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Monday, Mar. 07, 2005 - 1:41 a.m.

At the largest gay parade in the world, there are six shrivelled quadriplegics in motorized wheelchairs. They are not spectators but part of the parade itself and like all the other Mardi Gras participants, they are dressed recklessly. One has a red sequinned dress, yellow pearls, and a feathered mask that does not cover the fact that she cannot control her facial muscles. Everyone is waiting for the parade to start and the six of them are parked by the side of the road, barricaded from the thousands of people who had descended on Oxford Street to watch. It is a very strange delineation of sexual orientation - all the homosexuals are on the road, and everyone else who does not fall into this category is behind the grey metal barricades. In front of the quadriplegics is a pink, open-top Cadillac, with an obese, obnoxious-looking dominatrix at the wheel. She is dressed in a sleeveless black leather corset, smoking a cigarette and talking into her handphone at the same time. A large truck is parked behind them, decorated with flashing lights, huge speakers blaring out 80's dance music, and a raised stage on the flatbed for the drag queens to dance on later. This float belongs to the Sydney Leather Club; women in latex nurse uniforms and too many men with the seats of their leather pants cut out stand around the float talking to one another. Their bare pink arses face the spectators, twin mounds of mischief. Two of the latex nurses start dancing to the music, ignorant that the simple bending movement of their arms is a mockery of the six men and women who will never escape the prison of their bodies. But today, the quadriplegics will not think about Lou Gherig's disease, or all the other motor neurone disorders that afflict them. They are here today to proclaim their blatant homosexual love, which is possibly more sincere since they cannot have sex. But it is not their choice.

When the parade starts, the bare-arsed cyclists, the badly decorated floats, and the marching drag queens with fake eyelashes that can stab one to death will move up the slope of Oxford Street. The spectators will cheer and the exuberant camera flashes will ripple across the two kilometres of the procession. There will be a small burst of fireworks before motorcyclists on their Harley Davidsons and their Ducattis roar down the closed street with rainbow flags unfurling behind them. All this movement then gives way to a quiet moment, when the six quadraplegics join the procession, their motorized wheelchairs straining up the incline. They move excruciatingly past the spectators, some who manage to resist looking away, the large white banner which reads, God Forgive Sydney, the group of men who laugh to themselves at their awkwardly bent arms, their flaccid strength-less necks, and their spastic faces. Around the quadraplegics is a bubble of quiet; there are no cheers and there are no camera flashes. You are unsure if pity is the same as condescension, but like everyone else, you are sure that you do not want a picture of them.


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