City of Sydney’s creative grants program.

Feeling inspired?

The next round of the City of Sydney’s grants and sponsorships is open from 7 February to 7 March. Sign up to the grants newsletter to be notified of future grant rounds.

Published 6 February 2023