Emily Santiago, Mardi Gras Parade Manager (She/Her)
Emily Santiago first started working with Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in 2013, coordinating and supporting all aspects of the Parade logistics. As a young teen from a religious family in Western Sydney, connecting with the community helped Emily come to terms with her sexuality.
“I was 14 years old when I started questioning my sexuality and when I was 16, I slowly started coming out to family and friends," Emily recalls. "It wasn’t an easy time, and the acceptance wasn’t immediate. But I was 17 when I went to my first Mardi Gras Parade and that was really an eye-opening experience for me. It was just good to know that there were other queer people in the world, there was a whole community out there and I wasn’t alone.”
Working in close contact with the many parade participants that sign up for the Parade each year is something Emily takes a lot of joy out of.
“It’s fun to be working in the LGBTQI+ community. I want my work impact to the community and I'm humbled that I can contribute, even if it’s small. Even though my job is just one role, I know that I'm impacting other people and being a part of their journey to celebrating themselves and feeling connected to the community.
“On a personal level, Mardi Gras has played a big role in me accepting my sexuality and building more confidence.”
“I can’t even imagine what it was like for the 78er’s 40+ years ago. I have so much respect for them and all they have done for the community. Without them and without Mardi Gras we wouldn’t be where we are today.
“I look forward to a future where there are no LGBTQI+ issues we have to deal with. There’s a long road ahead, but I’m hopeful we’ll get there.”