Kait Fenwick: Unity

 In Podcast transcripts, Queerstories

 

Kait Fenwick is the author of Burning Between, published by Puncher & Wattmann. Their work has appeared in Seen & Heard zine, Butch is Not a Dirty Word, Cordite Poetry Review, Archer magazine and on the walls at China Heights Gallery in Surry Hills. In 2017, Kait completed their honours in English and Writing at the University of Newcastle. Their thesis, Digital Queeries, explores the relationship between millennials, sub/urban spaces and the internet. Kait performed this piece at Newcastle Writers Festival in 2019.

 

*Audience claps and cheers*

That space between leaving high school and starting the next thing is bizarre. Whether that be uni, work or just you know, taking up residency on a couch with a bong in one hand and a pipe dream in the other.

*Audience laughs*

That unsettling sensation of transition for me started in the weeks prior to my 18th birthday, which is odd upon reflection, because my birthday was in the April and I finished  my HSC in the November. Like any pre planned event, the lead up was perhaps better than the soiree itself.

I was keen. I was going places. I was going to Unity nightclub.

*Audience laughs*

For non-Novocastrians, Unity Nightclub was located inside the Sydney Junction Hotel on Beaumont Street, just by Hamilton train station. The club was active from 2012 – 2015 and regularly hosted amateur drag, P!nk impersonators and on one very auspicious occasion, The Veronicas.

*Audience laughs*

I was adamant that my first club outfit would be meticulously curated. This lead me, a baby dyke with no idea when it came to apparel, to the then very infant online shopping site The Iconic.

*Audience laughs*

I proceeded to purchase a pair of coral, slade, I can’t even say the word. Coral, suade slingbacks firmly against my mother’s recommendation under the guise that they were, and I quote, ‘trendy as fuck.’

*Audience laughs*

Naturally, they were brutally uncomfortable.

Like any queer, assigned female at birth in my age bracket, I spent a lot of my youth watching and rewatching The L Word. Like, to the point my eyes hurt from lack of sleep and the discs were so scratched that a portable DVD player that I had in my room made that awful chewing sound. I was totally caught up in the fantasy of heading down to The Planet for a couple of cold ones with Alice and Shane.

*Audience laughs*

My entire projection of gay club culture was exclusively based off the retrospectively problematic drama. Keep in mind I was still firmly in Newcastle and surrounded by the cross-section of community that was undeniably blue collar, with attitudes that make you wanna tear your binder off in revolt. But let’s not kid ourselves here, I didn’t bind at the time, I was still firmly caught in my ‘hippie lesbian’ phase.

*Audience laughs*

Complete with just one stretched ear, you know the spiral that was really in, sort of in the late 2010s?

*Audience laughs*

And a full face, a face full of poorly matched foundation that my had mother had paid for as a birthday gift from the Clinique counter.

Many of you would remember that club pictures were very, very important in 2013. It goes without saying that you needed to get all of your angles in front of a background that stated the club name and then naturally stalk that clubs Facebook page for the following 72 hours to ensure that you were the first one of your mates to save and upload that picture to get as many likes as humanly possible.

*Audience laughs*

You know, just like as a really casual way to determine your value as a human.

*Audience laughs*

I ticked that box promptly upon entering the club. And funnily enough I wasn’t in West Hollywood, still. Kit wasn’t ushering me in. I didn’t have pals like Dana and Jenny waiting for me at the bar. As I peered into the sea of bad tattoos, asymmetrical haircuts, plaid and Coopers soaked carpet my fantasy more or less burst.

Moments after entering, a jar was shoved in front of my nose that looked not dissimilar to the ones found in the two dollar shop, ya know next to the toxic cheap candles? The ones most likely that trapped fairy dust as a small child, or maybe like, bits of fake moss and glitter, arts and crafts style. Anyway, all this happened faster than I could say, “I’m only a naive 18-year-old with no comprehension of drugs beyond weed smoked out of a Powerade bottle.”

*Audience laughs*

I later asked my cousin what it was because I was mildly terrified and she explained to me that it was a popper commonly used by gay men to loosen their muscles prior to sex. It took me ages to work out why a long-haired lesbian would offer me something to relax my anus.

*Audience laughs and claps for an extended period*

There’s a scene in the L Word, you know the one where Jenny and Marina fuck in the bathroom of The Planet? Tim interrupts them. It is all hot and heavy, yes, it is in a toilet. But you know, a nice looking dunny. A West Hollywood dunny.

*Audience laughs*

All white and marble. Loads of tense fumbling and up skirt action so when the person I was seeing at the time asked if I wanted to go to the bathroom with them, I was eager.

*Audience laughs*

Textbook stuff, the door was locked behind me and I was pushed up against the wall. I mean it was all consensual, I was ready to have my very own Planet moment. However, all I could think about during was that there is a used tampon sitting on the top of the sanitary disposal unit, a suspicious brown stain above the toilet paper dispenser and even though I was certainly not ‘woke’ at the time, I did have qualms about fucking in the one and only disabled toilet…

*Audience laughs*

I did have qualms about fucking in the one and only disabled toilet to the dulcet sounds of dykes squabbling.

*Audience laughs*

I tried to get into it, and for the moment I did, until my older cousin pounded down the door in some kind of ceasefire, to like simultaneously scold and congratulate me?

*Audience laughs*

Understandably we scattered and I found myself on the dance floor which was convenient as the first drag show of the night was about to begin. Bodies started gathering around me, lights were strobing, smoke was rising and as the queen on stage launched into her rendition of Lana Del Rey’s Summertime Sadness I involuntarily started crying.

*Audience laughs for an extended period*

I think it was a combination of being totally fucking overwhelmed, the queen’s lack of synchronization and my expectation that all drag routines look like Bernadette Bassenger, Mitzi Del Bra and Felicia Jollygoodfellow’s interpretation of Gloria Gaynor’s I will Survive. Nevertheless, after the subpar performance, I centred myself and found my way into the beer garden. I pulled up a pew and lit a cigarette. It did take me a long time to understand why people liken gay bars to places of worship and take Sunday sessions so seriously. And despite my aversion now to smoke machines and strobe lights, from time to time I still give in to the urge to congregate.

*Audience cheers and claps*

 

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