STUN Magazine | Issue 6 | 2024

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Queer concerns for the ACT election

QTOPIA Does it live up to the hype? IN OUR WORDS


Inside the eye-popping world of Brendan De La Hay

HOSTED BY Wayne Herbert ▼

Etcetera Etcetera

RuPaul's Drag Race Down Under SEASON 1 ▼ Transista Groove LIVE nonbinarycode LIVE ▼ Venus Mantrap Skye Scrape Her



Bailey's Corner, Canberra TICKETS: $25 THRU Humanitix


A time to escape

Welcome to the STUN winter edition!

You might have noticed that we have quite a dazzling cover (as always!) this time. Our cover star is Brendan De La Hay, the creative force behind the new Darlinghurst venue, the Emerald Room, and he promises to reinvent the cabaret and theatre restaurant genre with his wild new plaything.

We take a tour of the Qtopia museum in Taylor Square and feature photos from the recent Brolga party at the National Portrait Gallery, the Bowery Ball and the Deep in Drag party at Queerobodalla, the South Coast’s first pride festival. Glenda Harvey explains how the UK’s Cass Review will hurt trans people; Wayne Herbert tells Jo Falvey about his and Yenn Purkis’s new book that features stories from the intersection of LGBTIQIA+ identity and disability while RuPaul star Art Simone reveals to Holly Hazlewood what fabulous things lie within her own new tome.

Hannah Head has quizzed ACT Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee

about the future of essential LGBTIQA+ services should the Liberals come to power at this year’s territory election and profiles the newly announced federal Green (and queer!) candidate for Canberra, Isabel Mudford

We are excited to welcome a new writer to the editorial team in this, our sixth issue. Andreas Anthony is wellknown in Canberra for his gay men’s retreats, nude yoga and spiritual/somatic sexuality practice, and we are excited to also have him sharing his insights and lessons in print.

You’ll also find plenty of new music, movies, plays, exhibitions and parties to discover within these crisp pages, too.

Lastly, we’ve created a new Facebook page: STUNqueermag Please follow us there to keep up with what’s happening in STUN world.

Enjoy your reading escape and we’ll see you again in spring.

Arts writer Christos Linou (left) with friend at the Bowery Ball. PHOTO: ZOE LINOU

Lamarre-Condon court date set

Former police officer Beau Lamarre-Condon did not appear at Sydney’s Downing Centre local court last month when an eight-week adjournment in the trial for the double murder of Luke Davies and his partner Jessie Baird was granted to August 13. Prosecutors have sought more time to finalise their case against the 28-yearold former senior constable for killing the young boyfriends with his service weapon in February. Lamarre-Condon’s lawyer John Walford told reporters that it was too early to tell whether a mental health defence would be raised.

STUN Magazine

Issue NO 006

Winter 2024


Danny Corvini

Art Director

Rob Duong



Contact Call 0417 322 038

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Braddon ACT 2612

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Get in touch

STUN is fabulous but a small operation nonetheless. If you are a writer or photographer and want to contribute, get in touch. If you are an LGBTIQA+ organisation and have some news or a story idea, get in touch. If you are organising queer events of any kind, get in touch at hello@

Staff Writer

Hannah Head


Andreas Anthony

Sean Cook

Jo Falvey

Holly Hazlewood

Glenda Harvey

Jennifer Hopelezz

DJ Raydar

Golden project still over the rainbow

Major redevelopments of the former City of Sydney council buildings that occupy some forty percent of Oxford Street from Oxford Square to Taylor Square have ground to a halt as developers grapple with the historic sites, including asbestos discoveries. Developer TOGA Ground and commercial investors AsheMorgan initially planned to complete the landmark revamps in time for this year’s Mardi Gras parade but appear to be gutting the original buildings still with no new completion dates announced.

Sydney WorldPride’s ‘aggressive’ policing


Stuart Ridley

Craig Thomas


Zoe Linou

Jeffrey Feng

Tom Wilkinson

Gupi de Zavalia

Liz Sunshine

Jordan Maloney

Policing at Sydney WorldPride was ‘intensive and aggressive’, a report commissioned by the Inner City Legal Centre found, with some strip searches lasting an hour and leaving party goers highly distressed. Drug detection dogs were used excessively and inappropriately, wrote Associate Professor Vicki Sentas, pictured, from UNSW Law & Justice, who underscored that the intimidating tactics only serve to harm policecommunity relations.


Robert Knapman


Brendan De La Hay

STUN Magazine acknowledges the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples, the Traditional Custodians of the Kamberri/ Canberra region, and recognises their continuous connection to culture, community and Country.

Boyfriends Jessie Baird and Luke Davies were at a festival last summer.
Several major redevelopments along Oxford Street have been delayed.
Party monster

A fresh Green perspective

POLITICS Isabel Mudford is the new Greens candidate for Canberra and brings a wealth of talent, writes Hannah Head.

The ACT Greens have officially selected Isabel Mudford as their contender for the Division of Canberra in the upcoming 2025 Federal election. Mudford, currently pursuing a PhD and actively engaged in the social sector, brings a robust advocacy background, notably championing causes for the LGBTQIA+ community. Her entry into the electoral fray places her in direct competition against incumbent Labor MP Alicia Payne, with the ACT Greens framing the election as pivotal for shaking up Canberra’s political landscape.

Mudford, a PhD candidate for sociology at the Australian National University and community health officer at Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT, boasts a seasoned political resume. Her tenure includes pivotal roles such as ACT branch convenor for the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and advisor to the ACT Greens in the Legislative Assembly. These experiences

underscore Mudford’s nuanced understanding of community dynamics and governance processes, positioning her as a formidable advocate for effective


In her candidacy announcement by the ACT Greens, Mudford affirmed, “Canberrans are people who care about each other, about the beautiful and precious environment that we get to live in, they care about inequality, and they want a member of parliament who has the capacity to serve them in these values.”

