This year the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival is not only celebrating its 45th anniversary, it’s also hosting WorldPride. Members of the LGBTIQA+ community and allies from all around the world are visiting the ‘harbour city’ to participate in a number of events, including the Mardi Gras parade on Oxford Street and the Queer Screen’s 30th Mardi Gras Film Festival.
While WorldPride is an event for the LGBTQIA+ community to celebrate, there is no denying the presence of alcohol and other drugs at the festival.
Outgoing CEO of Untoxicated, Andrew Addie, points out that alcohol companies also march in the Mardi Gras parade.
“We get bombarded with advertising from alcohol companies. I’m always blocking alcohol ads especially around Pride, and there are lots of events and parties where alcohol and other drugs are present. The odds are stacked against us.”
However, despite these odds Andrew has attended the last three Sydney Mardi Gras alcohol-free, and it’s partly due to his involvement with Untoxicated.
What is Untoxicated?
Untoxicated is an organisation that runs alcohol-free social events. Since its conception in 2018, Untoxicated has had thousands of sober and sober curious people participate in their events across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
In 2021, Untoxicated became a registered health promotion charity and not-for-profit organisation.
Andrew first joined the organisation two years ago and says it’s really helped him create bonds with fellow sober and sober curious people.
“When you stop drinking it can feel socially isolating. You make this seismic life change and you become more aware of the people drinking around you, which is fine, but it does change your relationships with them.”
“You also want to be in spaces where you aren’t always talking about your recovery. Personally, I don’t want to talk about my recovery all the time, that’s why Untoxicated is different to a support group because they are purely social events for people who happen not to drink.”
Andrew says that Untoxicated will host social events during WorldPride for people who want to celebrate.
“We don’t plan too far in advance, but we have started looking at the program and seeing what events would be good to attend as a group.”
Events to keep an eye on at WorldPride
With so many events taking place at Sydney WorldPride, there are plenty of things you can do where you can limit your interaction with alcohol and other drugs.
As part of the Queer Screen’s 30th Mardi Gras Film Festival, Event Cinemas George Street, Randwick Ritz Cinemas, Dendy Newtown and other venues across Sydney will be showcasing a variety of LGBTQIA+ films and some of these viewings will even be free. So, get a group of friends together, buy a bag of popcorn and support LGBTQIA+ filmmakers by attending a movie screening at this year's WorldPride.
If you are a Drag Race fan you can see Drag Race Down Under Season 2 contestant Kween Kong perform at the Klub Village show. As part of the Marri Madung Butbut (Many Brave Hearts): First Nations Gathering Space series, Kween Kong will perform alongside other talented drag, circus, dance and cabaret performers in this showcase extravaganza.
For those with a passion for human rights, the Sydney WorldPride Human Rights Conference will take place at Sydney’s International Convention Centre. From inspiring keynote speakers, to interactive workshops, the three-day event will cover a number of issues related to LGBTQIA+ people across the world.
Other ways to stay sober at WorldPride
However, if you want to attend an event at WorldPride where you are more likely to encounter alcohol and other drugs, Andrew recommends planning in advance.
“It’s really important to have a strategy in place before attending any events where drugs and alcohol might be present.”
“It’s always good to go with people who are not drinking, that way you have safety in numbers.”
In previous years, Andrew has marched in the parade and also volunteered at Mardi Gras and found doing this helped him stay alcohol-free at Pride.
“When you are doing something like marching or volunteering you really need to stay focused, so you can’t just go off and have a drink or two. It’s a great way to be involved with Pride without drinking.”
While WorldPride is a chance to celebrate being LGBTQIA+, it also provides a chance to reflect on the journey the community has endured to get to a place where people can march openly in Oxford Street.
“When I drank, I never thought about how important these things are. It is a celebration of diversity and inclusion, and everyone is celebrating you. It is very rare to be celebrated for being LGBTQIA+.”
“It’s also important to acknowledge how we got to this moment and the legal protections we enjoy now because of the people who fought and protested before us. Being alcohol-free I can appreciate that more.”
If you are planning to attend WorldPride, visit Untoxicated to see what alcohol-free events they will be participating this year.