A national LGBTQI+ storytelling project curated by Maeve Marsden
featuring a book, event series and an award-winning podcast

A national LGBTQI+ storytelling project curated by Maeve Marsden
featuring a book, event series and award-winning podcast

Queerstories 2020 | Community | Miss Katalyna & Alex Gallagher

Queerstories 2020 is a special series of the Queerstories podcast recorded during the lockdown months of 2020, featuring LGBTQI+ storytellers reflecting on the events of the year.

To conclude Queerstories 2020, this episode features stories about community, or rather, about the impact on so many of us when we lost access to community in 2020.

Miss Katalyna is a proud Samoan Fa’afafine/Transwoman. She is the host of Australia’s first LGBTQIA+ multicultural cooking show presented by Thorne Harbour Health, one of the three founders of Trans Pride March Melbourne, and a founding member of Trans Sisters United. She’s a member of Victoria’s first Pasifika LGBTQIA+ organisation, as well as being a Youtuber, music DJ and Remixer.

Alex Gallagher is a multi-disciplinary artist living and working on unceded Gadigal land. Their work has appeared in Overland, The Guardian, Vice, Junkee and Kill Your Darlings, among others. Their first book, ‘Parenthetical Bodies’, was released in 2017. They’re also a bassist and singer in queer punk band, Sports Bra.


My name’s Maeve Marsden and you’re listening to Queerstories 2020, the special edition of the Queerstories podcast written and recorded at home. This last episode is aptly titled ‘community’ and as we air it, it’s incredible to see queer spaces and cultural events coming back to life. This week I’m headed to Daylesford in Victoria to host Queerstories for Chill Out Festival, last week I was able to go to Brisbane to host a massive Queerstories event there. It feels incredible to be performing for rooms of queers again. These opportunities to come together are integral.

Both of today’s stories are about community, or about the impact on so many of us when we lost access to community in 2020.

The first story is by Miss Katalyna, a proud Samoan Fa’afafine/Transwoman. She is the host of Australia’s first LGBTQIA+ multicultural cooking show presented by Thorne Harbour Health, one of the three founders of Trans Pride March Melbourne, and a founding member of Trans Sisters United. She’s a member of Victoria’s first Pasifika LGBTQIA+ organisation, as well as being a Youtuber, music DJ and Remixer.

Miss Katalyna

I would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation on who’s land I am on.

I would also like to acknowledge the Elders, Past, Present and Emerging.

Talofa lava, Malo Lelei, Fakaalofa atu and Wominjeka, welcome everyone.

In early 2013 I had an epiphany. I was at home over the weekend watching tv and I had a bowl of salt and vinegar chips on one side and a bowl of ice cream on the other and something came to me and said, I need to do more. At that same time I was enjoying my snack so at first I ignored those signs. From out of nowhere that voice inside kept telling me to do something better, something more meaningful. And thank goodness it wasn’t talking about me going on diet.

I wasn’t heavily part of that community at that time, just here and there. I was happy being in my own bubble. But this message kept coming through and so I thought, well, I am very shy so maybe, it meant, starting my own YouTube channel, to deal with my shyness and to show trans visibility. So I opened a new youtube channel but I didn’t post anything until 3 years later and the first video I posted was Karl Stefanovic’s apology for using a derogatory term when referring to our trans community.

A few months after that night, I had another epiphany, as if I wasn’t happy with the first one. The message was, I needed to do something bigger. I was reluctant, because I don’t like to be at the front. I remember, this idea of doing a trans pride march came in my head but then I thought ‘Hell to the NO’. At that time I didn’t think I was worthy enough to start such important event in the trans calender,. I hadn’t done anything other than be part of TSCHITCHAT a well-known trans YouTube channel by Lilly Chang back in 2011. I struggled with that for many years because it was like I had been chosen to do this, but at the same time I didn’t want to do it. Over that time, I have matured and grown. By 2019, I thought I might be ready.

In Melbourne there are many different divisions in the trans community. Divided because for some of our trans community we have to try and balance the western way of living vs our traditional cultural upbringing. There is very little support for Trans people of colour or anything that would make Trans people of colour want to be a part of anything. A pride march seemed like a perfect opportunity where we could come together and learn about the different segments in our community.