Canberrans are people who care

Mudford has outlined a proactive agenda focusing on urgent issues like climate change and the cost-of-living crisis. Her priorities include advocating for an increase in JobSeeker rates and addressing the housing crisis, advocating strongly for the forgiveness of the ACT’s public housing debt. Mudford has critiqued Alicia Payne’s track record on climate action, emphasizing the need for swift and decisive measures to reduce the impacts of climate change. As the campaign gains momentum, Mudford emerges as a compelling candidate, particularly resonating with the LGBTQIA+ community in Canberra. Her candidacy offers a distinct departure from the current political establishment, promising a fresh perspective and proactive leadership on critical community concerns.

Date: 30 July 2024

Time: 5:30pm – 7:30pm


Glitoris go on ‘indefinite hiatus’

All-female Canberra queer punk rock band Glitoris have called it a day, hanging up their Doc Martens for one last time in March. The band has been a fixture of the capital’s queer

Grindr sued for privacy failure

A claim has been lodged in London against Grindr for allegedly revealing users’ HIV status. According to the claim, Grindr shared sensitive data with third parties for commercial purposes prior to April 2018, and again between May 2018 and April 2020, in breach of the UK’s data privacy laws. It included information about HIV status, ethnicity and users’ sexual orientation. Lawyer Chaya Hanoomanjee said: “Grindr owes it to the LGBTQ+ community it serves to compensate those whose data has been compromised”.

rock scene for the past 10 years, making a hard rockin’ musical commentary on everything from slut-shaming to Donald Trump to the over-representation of Aboriginal youths in custody.

Is it goodbye to marriage equality?

Marriage equality in the US may soon find itself in the firing line as ultra-conservative plans for a second Trump presidency, called Project 2025, has been revealed. It calls for an outright end to diversity, inclusion and transgender programs. The plan has been branded as a ‘MAGA manifesto’ by Democrats and forms a blueprint to consolidate presidential power across every aspect of the federal government and unite conservatives against ‘elite rule’ and ‘woke culture warriors’. The US election is due to take place on Tuesday November 5 and the apocalypse should be shortly after that.


n “Even take me to Gaza. I have a better chance of not being killed there than if I go back to Iran.”

Bisexual Iranian refugee, ASF17, to his barrister, Lisa De Ferrari, SC, on attempts to deport him

n “I can remember being five years old and standing in a group with some other kids when one of them called me a sissy for the first time. What did that even mean?”

RuPaul writes in his memoir House of Hidden Meanings

n “All of my tracks are double tempo and I can’t do the math. They’re borderline un-mixeable so the rest of my set won’t be mixes but it’ll still be fun.”

DJ Grimes reveals the bad news to her audience at Coachella in April: she can’t actually DJ

n “The fire went right alongside Priscilla and took out a van, a boat and two cars right next to it. It was 2,000-degree temperatures. But Priscilla survived.”

Michael Mahon, whose Northern Rivers property was home to the Priscilla, Queen of the Desert bus until recently, on the 2019 fires

n “It’s usually more like, ‘I want to show more ass and I want to show more crotch.’ They are not ashamed of their bodies, they love their sexuality. And I’m right there supporting them.”

Choreographer Sean Bankhead (pictured) on working with Beyonce, Lil Nas X, Cardi B and Victoria Monét

Hard rocking queer punk band, Glitoris, have switched off the amp.

The ACT’s rainbow vote

POLITICS Hannah Head asks Canberra Liberal leader Elizabeth Lee what the queer community should expect if they win.

Canberra is renowned for its political landscape, bureaucracy and iconic rainbow roundabout. The capital has been at the forefront of LGBTQIA+ policy advancements, from pioneering same-sex marriage to championing adoption rights and intersex protections.

With the Labor government holding sway in Canberra since 2001, the upcoming election holds the possibility of transformative shifts in the territory.

Elizabeth Lee leads the Canberra Liberals into this political arena, armed with a $65 million cost-of-living package aimed at bolstering families, transportation and community investment. Yet amidst this vision, what might an Liberal government signify for the ACT’s LGBTQIA+ community?

While the party haven’t disclosed the percentage of LGBTQIA+ candidates they have running in the election, they have signalled a commitment to representing constituents from diverse backgrounds, including the queer community. With the party still finalising election policies, Elizabeth Lee insists that the focus will always be on the welfare of all Canberrans, an emailed response to STUN stating: “The policies that will be put forward by the Canberra Liberals will always be about what is in the best interests of Canberrans from all backgrounds and communities including the LGBTQIA+ community.”

The leader elaborated further that she “look[s] forward to having ongoing discussions with Canberrans from the LGBTQIA+ community in the lead up to the election.”

With Canberra having the highest number of same-sex couples out of all Australian cities, per capita, the role of the Office of LGBTIQA+ Affairs is crucial to the representation of the queer community. The Office has been integral in coordinating government efforts and policies and for its community grants program, ensuring the best possible outcomes for all queer individuals across the ACT.

The Canberra Liberals will continue to work with members of all communities

When asked about the future of the Office under Liberal leadership, Lee writes: “There are no plans for this office to be changed or impacted by a Liberal government in the ACT. The Canberra Liberals will continue to work with members of all communities including the LGBTQIA+ community to ensure Canberra is an inclusive city and all Canberrans are provided the same opportunities.”

When addressing questions about providing essential support for the intersex community, Lee points to the Liberal Party’s lack of opposition to programs aimed at providing better care and support. On the Canberra Health Service’s Variations in Sexual Characteristics Psychosocial Service, Lee notes: “The Bill was about providing better care and support to intersex people and their families, which we support.”

Under a Liberal ACT government, it seems on the surface that little will change for our community. The absence of a clear, LGBTQIA+ oriented policy agenda and minimal emphasis on queerrelated outcomes suggest that these crucial issues might be sidelined during the campaign. While there’s no explicit intent to roll back existing protections, it seems that LGBTQIA+ concerns might not play a major role in determining the outcome of this election.

