As Australia continues to celebrate Mardi Gras until March 7, THE UPSIDE’s latest campaign aims to raise funds and to amplify the voices of members of the LGBTQA+ community with a sprinkling of some new rainbow coloured additions to the wardrobe.

In support of #Pride, The Upside are donating all profits from their Unisex Rainbow Muscle Tank to Twenty10, Australia's longest-running LGBTIQA+ youth organisation which supports the community by providing housing, case management, peer-led counselling, legal and health services where needed.

The not for profit organisation works with people across New South Wales who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender diverse, non-binary, intersex, questioning, queer, asexual and more (LGBTIQA+) people and others of diverse genders and sexualities, their families and communities.

Emma Read + Ana Page

What does Mardi Gras mean to you in 2021?

Emma: “I think now more than ever we’re craving connection, so keeping our community together with events to shine a light on our space - like Mardi Gras - is incredibly important.”

Ana: “Exactly - so many LGBTQI+ people rely on their friends as chosen family, so keeping these events alive runs so much deeper than just the event itself.”

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Ana: “To be more comfortable in my own skin, and not to be afraid to come out.”

Love to you is…..?

Ana: “Love for me is such a pure, sublime emotion - passion, intimacy, how we cherish it and share it with the people around us.”

Emma: “Love to me is unconditional and essential.”

What’s your Mardi Gras anthem?

Ana: “Anything Donna Summer or Sylvester!”

Emma: “George Michael ‘Freedom’ on the loudest volume setting available!”

Damien Woolnough

What does Mardi Gras mean to you in 2021?

“It means continuing to push for change while we celebrate. So many freedoms have been won but we must fight forced religious conversion therapy, trans oppression and any injustices faced by our community. Just like the party, the fight is not over.”

What advice would you give to your younger self?

“Once you get over trying to fit in to survive, let it go and thrive.”

Love to you is…

“When my fiancé said ‘Yes’ in January. The love from my future husband and support from my family and friends gives me hope for the future.”

What’s your Mardi Gras anthem?

“Cher, Believe. It was my theme when I moved to Sydney in 1999 and continues to play in the disco in my brain.”

Sean Brady

What does Mardi Gras mean to you in 2021?

“Mardi Gras means to me an opportunity to see my second family flourish, the one I choose.”

Pete Harrison

What’s your Mardi Gras anthem?

“My song pick is “Fly Away by Tones and I” — it’s a song about chasing your dreams and reaching your goals, and being happy with your truth.”

Love to you is…?

“It’s something that may not need a definition or a label, and can be both predictable and unpredictable at the same time. It’s also that exciting “butterfly” feeling of newness that prompts you to smile without intention, it just happens.”

Reece Carter

What does Mardi Gras mean to you in 2021?

“2020 was so full of isolation and disconnection that I’m more grateful than ever to be celebrating community and love this year. Mardi Gras brings our big rainbow-colored family together each and every year, but it’s particularly important after the tough times we’ve had.

We navigated the darkness together, and now we’re ready to emerge together on the other side — more united, braver, and full of hope for the future.

That’s what Mardi Gras 2021 represents to me.”

What advice would you give to your younger self?

“If I could go back and talk to 13-year-old Reece, who was scared sh*tless of the secret he was keeping, I would tell him that his difference is actually a superpower. That he’s worth celebrating just the way he is.

I’d tell him that shame is a poisonous thing, and that even though it might not feel like it right now, there is a community out there just waiting to welcome him.

A place where he’ll belong.”

Chris Burt-Allan

What does Mardi Gras mean to you in 2021?

“Mardi Gras has come a long way since its inception in 1978 as a local civil rights protest that resulted in police arrests and violence against protestors. It's since evolved into a festival celebrating gender identity and sexuality-based minorities, where everyone is invited to the party. This year, I want people to remember how Mardi Gras started and celebrate how far we've come. We've now eliminated a lot of the inequalities that were originally being fought for, at least in Australia, so I would like us to focus on love - loving ourselves, loving each other, loving diversity and loving the planet. Because while it seems inconsequential, feeling loved and loving other beings changes us as individuals, both in thoughts and in actions... therefore changing the world.”

What advice would you give to your younger self?

“What advice would you give to your younger self? I've spent many years moving around the world, trying to be the best version of myself... and I've learned a lot. To be honest, I don't think my younger self would really comprehend my advice... I think he needs to learn things for himself. What I've learned though, is that sometimes the things you spend so long looking for were right under your nose all along. We never really see things as they truly are, we see them as *we* are, with clouded perception and interpretation. In the most simple terms, my advice to my younger self would be: accept yourself, live fearlessly and try to see things as they really are.”

Love to you is…?

“Love to me is loving yourself. Our relationship with ourselves is the one we're really stuck with, and it dictates how we interact with the world and interact with others. In the words of Ru Paul, "if you can't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else".”