BIG pineapple. Big banana. Big merino. Big.... rainbow?
That's right, the race is on to find a home for a 14-metre tall rainbow pride monument.
Debuted at Sydney's Mardi Gras festival last weekend, the Big Rainbow is now on the lookout for its new, regional home as part of the Big Rainbow Project from Tinder.
The project will see the novelty sculpture set-up in an Australian regional town, and submissions are now open for the best regional home where it could live on as a symbol of diversity, inclusion and self-expression for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Regional ambassadors of the Big Rainbow project Nic Steepe and Sophie Barber said the rainbow could be hugely significant to the lives of regional queer people.
"Growing up there was a lot of messaging that being queer was going to be a much harder life," said Barber who grew up in Newcastle in New South Wales.
"There was nothing positive about it, even if it wasn't ill intentioned stuff, it really created a dismissive narrative."
For Barber, moving to London as soon as they could allowed themselves to see what being part of an accepting community felt like.
"Generally being queer wasn't a big deal in London, holding hands down the street with someone was just fine there," they said.
However, the Newcastle native believes you shouldn't have to travel halfway around the world to be accepted.
"Once I returned to Australia, things have definitely changed, but we still have a long way to go, especially in regional communities," they said.
Steepe grew up in Dubbo, and recounts his experiences of being a young queer kid as incredibly hard.
"I got a lot of bullying, kids can be horrible," he said, "I was a bit different, a bit more feminine and I was really outcast."
"It really boiled down to not having any positive role models in the community to look to."
Similarly to Barber, Steepe had dreams of moving to Sydney, to find somewhere he was accepted.
"I unfortunately didn't have the means to do that," he said, "so I ended up staying in Dubbo and then realised there was a community in Dubbo."
"I have a right to feel safe and supported wherever I live, and I shouldn't have to go to Sydney or anywhere in order to feel that."
For both Steepe and Barber, the Rainbow Project is about more than just a novelty statue, Tinder is also committing $100,000 to regional community organisations to support programs for regional LGBTQIA+ people.
"Representing the community is important, so the fact that the rainbow home will be regional will be wonderful, but we also need tangible action and not just novelties," Barber said.
Steepe said he got behind the Big Rainbow campaign because he believed it was different to other tokenistic waves of support.
"The donation is real money behind really important events," he said, "$5000 can mean the world to a regional event or group."
Steepe also said communities need to ensure their services match their messaging, noting he had to explain to a doctor recently what PREP was in order to access the care.
"We need queer health professionals in regional areas," he said, "educating doctors on how to treat us is not our job."
For now, the organisation is trying to figure out Australia's best regional town, and Bendigo could be a hot contender.
As Bendigo Pride festival kicks off this week, community LGBTQIA+ advocate and Pride organiser John Richards said there is no better place for the monument.
"I can't think of anywhere better than Bendigo," he said.
"As far as regional towns go, I don't know of others that have a giant rainbow flag painted on the pavement outside the town hall or that have a tribute mural to Edward De Lacey Evans." Mr Richards said.
Bull Street's Pride mural was only installed recently, and was quickly followed by the Q+ hub, a rainbow shipping container artspace installation as part of Pride.
"That's a giant rainbow-coloured box that turns into a pop-up Pride festival," he said, "we made that happen."
"Bendigo only exists because of shiny things and that's pretty gay."
To cast a vote for the Big Rainbow's new home, visit the Big Rainbow Project website.
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