Elizabeth Lee wants to be the ACT Chief Minister. PHOTO: IG @ ELIZABETHLEEMLA

Cass Review causes harm

TRANS HEALTH Access to gender-affirming puberty blockers has been restricted in the UK, writes

he confounding polarisation of anything to do with transgender rights in our modern world continues to baffle and adversely affect gender diverse people and those that care about them. This is especially true amongst our youth who are witnessing the impact of gender dysphoria on those affected and their ability to receive gender-affirming treatment in question.

Recently, the UK’s Cass Review came to the conclusion that there was only weak evidence hormone blockers positively or negatively impacted gender dysphoria for youth under the age of 18 (although Dr Hillary Cass acknowledged she met people who had benefited from the treatment). The review advised that those already on treatment could continue but only those with extenuating circumstances or for research trials would be allowed otherwise. As a result, no private citizen below 18 can access genderaffirming puberty blockers in the UK anymore, even after psychological and medical evaluation.

It is right and healthy to have the right protocols and holistic treatments investigating and treating those presenting to clinicians as having gender dysphoria. This screening process is important and is generally welcomed by those who are gender diverse. However, it becomes problematic in the overall societal discussion and in laws regarding the health of the gender diverse community, and especially those with gender dysphoria, with suicide rates for those with gender dysphoria consistently seen above the average due to a range of factors, both physiological (psychological factors are still brain-based and therefore physiological) and from an ignorant society and culture.

It is imperative we don’t leave out treatments that save lives.

In a study published in The Cureus Journal of Medical Science in 2019, it was found that gender dysphoric youth were at a significantly higher risk of mental health problems, including

treatment. How do these studies align with the UK government’s decision following the release of the Cass report?

We don’t want to feed a conservative backlash to the higher visibility of trans people within our society. Peripheral ignorant commentators can have real political influence on these matters. While acknowledging there is always more room for study and learning, it does not justify conservative zealotry that

It is imperative we don’t leave out treatments that can save lives

suicide ideation and attempts, and that a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach could help in the care and protection of vulnerable people to avoid tragedy, including with the use of puberty blockers. In 2020 the Journal of Pediatrics found that there were favourable mental health outcomes for transgender adolescents who wanted and received hormone suppressing

will use scientific studies only if it suits their argument and that dismisses it when it doesn’t.

As a trans woman who has a science degree, I trust the scientific method. I also know first-hand the pain of youth and adolescent gender dysphoria, which was never talked about in my youth in the ‘70s and ‘80s. It is clear that puberty blockers, with the appropriate protocols in place, save lives.

Glenda Harvey studied environmental science, sociology, psychology, teaching and journalism and is actively engaged in LGBTIQA+ advocacy. She is also a professional musician.

Dr Hillary Cass’ report has resulted in a ban on puberty blockers for under 18’s.

Hard up for cash this cost-of-living crisis? Let STUN make your life fabulous for free.

Grab the loot Host City book

These are the days of strange rumours. Talk you can catch the gay plague from kissing or from a mosquito bite. Kit, Ty, and Johnnie, three young gay men, just want to live the life Sydney promised when they arrived. David Owen Kelly’s third book is a stunningly innovative fusion of memoir and alternative history that spins an affective tale of persecution, jeopardy and survival from the fear and paranoia that marched lockstep with HIV in the ‘80s. To win, email hello@ and tell us the last book you read.

Heaps Gay tickets

Heaps Gay are bringing their bougie and debauched hot mess of a party to The Vault in Canberra on Saturday 10 August. There will be live music, performances and dancing with the likes of DJs Deep Faith, Charlie Villas, Fried Pork Chop

and the Heaps Gay DeeJays with performances by Lady Fur, Rosie Rivette, Asteria Performances, Daddy Charleslyki and Etcetera Etcetera. To win a double pass, email au and tell us what you’d wear (remembering it’s winter!).

Sounds of now

MUSIC DJ Raydar drops some solid beats with videos to match.


Shygirl Fabric Records 31-year-old London-based singer Shygirl has a sultry voice which sails oh-so smoothly over bouncy basslines, seamlessly pairing ‘90s and ‘00 dance flavours with hyperpop. She’s been pumping out the dance tracks since 2016 and every last one is a banger. Shygirl’s latest release is a remix album called Club Shy, which is available on hot pink 12” vinyl, digital download and on a YouTube playlist. It features new takes on her tracks by the likes of Logic1000 and Fedde Le Grand. Having just discovered Shygirl a few months ago, my favourite is last year’s Thicc, which is pure ‘90s dancefloor euphoria, updated.


Vetta Borne

Vetta Borne, UMA Closer to home, Naarm queen Vetta Borne is also serving strong ‘00s club beats. She’s collaborated with some of the world’s most accomplished producers including Styalz Fuego (Troye Sivan, Khalid M-Phazes (Remi Wolf Ruel) and Djemba Djemba (Sia, Madonna), is a longterm collaborator of Franco, was hand-picked by Troye Sivan for the World Pride SongHubs writing camp and is currently songwriting for some of Korea’s biggest K-Pop artists. And did we mention that Charli XCX covered her song On Fire for Triple J’s Like A Version? Vetta’s new EP Afterlife has just dropped featuring first single 40-40 and the newie, CPR.

Shooting Star Nick Ward EMI Music

This unashamedly poppy song by Sydney bedroom recording artist Nick Ward is catchy-but-short at just two-anda-half-minutes (Padam?). The music video, Canberrabased models Lui Burns Izaäk Bink alongside other locker room hotties is a statement on the imagery and symbols of Australian masculinity that form our national identity.. but from a queer perspective. In other words: “Feeling like you’re not stacking up against it,” says Nick. It’s sexy, it’s cute, it’s fun and it reclaims those sunkissed sporting vibes for the gay boys who really appreciate it.

Vetta Borne (above) serves sassy club vibes. Below left: Shygirl’s ‘90s euphoria. Below: Nick Ward flirts with queer Australiana. PHOTO: IG @VETTABORNE, LAST FM, EMI

Sit back and watch

STREAMING The gay girls keep it classy in love; the gay boys get ready to adopt but one struggles with shame, writes Sean Cook.