In August 2019 I put my time and effort into researching how to organise a march. I knew that I needed to get help so I asked my two sisters from Trans Sisters United Rebeckah Loveday and Sasja Sydeck to come on board in helping me to organise this event and I also asked them to host the rally.

Sasja Sydeck and I met over 15 years ago. She had just arrived from Singapore and we instantly connected. She was someone that I wish I could be at that time, she was confident, not shy at all, and loud and I was the complete opposite. Sometimes for me to be heard I have to reach deep down somewhere and reach for that inner Sasha in me or else I get lost in the crowd.

Rebeckah Loveday I already knew of, through my friend Kelly back in 2018. Rebeckah at that time was an employment consultant and was helping Kelly secure a job and Kelly would come home and tell me all the gossip on Rebeckah because it was so rare for us to hear of Trans folks with just a regular office job, so for me, I was like, wow, this is really amazing.  I eventually met Rebeckah via facebook. We both were commenting under a post about music and I didn’t realise it was her at that time. Months later Rebeckah told me she was a host for the The Gender Agenda on Joy 94.9 and wanted to interview me about being an up and coming music DJ. We met for the first time at Joy and it was like meeting an old friend that I had not seen in years. We got on so well, but Rebeckah is like that with everyone, she makes people feel like they are old buddies.

I still wasn’t sure how to organise the rally, as there were some conflicting information online. I had read in a post by the city of Melbourne that you needed to contact the State Library first and advise about the rally, but a handful of other groups that have done rallies had mentioned they didn’t actually contact the state library, they just rocked up with their megaphones, posters and just protested. We were already signed up to march for Slutwalk so I thought maybe I’ll ask them for advice. A week later after the march I messaged them and they gave me every single detail and steps that we had to do.

Right after the Slutwalk rally, me, Rebeckah and Sasja headed off to Grill’d for our first Trans pride meeting and it was such a beautiful moment planning a Trans Pride march over burgers and fries, I think all meetings should done over food, especially if you want my input. It’s where I can be the most creative, when food is presen. Hmmmmmm, thinking of food, what’s for dinner tonight? One of the first things we needed to do first, was have a logo, so I asked Tony K Fretton a fellow proud Fa’afafine and the founder of PacifiqueX, which is Victoria’s first LGBTQI+ Pasefika group to design our logo. We wanted something the trans community would be able to connect with. We kept it simple with the colours and used the Trans symbol. Tony did such an amazing job.

In our meeting over those yummy burgers and fries Rebeckah suggested that we hold a meeting for community members and allies.

I was so nervous, what if people didn’t turn up? I only put out just 10 chairs and then I started to see more and more people arrive, I ended up filling up the whole room, I even had chairs that blocked the entrance to the meeting room and we also had some people standing, it was packed. Right there and than I realised this is something our community was longing for.

The meeting was such a success I was overwhelmed with so much support. All I kept thinking was, is there any pizza left???? No seriously, I mean I was thinking that, but also how the trans community would feel once the day came and just imagining people coming together to unite. I understood it was going to be hard work, but moving forward I knew it would pay off.

The next task was finding speakers and performers. One thing I knew before starting this was I needed to make sure there was going to be inclusion of people of colour from the trans community. This was really important to me because in the past 20 years living in Melbourne I noticed with many LGBT events that I attended, there were rarely any people of colour on stage or at the table, so I didn’t want that to happen at this event.

Everyone that I asked to speak at the rally said yes. I asked those who I thought were really inspiring and had something to say to uplift our community. I wanted ensure we were also inclusive of those living with a disability, young folks, our elders, and I believe we did an awesome job.

Ro Allen the Victorian Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality advised us that Federation Square may be interested in supporting us. I contacted Fed Square and had many after many negotiations with Sarah the events manager, and they agreed to come on board as our main sponsors for the Trans Pride Concert at the Fed Square main stage. I could not believe what I was reading, I literary starting crying and so many things going through my head, like Fed square supporting us., was huge a big deal, we had the main stage! And the thought of our performers utilising that famous stage that Oprah Winfrey and many other legends had once been on.

