Episode 3: Top 15 Picks for a Queer Seattleite in Sydney
I’ve come, I’ve conquered. No, I’m not that embarrassing and heinous form of traveler, but I have sorted out a lot since I’ve been here thanks to networking. When it comes to Sydney insider knowledge, Jen over at Autostraddle has done a thorough job with her Queer Girl City Guide: Sydney, so I’m going to give you my abbreviated version with 15 options that might appeal to Seattle sensibilities.
Sydney is proudly multi-cultural, so it’s likely that queer integration is here to stay. Homophobia exists in the countryside like anywhere else, but the cities arguably enjoy a greater degree of safety than American queer meccas, including Capitol Hill. Because of their high population (4.7 million), don’t be surprised to find queers assembling around specifics like country of origin, their current fertility plans or diet style.
There is no Wildrose, sadly. While there are oodles of friendly gay bars on Oxford Street in the Darlinghurst neighborhood, they are mostly male operated. The upside is that this neighborhood hosts many regular ladies’ nights. I attended GiRLTHING and it reminded me of Girl4Girl circa 2006. But because the drinking age is 18, everyone looks like jailbait.
There’s some strange cross between hipster and punk going on here, and I was clearly under-representing plaid flannel shirts for a Seattleite. These parties have all female DJs, 90’s music remixes, and venues that offer dancing and lounging opportunities. I have heard that an Inferno equivalent Lemons with a Twist, has a crowd less interested in developing intimacy over holding each other’s hair back to puke, but they also don’t dance much.
The King Street March refers to a number of bars all holding lesbian nights in and around the Newtown neighborhood on Wednesdays. This is significant, but also quite young. Autostraddle has this covered in their article listed above.
Kinky? Try Hellfire, a BDSM sex-positive pansexual place for those exploring their power play. As a former SCSP (Wet Spot) fan, this is on my list of places to go, and I have it on good authority that it is teeming with queer girls looking to give or receive a spanking. Events take place monthly in Darlinghurst.
Beaches and Bush:
Despite its name, there is nothing particularly manly about Manly Beach. It’s Sydney’s Golden Gardens (plus saltwater pool) and a small piece of that paradise North Americans hope for when they come to a warm climate country.
Beach-bound queers can be seen here and at Sydney’s southern Bondi Beach, taking in a bit of sun or showing off their surf skills. Do not underestimate the sand yoginis either. Fitness is a big deal in dykeland here, and I can only imagine what else they could be doing while in a headstand.
(Unconfirmed: I have heard there is a strong lesbian presence at Coogee Women’s Baths at Coogee Beach where only women and children are allowed to enter a secluded and clothing optional pool. I will have to confirm this later.)
So you were too embarrassed to bring your toys though TSA and now you’re curious what Australia has to offer? The closest thing to Babes in Toyland is Max Black adult store in Newtown. It’s clean, classy and has a friendly mostly female staff as well as classes and workshops featuring a wide range of queer-friendly topics. It also sells high quality phthalate-free products (no, I did not get a free vibrator to say this) and can meet a variety of special requests. Bring on the Vegan Lube!
For a friendly international dining experience (and some pretty awesome queer people watching) I can’t get enough of the inner west neighborhoods. Leichardt, Erskineville, Enmore, Marrickville, and Newtown are the big hitters. While they all have something a little different to offer, my favorite places to eat may be the weekly Marrickville Farmer’s Market, and the wide variety of Newtown’s niche cafés. You can eat anywhere in the world in this one neighborhood.
Also, if you want a PCC or Whole Foods experience, visit one of the many aboutlife locations. Part café and part supermarket, they offer treats of all diet varieties alongside all organic shopping. Like their North American counterparts, they are pricey but wonderful queer-friendly places to shop and sip some green juice.
As for coffee, yes, they have Starbucks. No, they do not have Vivacé. But do not be dismayed, Australians are extremely serious about their coffee and while they couldn’t handle a Seattle standard of two to four a day, they are big on quality. In fact, many parents start their children young with Babycinos (steamed milk in tiny to-go cups).
If you’re a cup of joe person, you will have to settle with instant. Filtered coffee is so foreign; some places offer it as an exotic and expensive specialty. The much more common style is a “long black,” or Americano. Espresso alone is called a “short black,” and if you also want steamed milk, that’ll be a “flat white.” If you ask for black coffee, you will likely get a blank stare. There are many fine places to get organic and single-source coffee everywhere.
Want to check out the next Australian Brandi Carlile? Get your folk on at Chicks with Picks. This organization is working to nurture queer female contributions to the music scene by providing non-competitive community oriented spaces. Smart, huh? Chicks with Picks is a monthly relaxed event that gives these emerging musicians a chance to find and build their audience. Their venue rotates, but you can find more about them here.
Queer Screen is the local Three Dollar Bill Cinema and has two film festivals, one for Mardi Gras in March and another in September (fall and spring, respectively). They also host events for queer filmmakers and fans throughout the year, and while nothing beats a summer screening in Cal Anderson Park, this group can really put an event together.
Red Rattler Theatre is a warehouse artists’ collective in the industrial area of Marrickville. Like Georgetown, artists have flocked here to escape gentrified areas in search of cheap studio space. Every month they have an “Art Party” with performances from their collective and guests. This is the strangest, black sheep, alternative, and wonderful event I have attended here. Though not specifically a queer event, the collective boasts a reputation as one of the best queer spaces in Sydney and the energy and mix of people is magic. The Red Rattler has a full bar and dancing usually ensues after the performances.
Community and Activity Resources:
Lesbians on the Loose (LOTL) is a free Australian lesbian magazine similar to Curve magazine with local events listings, current events and meet-up groups for everything from book clubs to an “Out and About” hiking group called Women in the Bush (heh heh). LOTL also has a great website you can visit here.
Although it is only an annual event, if you happen to be here in end of February and beginning of March, Mardi Gras is Pride Season here in Sydney and I am told it is one of the best pride festivals in the world.
Canadian, eh? For a bit of the great white north in the down under I recommend a Canadian bar called The Stuffed Beaver (*snurffle, cough, snort*) for a great photo-op, poutine, and a beer. This place is no doubt frequented by many a snickering lesbian, or maybe I’m just full of it.
Coming to Sydney soon? Hit me up at the twitter address below.
Michelle Lunicke is a writer and performance artist from Seattle currently living abroad in Sydney, Australia. You can follow her twitter feed @michellelunicke. She blogs and makes collaborative art at michellelunicke.com.