I Kissed a Girl Apple TV ★★★★★ Lost Boys and Fairies Stan ★★★★n

Dannii is back, fabulous as ever, this time with a group of queer women looking for love. For those who missed last year’s I Kissed a Boy, the premise remains the same but with girls: ten 20-somethings are paired up and must seal their new coupledom with a kiss upon their arrival at an Italian masseria. They then get to know each other, decide if they are a match or if love awaits elsewhere and seal it again at a later kiss-off. Those left unkissed must leave the masseria, with new girls occasionally added to the mix to spice things up. The show is filled with drama, high emotions,

partner swapping and a whole dictionary of Gen-Z queer girl terminology (‘golden retriever’, ‘black cat’, ‘stem’, to name a few). However, it avoids the nastiness, shaming, toxicity and misogyny often seen in some heterosexual dating shows (Love Island, anyone?). These girls are respectful, honour their lineage, talk openly and honestly about their emotions, laugh at themselves when they’re being ‘gay-girl clichés’ and are just really sweet to watch. There are no villains, no one is being competitive or cutthroat, and even the one contestant I initially thought might grate on me (posh girl Amy with her slightly affected Surrey accent) became my favourite by the end.

Just as she did in I Kissed a Boy, Dannii makes occasional appearances in evermore ostentatious

outfits to spice things up or hold the kiss-off but for the most part we’re just hanging with a group of queer girls who, I can honestly say, reaffirm how proud I am to be a part of the queer community.

Lost Boys and Fairies follows performance artist Gabriel (Sion Young) and his partner Andy (Fra Fee) who decide to adopt a child. Both have personal issues that the process brings to the surface, in particular Gabriel, who has a troubled relationship with his father and is struggling with a lifetime of gay shame.

It’s an affecting drama, with a healthy dose of camp, which reminds me a lot of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. In fact, like Priscilla, it could almost have been made in the ‘90s. But unlike Priscilla did at the time, it doesn’t really say anything new, particularly about gay shame (we all suffer from it in varying degrees and it would have been nice to see a more nuanced conversation).

That said, there is a twist at the end of the second episode that I genuinely didn’t see coming. There are some real tearjerker moments and great performances throughout.

Above: Lost Boys and Fairies stars Sion Young and Fra Fee. Below: Dannii helps the girls find love. PHOTOS: DUCK SOUP, BBC

More than just a pretty face

BOOKS Art Simone takes us behind the velvet curtain in the recently released book Life is Art, writes Holly Hazlewood.

Life in the spotlight as a drag performer isn’t always glitter, wigs and heels. Having performed sold out shows, starred in national advertising campaigns and been on the cast of the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under, Art Simone felt like it was the right time to reflect on her career. The resulting book Life is Art gives fans a glimpse into the day-to-day life of the drag

superstar beyond her perfectly painted face.

“It’s something I began working on through Covid (lockdown) when we all had a bit of extra time on our hands,” she says. “I was looking at my career and thinking, ‘What have I learned? Who do I want to be? What do I want to say about myself?’ and I started to jot things down. The book documents the last decade of

my career and my fabulous drag looks and makeup designs and also ties that in with stories and adventures, what I’ve learned and what people can apply to their own lives.”

Simone says that some of the most unexpected reactions have come from parents of queer children who’ve found comfort in the words and pictures as they attempt to understand their own child’s identity.

I was looking at my career and thinking, ‘Who do I want to be?’

“While my expertise is drag, the main thing is giving you tips and tricks and knowledge I have picked up on my way. They are things people can apply to any type of person,” she says.

“I have had some parents reach out to me who have read it, saying it’s a wonderful insight into the queer community, because I talk about my family and my mum and what she did and didn’t do well and how she helped or hindered me. I really hope it normalises the lives of queer people to those outside our community and it gives an insight to what we get up to and the lives we lead and it demystifies things. At the core of it, it shows that I am just a regular person, like anybody else.”

Simone also hopes her book will inspire an ongoing love of Australian drag.

“We have decades of drag artists (in Australia) who are absolutely exceptional and many of them are still working today,” she says.

“You would be in awe of their skill sets, their talents and their personalities in all different sectors whether it’s cabaret, the fashion world or your local clubs, bars and venues. Drag is everywhere and it’s ingrained into our culture in Australia.”

Life is Art is distributed by Booktopia.

Art Simone offers up tips for living a fabulous life. PHOTO: ART SIMONE

Cool girl winter

POP CULTURE As the temperature drops, Hannah Head fires up her sapphic selections.

Must watch

Love Lies Bleeding (2024)

This movie takes you into the gripping world of bodybuilding, performance enhancing drugs, psychological struggles, familial trauma—all while balancing a timeless love story. Starring Kristen Stewart and Katy O’Brian, this cinematic experience will leave you breathless. Set against the backdrop of a gritty 1989 boxing gym, pulsating with adrenaline and testosterone, the arrival of a remarkably built and undeniably alluring newcomer sparks the beginning of a tumultuous and captivating love affair. These women exude a magnetic coolness, effortlessly commanding the screen in a blood-soaked romance that challenges conventional notions of passion and desire.


embraces the grotesque and unapologetically celebrates queer relationships. This bold cinematic statement promises to inspire and captivate audiences.

