Comedians highlight calls for equality ahead of Mardi Gras

Humour can be a tool for breaking barriers – which three LGBTQI comedians know all about.

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Panti Bliss, Jordan Raskopoulos, and Magda Szubanski are in Sydney for the annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

And they’re using their public profiles to highlight calls for equality.

Transgender comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, actress Magda Szubanski and Irish drag queen Panti Bliss have made their careers cracking jokes and entertaining audiences around the world.

But they’re also standing up for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex community.

Jordan Raskopoulos from comedy trio Axis of Awesome recently transitioned, and is back on tour.

She says her return to the stage has been warmly welcomed, and she’s keen to continue performing.

“The old stuff is still there, and I’m very proud of that work. I don’t need to erase that part of my life. I’m going forward with the same name, the same sense of humour, and moving forward — not looking backwards.”

Jordan Raskopoulos says it’s important for transgender people to become public figures, so they can lead the way for others who may be struggling with their identity.

“When I was growing up there was no media around trans people, apart from shows like Jerry Springer and that was hard to watch as a kid. Being a kind of closeted person, with all these feelings. All I saw was — kind of — destruction.”

Fellow comedian, Magda Szubanski, says comments on LGBTQI issues by some politicians could be damaging to young Australians.

She says discrimination and prejudice against the gay community are among the reasons reasons she got into comedy.

“In some ways, I think, comedy was a place where I could hide. I always wanted to be involved in film and television, but I think, deep down because I knew about my sexuality, I was scared of going towards drama and romantic roles, and things like that. So, comedy was sort of a safe haven in some ways.”

Ms Szubanski publicly announced she was gay on live television in 2012 – while throwing her support behind marriage equality.

Irish drag queen, Panti Bliss, is no stranger to that debate.

Ireland voted “yes” on same-sex marriage in a referendum last year.

Panti Bliss says arriving in Sydney last week was like taking a step back in time.

“It felt incredibly like de ja vu, like stepping back one year ago in Ireland, because the exact same arguments were being made. So it’s kind of weird to be here in the middle of the debate now, and it seems so depressingly familiar.”

She says Sydney’s annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is a great way to keep the topic – and other issues – on the public radar.

“Of course, here, there are some political and legal issues to sort out, so Mardi Gras is a sort of encouragement on that road.”

Thousands of people from across Australia and overseas are expected to flock to Sydney for the annual celebration.

This year’s theme is ‘momentum’.