Like a lot of Australia’s LGBTI community, I rolled my eyes when I saw the Star Observers’ attention grabbing headline ‘Sydney’s gay community is superior to Melbourne’s. Don’t @ me’ (Later retitled ‘Why I Prefer Sydney Over Melbourne’) written by Shannon Power. I opened it expecting to see a Buzzfeed-style list comparing Arq Nightclub with The GH, The Bookshop in Darlinghurst with Hares & Hyenas or Polly Petrie with Miss Candee. What I read was far worse – someone who had a bad experience at the notorious Peel nightclub in Melbourne deciding to throw the baby drag queen out with the scotch and soda water.
Shannon opened by referring to a time in Sydney’s past when the Dykes On Bikes patrolled areas around Oxford St after a string of attacks on gay men. This has since been historically challenged but I get what she is saying – as a lifelong Melburnian, I can admit that Sydney’s LGBTI community does have a strong history of working together.
Last year I had the pleasure of co-hosting the Midsumma Bake Off with Drag King Sexy Galexy. Shannon might not be familiar with it, as she only visits the gay scene after 3am to dance to Whitney- but it takes place every year and raises money for the Midsumma Pride March. The dykes on bikes are there too, donating their time and baking skills by not only whipping up some delicious cakes for the auction but also assisting in the running of the day. Aspects of every part of the community come together for the Bake Off. People who would normally be in commercial competition share a drink and have a jibe whilst outbidding each other. If Shannon wants to have a fun social experience in Melbourne whilst seeing the community in action, I can tell you there’s nothing more fun than watching The GH trying to outbid Fabuland for some lamingtons that have been donated by the Victorian Aids Council, The Sex Party outbidding The Greens for some scones that the kids at Minus 18 created or Josh Thomas and Joel Creasey squabble over The Victorian Police’s pavlova. And yes, even the big bad Peel donates some big bucks there.
Now, I am not going to defend or attack The Peels policies. I have learned through my own mistakes not to question the needs or beliefs of the various factions of our community. If some men feel the need to have a space with rules like The Peel does, whilst I do not share that need, I accept it. Shannon sees this as representing the whole of Melbourne’s gay scene and that I cannot accept.
Shannon, if you think that Melbourne’s gay scene is one pub in Collingwood, you are missing out. But instead of yelling at you or insulting your intelligence I want to invite you out for a drink. If you are a fan of Whitney perhaps we could start at DT’s Pub. It’s one of the oldest operating gay pubs in Melbourne with queer entertainment every night of the week, the jewel in its crown being a fabulous Saturday night show called Big Bold and Bitter starring three of Melbourne’s most senior drag queens; Miss Candee, Rita LaCoqueter and Sue Ridge and it’s nothing but camp classics. While you are there I would recommend talking to Bruce who works behind the bar. He has worked there since the place opened and has more stories about Melbourne’s queer scene than you can point a sequinned stiletto at. He is such a staple of the Melbourne Gay Scene that he even has a few mentions in Holding The Man. He is an asset to the pub and has an incredible way of making every person who walks in feel welcome. (He can also be very generous with the complimentary cowboy shots).
If traditional drag isn’t your bag, head to Karen From Finance’s queer arts night Nancy at The 86. It’s a great opportunity to see one of the fastest rising names in drag host a beautifully diverse line up of queer performance artists, after which you can party to DJ Tanzer. This night welcomes a huge range of people – gay, bi, lesbian, trans; I was at the last one and was chatting to a woman who had even brought her husband and kids.
Our inclusive events are not all hosted by men in dresses. We have some pretty funny women in pants too. You must check out the audience at a Kirsty Webeck show; she is a Melbourne based lesbian comedian who seems to have more gigs around town than I have empty amyl bottles under my bed. And if you are into theatre I cannot recommend strongly enough going to one of Mama Alto’s shows at The Butterfly Club. Or the Sparrowmen at Improv Conspiracy. Or Dolly Diamond at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Piano Barre. All of these artists foster an incredibly diverse audience that you will feel more than comfortable in.
We have some pretty special one off inclusive events too. Midsumma carnival in the gardens, Gay Times in the bush and just last week we turned our State Library into a queer club. From what I have heard, Sydney would be more likely to turn theirs into a Casino.
But Shannon, the thing is I could write a list like this about any city in Australia. We have new clubs, shows and festivals popping up everywhere. Each city has its highlights and lowlights, but they are all vibrant and eclectic. This petty Sydney Vs. Melbourne thing is for the main stream ‘our team Vs. their team’ football minded masses and frankly it’s beneath us.
In your article you asked people not to @ you. I think that might be part of the problem. If we aren’t all sharing information about the amazing diverse events that are popping up all over the country then who is going to support it? And how will we break out of our Dancing To Whitney at 3am on The Peel Dancefloor bubbles?
So I implore you – please @ me. Tell me everything. I want to know about all the shows and club nights and poetry readings in your area. If I can’t come I want to tell my friends who can come. I want the whole LGBTI community to thrive – and when I say the whole LGBTI community I mean nationwide.
We have enough people slagging us off, let’s not start doing it to each other.