Must listen


BABY – girl in red

Rising star Chappell Roan

In her debut album, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, Chappell Roan (pictured below) emerges as a fem icon, blending tragedy with infectious pop stylings to chronicle the journey of a faded dreamer. Through heartrending tracks like California and Casual, Roan showcases her vocal prowess while navigating themes of social displacement and identity in a fast-paced world. Drawing inspiration from icons like Madonna and RuPaul, songs like Super Graphic Ultra-Modern Girl infuse punchy fem beats with a hint of humor, echoed in tracks like Red Wine Supernova, HOT TO GO and Femininomenon Roan’s witty lyricism and rich beats captivate, offering a fresh perspective on self-expression and empowerment. Embracing her place in the LGBTQ+ community, Roan channels her efforts into resonating with authenticity rather than industry expectations, earning admiration from superstars such as Olivia Rodrigo and Troye Sivan

Must play game

Coral Island

At its core, this is a modern LGBTQIA+ love story—one that fearlessly pushes boundaries,

In the past year, girl in red, also known as Marie Ulven, has undergone a transformation marked by newfound selfassurance. The Norwegian singersongwriter delivers an electrifying bassline in her latest uptempo anthem. This track exudes attitude, optimism and confidence with lyrics like: “I’m on a new level / something’s got me feeling like I could be inflammable / and I might be” igniting my desire to dance until dawn. Get ready to be swept away by girl in red’s infectious energy and unstoppable groove.

As the winter chill settles in, why not embrace the warmth of a game to keep you entertained? Coral Island beckons you to embark on an unforgettable journey. This Stardew Valley equivalent transports you to a vibrant realm bursting with endless possibilities, inviting you to nurture your own farm and revitalize a mermaid city, all while championing the island’s sustainability. With its enchanting moments of romance and the chance to cultivate diverse queer relationships, Coral Island provides a haven of fantasy, friendship and thrilling adventure.

Katy O’Brian and Kristen Stewart in Love Lies Bleeding PHOTO: A24 FILMS

De La Fabulous

Libertines of a certain age may remember the Victoria Street site where the Emerald Room is now housed from its previous restaurant and cocktail lounge-y incarnations (pre-lockdowns/pre-lockouts, that is). It has recently had a glamorous 1930s-meets-1960s fit out that’s so sparkly green that Dorothy and friends might well pop out at any moment.

“When I came up with the idea of creating a venue that’s almost entirely green it seemed just nonsense – and so much fun!” laughs Brendan de la Hay, creative director, cabaret star and designer-in-residence.

Sydney is swinging again thanks to Brendan De La Hay’s wild new plaything, the Emerald Room, writes Stuart Ridley. I love the idea of inverting something and presenting it in a crazy, silly way

“Obviously we’ve referenced The Wizard of Oz and David Williamson’s play Emerald City, plus the neon signs tell some of the story of the Cross in the ‘60s. When I added gold it gave it some Australiana – which is important, because it’s a space to highlight Australian talent.”

The venue is gorgeous, comfortably glamorous and will take your breath away when you walk in. What will keep bringing you back though is the dazzling talent on stage, behind the bar, in the kitchen and, of course, the oh-so-many incredible outfits.

“The Cross has had a bit of a time, which hurt nightlife in general but it also gave us a moment to reassess what nightlife can be,” Brendan muses. “We’re bringing back the idea of dressing up to go out, eating late and enjoying world class entertainment by Australian

artists. Other companies keep bringing international acts out, which is great, but we really need spaces like this.”

With the re-emergence of nightlife across the country, Sydney in particular needs more venues like the Emerald Room, which are committed to elevating Australian entertainers across the spectrum of night time enchantments from cabaret, jazz and swing performers to acrobats, magicians and burlesque artists.

Sure, drag acts offer some of these things but we’re served way more death drops and swishy head flicks than heart-rending torch songs and endearingly cheeky repartee.

“What we’re doing here is cheeky, though never smutty,” says Brendan, declaring: “There will be no lip syncing in this venue! Actually, if you’re going to lip sync it has to be a duet between you and a live singer and the band. That’s what makes it beautiful, quirky and interesting. I don’t want disco songs and I don’t want the clichés. You’re not going to come in to perform to a track and do a death drop – you can do that anywhere else in Sydney.”

Equally, while reviewing some of the glittering outfits for the

night’s performances, Brendan mentions how much he loves drag’s outrageous costuming. He’s become famous on red carpets for wearing his own hilarious and super stylish outfits at some of Sydney’s theatre, opera and film opening nights.

He’s sometimes accompanied on by Lou P Scarlett, one of the Emerald Room’s popular burlesque artists. While it’s clear they both love to dress up, they shine on a whole other level when they sing.

Brendan De La Hay has unleashed a creative kaleidoscope. PHOTOS: JEFFREY FENG (ABOVE), TOM WILKINSON (BELOW)


“Yes, I’m borderline drag, and that’s as far ‘drag’ as we will go!” he says with a spirited smile. “I’m a jazz singer, really, though not in a way that’s loud. Even if some of my looks suggest it, I’m not loud or abrasive. I want people to experience something slower and glamorous, particularly with my own music choices: beautiful jazz songs which make you tingle and really move you.”

After he finishes singing Fly Me to the Moon in the show, the audience is so spellbound we don’t clap – at first – and the silence we sit in for several long breaths is golden. It’s like we don’t want to lose the weightlessness of the moment, and we don’t: it comes again and again in many ways. There’s an incredibly sexy pole show, gorgeous and funny burlesque with a sparkle of magic and brilliant all-singing, all-dancing ... you know, all-that-jazz.

“The highlight for me is enjoying everyone’s reactions,” says Brendan. “I’ve made a really important point with my performers about interacting with the audiences during intermissions and it’s been really lovely hearing how everyone has been so hungry for something like this. It’s heartening.”

Brendan was practically born to be a performer. His grandfather was a musician at old-time Sydney’s the Tivoli and the Trocadero venues; his greatgrandfather owned several music shops and his mum encouraged his passion for music and dancing from the age of four. He can play cello and piano, he’s trained in ballet, tap, ballroom— even Scottish dancing—and he has a degree in musical theatre.

“I’ve always loved musicals and movie musicals in particular,” he says. “But after doing that degree I felt I didn’t really fit into the framework of what a musical theatre performer needs to be.”

While many of the musicals showing in Sydney are imported, the city’s queer community offered Brendan another path after making the finals of Australia’s Got Talent in 2013. He starred in galas including the Aurora Ball and the Red Ball for

the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation with Bob Downe, toured shows locally and at international festivals, created award-winning theatrical costumes and he sells fashion all over the world, including at Bloomingdales, and through his own website.

