My name is Jesse and I am in my 4th year of a veterinary science degree. I am bisexual and non-binary. I am also the president of Momentum, the equity officer for the Wagga SRC and the Rural and Regional Officer for the Australian Queer Student Network.
What are you most excited about for the Wagga Wagga Mardi Gras?
I am so excited to see all the brilliant floats and all of the effort that people have put in. Even more than that though, I am beyond thrilled that young or closeted people in the Riverina will be able to see queer rural people embracing their identities and being embraced by the community.
What does it mean to you to have a Mardi Gras celebration in Wagga Wagga?
As someone originally from a rural background, it means a lot to me to see more and more rural communities embracing LGBTQA+ people. Having a Mardi Gras celebration in Wagga demonstrates just how far we’ve come, and gives me so much hope and joy for the future.
What role have you had to organise the Wagga Wagga Mardi Gras?
I have been organising the Momentum float (and having a couple of discussions with people from the CSU float). We have been madly organising vehicles, marchers and costumes. We even got signatures, messages and drawings from people around at CSU Market Day and we will be displaying them on our float, for those that cannot be there or cannot march.
What does it mean that for you and other students that CSU has sponsored the event and will have a float?
CSU’s activism with the queer student body this year has already been great. We have really seen a big change in how the university is working with Momentum, with them sponsoring the Mardi Gras and engaging in discussions about what it means to be active allies. We have also had chats with them about queer spaces, gender-neutral bathrooms and Ally training and can’t wait to see what this year will bring.
How would you tell your friends to get involved in the CSU float or any other part of the Wagga Wagga Mardi Gras?
The CSU Float and the Momentum float are both still looking for participants. We have a Facebook Page for the Momentum float (with a free t-shirt available) and you can register your interest for the CSU float. If you don’t want to march, we’d love to have you in the crowds watching on!
What do LGBTQIA+ groups like Momentum or programs like Ally mean to you and your peers?
Momentum is important for the queer community at CSU as it provides a safe, welcoming space for people who are questioning or part of the community (or Allies) to get resources, advice, support, or just a friendly hug! The Ally Program is a good complement to this as it allows allies to educate themselves, engage in self-reflection and shows them how to be a more active, effective Ally.
What tip would you give your friends and peers about how they can be a better Ally?
I think what is most important for people to do is to call out homophobia and transphobia when they see or hear it. This means not being a passive bystander when your friends make jokes, when you hear inappropriate comments, etc. Being a good Ally, also requires educating yourself continually and then educating others. It can be exhausting for queer people to constantly have to defend their existence, and having great allies is so important.