When Holly Conroy organised the 2019 Pride Parade in regional New South Wales’ Wagga Wagga, she feared it could be the first and last. The city with a population of just over 60,000 had never hosted such an event, modelled on Sydney’s annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival that is attended by hundreds of thousands.
Now, a year later, the transgender truck driver is planning the area’s own Mardi Gras Festival. Because of the community’s positive reaction last year, this fest will be an extension of the pride parade.
“Last year’s event was just one night. This year I’ve actually put it over three days,” said Conroy. “It’s quite a big deal.”
The Riverina region where Wagga Wagga lies has the country’s highest percentage of people identifying as Christian, so it is a big deal as Conroy leads the charge in changing conservative attitudes towards the queer community.
Her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. She has been nominated for the NSW Women of the Year Awards, which is “extra special” to her “because I fight to be accepted as a woman and I fight to have trans rights being acknowledged as women’s rights”.
“It really shows all the hard work I’ve put in to creating visibility and trying to gain acceptance to be included as a woman is all paying off. Women are women, whether you’re a cisgender woman or a transgender woman.”
Like she said, it’s been a fight. It’s been a tough fight since childhood, when Holly was Dave and wanted to wear a dress to school.
“From early on as a kid, I knew I was different. I looked at the girls at school and I was jealous,” she said. “When I was about 11, I cut the crotch out of an old pair of shorts to make it a skirt.”
However, “growing up in a small country town and hearing relatives and friends talking really bad about gay and trans people” made it next to impossible to come out at that age.
Fourteen years ago, she tried to come out as a 27-year-old trans woman, but negative...