“I’ve always been obsessed with people who are creative with their appearance and performative with their life,” says Brendan. “Leigh Bowery was a pretty big inspiration and I took it from there, delving into the Bright Young Things in the 1920s, the New York Club Kids in the ‘80s/’90s and even the Advanced Style ladies of New York, who are still being performative

and going out in crazy outfits in their eighties and nineties. I consider them sort of the future of bright young things because it’s all about the look and the energy they bring. Now I get to choose what I wear, what I sing and I can fuck with gender. I love the idea of inverting something and presenting it in a crazy, silly way.”

The Emerald Room is at Level 1, 235 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst. Shows are on every Thursday to Saturday night. Late night dining is from 9.30pm-midnight and High Tea happens on Sundays.

Fill up your trolleys with club kid cool. PHOTO: AARON LYON (IOTA MEDIA)

Towards a Qtopian future

CULTURE Qtopia opened to much fanfare in February this year. Craig Thomas has a look inside and sees if it lives up to the hype.

Located in the old Darlinghurst Police Station, infamous for the brutal treatment of demonstrators in the first Mardi Gras parade in 1978, Qtopia Sydney is situated in Sydney’s historic gay epicentre.

But what’s in a name? What is Qtopia? The name would suggest an amalgam of ‘queer utopia’, a world of queer bliss and imagined perfection. But the location and a quick glance inside the space would suggest otherwise.

Much of the space is dedicated to documenting the struggle of the queer rights movement against oppression in NSW and Australia, as well as the battle with HIV/AIDs beginning in the 1980s. Rightly so, but the themes don’t feel all that utopian.

However, the concept behind the museum is to educate and inform people about the past so a deeper understanding of queer history can lead to a better

tomorrow for the community.

If you thought Qtopia was basically a history museum in art gallery form, as I did, that notion is quickly dispelled upon entering the space. The location in the former police station is quite confined within a series of exhibition rooms so there is limited space for copious amounts of community art.

However, it uses the space well to create an environment dedicated to preserving and celebrating the histories and lived experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community in Australia via exhibitions, live performances, educational initiatives and events.

Good use is made of the infamous holding cells, which are pretty much in their original condition, as examples of not only the story of the mistreatment of the original Mardi Gras participants, the ‘78ers, but also of oppression of LGBTQIA+ rights in general.

Standing inside the small, cramped cells, you get an understanding of how intimidating it must have been.

On a brighter note, a space dedicated to gender and drag identity offers a colourful insight into the history of trans and gender diverse people centring on costumes from past drag identities, interview footage with First Nations drag figures as well as Carlotta, to name but a few.

The history of HIV/AIDS in Australia is well documented in the re-creation of a room from Ward 17 South in St Vincent’s Hospital, just a few blocks away, which was the first dedicated HIV/AIDS treatment and care centre in Australia.

Qtopia appears to be carefully curated to cater for those with limited time and who are curious to see what the queer history museum is all about; as well as those who would like to spend time getting to know the history and the stories behind the key figures, past and present, of Australia’s queer community.

Qtopia Sydney is at 301 Forbes St, Darlinghurst, behind Taylor Square.

Drag outfits, hospital beds, lock up cells ... Qtopia Sydney has it all and more! PHOTOS: CREATE NSW

Another way to connect

SEXUALITY Tantra and sacred sexuality practise helps to heal and re-energise men who love men, writes Andreas Anthony.

You may have heard about tantra during some late night googling or amongst cheeky conversations with friends about the sexy massages you’ve recently had. What is this mysterious ancient practice that originates from the Indian sub-continent and just how sexy is it?

I was born in Cooma, a small town in NSW. Like most young LGBTQ+ people, I experienced an intimidating adolescence with relentless bullying from scary older boys, which went unnoticed in the wide, brown countryside of the Monaro region. I can’t remember a time when I felt safe in my body and my sexuality growing up. In my twenties, I became afraid to date, addicted to online camming and riddled with sexual performance anxiety. The apparent sexual freedom and liberation of my gay peers only made me feel more broken and isolated. Tantra and sacred sexuality became my journey to find healing. With each sacred practice I started to feel a sense of lightness replacing the brokenness. I began to heal my sex life.

Mythbust: sex is only a small aspect of tantra. Tantra means ‘to weave’. In its essence, tantra is a spiritual practice concerned primarily with deepening oneself spiritually through intentional exploration of the five senses as a tool for spiritual growth. In some tantric lineages, this sensual deep dive includes sex as a small component of the system designed to further enrich spiritual enquiry. When

tantra was introduced and popularised into Western culture in the late 1800s, many of the ancient practices and principles were lost or minimised. This period birthed ‘neo-tantra’, which emphasises the sexual healing components of the wider tantric system.

Neo-tantric practitioners often blend the spiritual and personal growth aspects of traditional tantra with additional tools such as somatic practices, sexual healing and yoga. For this reason, you will see the term ‘sacred sexuality’ being used to describe this holistic, albeit non-traditional, tantric-inspired approach to sex, self-empowerment and spiritual integration.

Tantra is an ideal practice for LGBTQ+ folk looking to improve their self-image, erotic confidence and sexual healing. Many sacred sexuality practitioners, myself included,

Myth-bust: Sex is only a small aspect of tantra

gently incorporate spirituality into the practice to support the goals and intentions of each client. Traditional tantric teachers may not focus on sexuality at all. It’s important to research practitioners and understand their particular teaching approach to make sure it suits your needs.

Tantra helped me find confidence in how I authentically love as a gay man, beyond sexual pressures and expectations. I look forward to sharing more with you about all things sex, love and intimacy in future issues of STUN

Andreas is a Canberra-based spiritual mentor and conscious sexuality guide.

Gaultier’s freak show

The must-see event of this year’s Brisbane Festival is an explosive combination of fashion, performance, music and pop culture created, written, directed and costume designed by fashion icon Jean Paul Gaultier. The theatrical spectacle showcases more than 200 of Gaultier’s couture pieces, soundtracked to the tracks that inspired the genre-defying designer.


