Steven Barnes

Ginger Pride Rally: An outsider’s dip in the red sea

Approx Reading Time-11Last week, I nervously followed the crowd at Australia’s first Ginger Pride Rally to chart the feelings of a down-trodden, but proud people.

 

Shortly after ten, The red sea broke its banks over the Yarra, sending a towering wave of redheads pouring over unsuspecting Melburnian streets.

I too was swept along with The Ginger Pride Rally ‘16, the first in Australia, and of many I hope, brilliantly enabled by the host of the event, Buderim Ginger. It would be Ginger for Ginger, and Ginger for all. A morning of naked pride. Whatever your colour, Copper, Bronze, Orange. it didn’t matter, all were united under the banner of the red army.

An army of earnest pride, borne from a lifetime of societal marginalisation. The 300. A mass of ruthlessly committed warriors, linked only by the conditions of their birth. ‘This Is Ginger!’ I walk among them, picked for this assignment by virtue of the faint traces of ging in my chin. And while the number was three hundred, there seemed to be far more, as the electricity of purpose grew the crowd. They were speaking for all gingers, and nothing would stop them from being heard. Nothing, save for full sunlight breaking through the clouds above.

Nothing, save for full sunlight breaking through the clouds above.

While there might have been a tongue in cheek, there was a twinkle in the eye of all present, collectively pacing down avenues chanting their ceaseless mantra of “R-A-N-G-A, we’re not gonna go away”, confidently marching the same streets they’ve been stepped on. But not today. Today would be  different. As I ventured further into the crowd to seek out comments, I felt an intense pride, and the pang of instinctual fear. I was more non-ginger than ginger. Would they turn on the outsider, as a form of symbolic revenge?

Yea, I walk through the city, in the shadow of reds, I fear no evil.

I cornered the ambassador, Michael Beveridge, who bitterly recounted the 30 years of “Bitter subversive ostracisation” he’s faced, and the terrible discrimination his people face in the search for love. “Blonde, or brunette…but never the redhead”. Mr Beveridge, in an extremely casual manner, then dropped the ‘f-word’ (Don’t say this in front of them, but its ‘fantapants’), but his vast confidence and destigmatision of what it means to be a ranga, will surely inspire those who don’t feel proud enough to accept themselves. With his fist meeting palm, he assured me that things could be different. Red is ok. In fact, better red than not red.

Next, I spoke to Sam, a man who matched the uniform of the day (supplied by Buderim Ginger, a sloganed pro-orange orange t-shirt) with a nifty sleeveless faux cowhide vest. He was most proud to be among the crowd and was here purely for the ‘live experience’.

Joel Cohen, the co-founder of R.A.N.G.A (The Red and Nearly Ginger Association), represented the most forward wing of the red army, sporting a shirt that proudly proclaimed that he was the “1%”, and made no apologies for it. Clearly a man not to be toyed with. His dark wayfarers and the imitation plastic carrot sellotaped to his orange vest confirmed this. As he spoke to me, he diverted my attention to the scene over my shoulder. In front of a large Buderim sign, the non-gingers, the minorities, were being welcomed into the fold, via spray-on ginger hair.

Suddenly, I felt guilt. How many times have we precluded one of our copper topped brethren on the stupid basis of colour? The towers of ignorance we were born into, and accepted as home truths, was being torn down before my eyes. It seemed so obvious. If only my (now-ex) friends who laugh at redheads could see what I could. It was ok to be ginger. But not only that, it was ok if you weren’t, because you could be. It didn’t matter if you were a ‘finger’ (faux-ginger) you were there, and that was enough.

As I cast my eye over the march, which again was on the move, the pun-based placards that spoke the loudest. ‘Nobody puts Ginger in the corner’, ‘Drop Red Gorgeous’, and the prophetic ‘Day of the Walking Red’, I learned something.

It’s fun being a Fanta pants.

I can say it, I’m Ginger.

Steven Barnes

Steven Barnes is a journalism student at Monash University. He is also a freelance journalist who has done work in community Radio and TV and enjoys interviewing and reviewing as well as exploring the world around him.

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