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Sydney Mardi Gras Parade: 2023

Aspect and the Neurodivergent Rainbow marched in the Sydney Mardi Gras parade as part of World Pride 2023 on Saturday 25 February. It was our fifth time marching and our biggest entry to date. Our message was one of protest as we Gathered Dreamed and Amplified our voices for a more inclusive society for Autistic LGBTQIA+ people. Thank you to our supporters and everyone who joined us on the day.

Check out the blog post below by one of our participants Iona Hain, who marched with us for the first time.

Sydney Mardi Gras Parade: 2022

Aspect’s Neurodiversity Rainbow continues to shine as Mardi Gras becomes autism-friendly!

2022 marked Aspect’s fourth year participating in the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras – both at the Fair Day and Parade. About 30 people on the autism spectrum and Aspect staff joined the march to celebrate LGBTQIA+ and neurodiversity pride.

The theme – “United we Shine” allowed Aspect to focus on the intersectional crossover between the LGBTQIA+ and neurodivergence while incorporating the slogan “A different brilliance”.

Research undertaken in 2020 at the University of Cambridge in the UK, found that Autistic people are three-to-six times more likely not to identify with the sex they were assigned to at birth. Life under the ‘double rainbow’ can be isolating with people experiencing misunderstanding and discrimination.

The Mardi Gras Organising Committee also acknowledge and realise the importance of having a diverse and inclusive group, and this year asked Aspect’s Autism Friendly team to ensure the celebrations were accessible to people with hidden disabilities

Working in partnership with Sydney Mardi Gras and the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard Scheme the team assisted in three ways.

  • They developed a series of online resources which included social stories, information and a sensory map. These tools were designed to help people new to the parade (or new to the venue) understand what is going to happen beforehand, which increases predictability and may reduce any anxiety.

“We have had feedback from Autistic members of the LGBTQIA+ community that often it is not possible to participate in events such as Mardi Gras unless they have social stories and information to guide them before the event. It was important we worked with the Mardi Gras organisation to have these available so that people who fall under the “double rainbow” banner have the opportunity to unite with their community in a way that allows them to feel supported.”

  • Aspect set up Quiet Spaces at Fair Day, the marshalling area for parade marchers at Mardi Gras and within the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) for attendees. The spaces were co-designed and supported by Aspect’s autism friendly staff (both Autistic and non-Autistic) to assist anyone who felt overwhelmed or overloaded by the sensory experience during the parade. The quiet spaces included earplugs, low lighting and stimming devices.
  • Finally, the autism friendly team trained both Mardi Gras staff and venue staff at the SCG about autism and the Sunflower Hidden Disabilities scheme. The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard was provided to those who would like it, so that they could discreetly indicate that they may need a little more time, support or understanding on the day.

“The goal was for Mardi Gras staff to make everyone feel welcomed, included and provided skilled support if needed. At both Fair Day and the parade, the quiet rooms were an appreciated resource we have received a huge amount of positive feedback from community members not only on the spectrum or with other hidden disabilities, but also other organisations wanting to find out how they can provide resources and provide quiet rooms as well,” concludes Nyx.

View more photos from Aspect's participation in the 2022 Mardi Gras.

Sydney Mardi Gras Parade: 2021

The Neurodiversity Rainbow (Au), which represents the Autistic LGBTQIA+ community, was proud to participate in the annual Mardi Gras Parade yet again! Building on from the Neurodiversity Rainbow from previous years, we added Autistic gold to this year’s theme. This is because many Autistic people use 'Au' to identify who we are, and 'Au' is the symbol for gold on the periodic table of elements. Like Autistic people, gold is rare, valuable, useful and special, and a way that we can embrace our identity in a positive way.

2021 looked different with a parade being held in a stadium for the first time ever, but the changes allowed for more neurodiverse people to get involved, feel safe and march at Mardi Gras. This is both because of the reduction in sensory stimulus, and the COVID safe measures that are in place that helps to create more structure and predictability for people on the autism spectrum.

In February, we were coming out the other side of COVID-19 and celebrated our intersectionality, whether that be multiple disabilities, LGBTQIA+, First Nations and multicultural, and RISE above the challenges of inequality with our existence every day.

Sydney Mardi Gras Parade: 2020

In 2020, the theme of ‘What Matters’ brought the Neurodiversity Rainbow entry together again, almost doubling our numbers to over 60 marchers including Autistic LGBTQIA+ people, supporters and allies, and our CEO Jacqui Borland.

In line with this theme, our working group custom-designed t-shirts bearing the disability rights slogan "Nothing about us, without us", while carrying eye-catching signs showing visual symbols of a collection of 12 topics that matter most to the Autistic LGBTQIA+ community. We built upon our infinity message by designing a large-scale rainbow infinity tunnel held proudly as part of our march.

Feedback from participants that it was fantastic to share the experience with the other people and it was a strong sense of community, meeting new people with similar life experiences and being part of something special. One participant said 'It was a life and identity-affirming experience for me. I am Autistic, I love being Autistic and I love that there were others like me (as well as allies) that are the same in that regard and thought it worthy to advertise that fact to millions in the form of a parade'

Sydney Mardi Gras Parade: 2019

Aspect participated in the 2019 Sydney Mardi Gras Parade as the Neurodiversity Rainbow. With the support from the Aspect LGBTQIA+ Advisory Committee, this initiative provided enormously positive benefits and a sense of belonging and pride for those participating.

The Mardi Gras working group, consisting of LGBTQIA+ Autistic people and Aspect employees, designed the creative concepts for the Neurodiversity Rainbow entry using the infinity symbol, now recognised as a symbol for neurodiversity.

A longtime friend of Aspect, Yenn Purkis, joined us on the day and shared their feelings on the experience in their blog

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