Bombshells strips back the façade of womanhood to reveal the things that sometimes we’d just love to say out loud. With singing, dancing, comedy and the joys of sheer honesty, Joanna MurraySmith’s play is a journey from crisis to hilarity, via the thoughts of a group of women all linked by more than just their proximity to the edge: an aging cabaret singer at the end of her career, a nervous bride-to-be, an exhausted young mother, a widow with a yearning for the unexpected, a brokenhearted cactus lover and a feisty teenage talent-quest competitor.

Bombshells July 18 to 27 at The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre. Tickets $30-$59.90 at

The revue-style production features a cast of actors, dancers and circus artists – alongside film cameos from celebrities and special guests – who embrace and embody sexy, sassy and larger-than-life characters.

Jean Paul Gaultier’s Fashion Freak Show August 30 to September 15, South Bank, Brisbane. Tickets $89 to $149,

The Inheritance

Eric is a New York City lawyer trying to keep his family’s apartment. His boyfriend, Toby, is a successful but abrasive writer, living in a state of denial. A web of touching and heartbreaking stories unfold, remembering the dead and calling on the living to keep looking forward. Directed by Jarrad West, The Inheritance is an epic examination of survival, healing, class divide and what it means to call a place home.

The Inheritance From October 12 at ACT Hub at Causeway Hall. Tickets $42/$36/$30 at

Art & about

n The Past is a Wild Party

July 10 to 27 at Qtopia, Darlinghurst | This performance essay-cum-monologue mines the personal and historical power of lesbian representation. $45/$30

n Some Like It Marilyn

August 7 to 14 at the Mill Theatre at Dairy Road, Canberra | A filmo-graphic look at cinema icon Marilyn Monroe through her work. $50/$40

n Tkay Maidza

Saturday 13 July at Tank at the Art Gallery of NSW | The ARIA Award–winning Zimbabwean–Australian singer-songwriter returns from LA for the Volume 2024 program. $80/$75/$70

n Trophy Boys

August 5 to 10 at the Canberra Theatre | A queer black comedy about power, privilege and high school debating. $49/$30

n Cult Classics

Venus Mantrap hosts the The Crow’s 30th anniversary screening on Friday 26 July and then A Nightmare on Elm St’s 40th anniversary screening on Friday 30 August at the National Sound & Film Archive, Canberra. $16/$14

Briz-Vegas is set to host a fashion extravaganza.

Queer, disabled, successful

BOOKS Wayne Herbert and Yenn Purkis’ book shows barriers being overcome to reach love and self-acceptance, writes Jo Falvey.

Sitting at home one day, Wayne Herbert was feeling frustrated at the state of the conversation around the richly diverse disability community, which of course also includes members of the LGBTIQA+ community, as always being in terms such as ‘marginalised’, ‘vulnerable’ and the like.

“I don’t want any member of my community to feel marginalised or vulnerable. I want us to be seen as influential and powerful,” he says.

Wayne describes himself as “a chronic over-sharer and a very average stand up comic who’s travelled the world and is extraordinarily fortunate.” He delivers speeches at events

worldwide. He’s a comedian and a writer. While he feels like everybody knows his story, there are a lot of other queer and disabled people’s stories that haven’t had the same airtime.

“I wanted to write a book which was a collection of letters, kind of like the queer disabled Vagina Monologues!” he laughs. He realised that he didn’t want to do the book alone so he contacted his friend, fellow disability advocate and writer Yenn Purkis and together they reached out their networks, delivering a simple brief: ‘Write a letter to your younger self about what success looks like for you’. They also approached allies who are academics and could add to the rich tapestry of perspective

and experience. To Wayne, we need allies to achieve really meaningful change, just as we did with marriage equality.

This is Yenn’s seventeenth book and Wayne’s second. They collaborated on all aspects of the book.

Wayne expressed that he wanted it to be accessible to anyone, at any point of their journey towards understanding queer and disabled people.

As this community is usually only described in terms of deficit or as ‘inspiration porn’ (a term they tackle right at the start of the book), Wayne wanted to show that they are so much more than is possible within those limiting confines.

I wanted to write a book kind of like the queer disabled Vagina Monologues

The contributors openly recount experiences of facing discrimination, bullying, isolation and the ongoing challenge of seeking acceptance. I was particularly moved by the letters to the writers’ younger selves and the joy and the humour that helped them along their paths to success.

Wayne and Yenn soon realised that they had produced an educational book: “I don’t think there’s many books quite like this that take the disability experience, the queer experience and celebrate that intersectionality and describe similar but vastly different experiences of success,” he says.

Wayne is thankful to all of the contributors for sharing so openly and honestly and trusting him and Yenn with their stories. In Our Words is a must-read for those interested in gaining deeper insights into the LGBTQIA+ disabled community.

In Our Words: Stories from the Intersection of LGBTQIA+ Identity and Disability by Wayne Herbert and Yenn Purkis is available through Lived Places Publishing.

Wayne Herbert wants to share some stories . PHOTO: DOUG HALL

The man with the pink triangle

MYSTERY During World War II, an unknown gay man saved an eight-year-old girl’s life in Auschwitz, writes Jennifer Hopelezz.

Avid readers of my column in STUN — I’m sure there are legions of you — might recall I’m a Sydney gal by birth but now call Amsterdam home.

It’s home to the Homomonument, the world’s first queer monument, elegantly covering a city square. It’s currently seeking European Heritage status, a milestone for a queer memorial.

Which brings me back to Sydney. I’ve always been intrigued by the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Holocaust Memorial in Green Park, across from the Jewish Museum.

I’m pretty sure no Aussies were interned in concentration camps because of their homosexuality – so why this monument?

With a little fancy Google detective work, I found a fascinating video on Kitty Fischer, the Jewish woman behind it who moved to Sydney after the war. Search ‘Kitty Fischer gay Sydney’ or scan the QR code on the right to see it for yourself.

It’s about a gay man, wearing the compulsory pink triangle — also featured in the Sydney memorial’s design — who befriended 8-year-old Kitty and her sister in Auschwitz and brought them jacket potatoes daily.

“One day, he came running, very upset and said, ’Kitty, I don’t think I will see you again because they are clearing out the

camps but I give you good advice. Tomorrow, some executives from a big weaving plant are coming and they need fifty weavers’. So I said, ‘I can’t weave.’ He said, ‘You will tell them you are a weaver’. I said, ‘They will shoot me’. He said, ‘They will shoot you if you stay here. Please get out of here because I can’t help you anymore’.”

“So, the next day someone came to me. ‘Young girl, what can you do?’ I said, ‘I’m a weaver.’ He said, ‘You are a little bit too young to be a weaver and where did you weave?’ I said, ‘My parents had a weaving plant in Czechoslovakia in Sudetenland.’ He said, ‘It’s very famous. Tell me, is this your sister?’ I said, ‘Yes. (Then) they picked up my number and I got on the list and that’s how I got out of Auschwitz.”

Some 56 years later in 2001, Kitty helped establish Sydney’s monument to honor the kindness of this unknown gay man.

Follow Jennifer at @jenniferhopelezz

Kitty Fischer was 8-years-old when she escaped Auschwitz thanks to an unknown gay man. PHOTOS: CITY OF SYDNEY, USC SHOAH FOUNDATION INSTITUTE

Making hair dreams come true

Polychroma isn’t your ordinary salon. It’s a vibrant hub of creativity and skill in Yarralumla, Canberra. Whether you’re after a daring new look or just a refresh, this colour specialist salon has got you covered.

As a proudly queer-owned establishment, Polychroma embodies inclusivity and acceptance but their commitment extends beyond inclusivity. Sustainability is at the core of Polychroma’s values. Through a partnership with the Sustainable Salons program, they prioritise eco-friendly practises in every aspect of their operation, from recycling salon materials to repurposing hair cuttings for oil spill cleanup, says salon director Leslie Henshaw

Polychroma is located at 15 Bentham St, Yarralumla. Phone 6182 9389 or

Chroma Wines is Canberra’s newest boutique wine label. Handcrafted, small batch, vegan friendly and minimal sulphur. Give us a try today. ww

Bowery Ball | NGV, Melbourne | March 22 |


Brolga | National Portrait Gallery, Canberra | May 3 |

Deep In Drag | Kyla Park Hall, Tuross Head | June 22


The Vault is now open

“We want to support the cultural landscape – not with events that are ‘good enough for Canberra’, but good for any city in the world,” insists Dave Caffery from Dionysus of the 1000-capacity pop-up warehouse venue, The Vault, that he’s championing.

Stacked with events until its demolition later this year when it will rise anew as a funky apartment block, the warehouse was actually a storage facility for The Mint in a previous life.

The Vault has already hosted the Sound and Fury: Carnal. Art. Party. and the Too Many Crews party, which featured 20-minute sets by over 20 DJ crews.

Up next is Canberra’s biggest party weekend of the winter, starting on July 12 when Decibel Creative and Stay On Sight

present Skin On Skin, one of the strongest names to emerge in underground dance music over the past five years, recently playing on Cochella’s main stage. On July 13 it’s Banging Beats and Bubbles, a kid-friendly afternoon rave experience, designed for parents and little kids who like to party to proper dance music. Return that night to experience a party from the future when underground powerhouses Escape Ferocity presents Max Cooper from the UK. Cooper – a doctor of genetics – makes world-leading 3D audio visual shows, including recently at The Acropolis.

For a change of scene, the Winter Market will take over the Dairy Road precinct on July 28, in collaboration with Southern Harvest Festival and the Truffle Festival, offering an array of food stalls packed with artisan condiments, local wines, olive oils and truffles.

And then, dear STUN reader, comes the queer parties!

Sydney’s iconic Heaps Gay will get fabulously messy on Saturday 10 August while ‘90s reunion

One Night in Heaven will close out SpringOUT on Saturday 30 November with a tribute to the former Garema Place queer club.

So what are you waiting for?

More info at

Coming up

n Drag Queen Bingo

Every Thursday at the Brewery in Wollongong with hosts Roxee Horror and Ellawarra Balls drop at 7pm!

n Hollywould Star

The RuPaul star returns to Cube in Canberra on Friday 12 July alongside the Glamorama queens. 10pm-late. $15

n New Year’s in July

Expect a midnight countdown, roving performers, grazing boards and more. Bernie’s Bar in Newcastle from 9pm-1am on Friday 12 July. $25

n Drag Takeover

Coco Jumbo joins the Phish & Phreak crew as they takeover Blackbird Bar in Canberra on Saturday 13 July from 7pm11pm. $20/$35 meet and greet

n Screamin Gay’s Monster Ball

Newcastle Pride pays tribute to Gaga on Saturday 27 July with shows by Gucci and Rhea Listik. From 8pm at the Lass. Tickets $20/$15

n Drag Race Down South #3

The Illawarra’s premier drag comp has three Saturdays left to go: July 6, August 3 and September 7 at La La La’s, Wollongong. $20

n Electric Disco

STUN Magazine and Meridian present a night of disco at Transit Bar in Canberra from 9pm on Saturday 3 August. $25

n Queer Variety Show

Megan Munro‘s variety night features MC Bambi Valentine, queer and disabled folk plus allies at Smith’s Alternative in Canberra on Tuesday 20 August. $25/$2o concession

n Poof Doof and Dyke Doof

Present the official Newcastle Pride festival afterparty on Saturday 19 October

n Deep in Drag

Returns to the South Coast’s Eurobodalla Shire on November 2

Unlock The Vault’s warehouse rave vibes while you can. PHOTO: GUPI DE ZAVALIA
Max Cooper has an immersive audio visual show. PHOTO: ALEX KOZOBOLIS


18-27 JULY

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