Trans Pride March was about celebrating our community by passing the mic to trans folks who are not often heard but have something to say, sing, dance about. Passing the Mic and not just sharing it, that was really important to me. Trans Pride March Melbourne was to coincide with Transgender Day of Visibility, which is every year on the 31st of March.

On the 13th of March due to the Covid-19 epidemic creeping fast and affecting many Victorians, there were so many organisations cancelling their own events. That put more pressure on me to make the decision, do I go on or do I cancel? I made my decision and not one made lightly, but I thought about the safety of our community, so I decided to cancel the trans pride march and two weeks after that our government announced strict restrictions which included stopping all public events.

This also meant not being able to speak at Queerstories earlier in the year.

The decision was mostly left up to me to decide and it was really difficult for me. I didn’t want to cause any dramas if I said yes to go ahead, or say no and have everyone be so disappointed in me, plus it was only two weeks away. But one of our members Christina mentioned something that really helped me make my decision a bit easier.  She stated, “there will be lots of our community that won’t take the risk and won’t attend therefore they will miss out” and that was enough for me to decide to cancel the march.

On the day of what would’ve been the Trans Pride March, I remember being at home just looking outside the window and I really didn’t think this feeling of sadness would show up because I was ok the day before. But I think had been so busy doing other things, it just hit me all at once. I instantly took blame and felt like such big failure, because many times I’ve tried to start something or participate in something and then quit half way, but those times I didn’t care because it only involved me, this time I had other people to answer to and other people relying on me. I felt disappointment, I felt embarrassed and ashamed. I didn’t want to speak to anyone, so I stayed off social media for a while.

And now we are in lockdown for the second time in Victoria. Since both lockdowns I wasn’t able to see Sasja and Rebeckah at all and I haven’t seen them physically since March. A lot of Sasha’s work in the film industry was cancelled and she started baking at home more then ever and mind you she’s like a chef, the food she cooks and how she displays her food for her Instagram is all restaurant quality. Rebeckah continued to work remotely for some parts of her job but because she works in helping finding shelter for the homeless it was difficult. Also during our first lockdown she entered one of the first ever online pageants Miss Trans Global which is owned by trans activist Miss Sahhara from the UK and Rebeckah came 1st runner up!

As for me well although I lost my casual job in March due to Covid-19, but I never gave up. Looking for work during these times has been really challenging, because it’s now like over 500 people applying for the one job. But now, I have new gig, I’m now the host for the first LGBTQIA+ Multicultural cooking show presented by Thorne Harbour Health called The Bent Spoon. Thorne harbour health have been nothing but just amazing in looking after me, during these challenging times. This has been a long time dream of mine so thank you to Jessie and Murray for making the right decision, the best decision.

Organising the Trans Pride March Melbourne, I wanted our community to march in solidarity with our Black Trans Sisters, Brothers and Siblings from the US, South America, Pakistan, Africa, Russia and other places where our Trans community are not protected by their own country and state, and I also wanted our Trans community in Victoria to march for our own visibility on issues that mattered to us the most. I hope one day soon, we will be able to have the march we dreamed of.


Trans Day of Visibility falls on March 31 and there are events happening around Australia, so be sure to check them out, or if you’re listening from somewhere that is still in lockdown, you can participate online.

Our next story is by Alex Gallagher.

Alex is a multi-disciplinary artist living and working on unceded Gadigal land. Their work has appeared in Overland, The Guardian, Vice, Junkee and Kill Your Darlings, among others. Their first book, ‘Parenthetical Bodies’, was released in 2017. They’re also a bassist and singer in queer punk band, Sports Bra.


For the last three years, I’ve played bass and sung in a band called Sports Bra. We have two records out, and we play a style of music one might generously categorise as punk rock. We’re all big gays and while I’m reluctant to categorise the music as such it would appear to be the case that there is, in fact, an ineffable queerness that permeates what it is that we do.

Last year, we did our first full tour of Australia. 15 shows, over 17 days, opening for a band from America that, while great, play a style of music that is, in many ways, different to ours – more aggressive, more broadly conceptual, and far, far more popular.

From the outset, our announcement as primary – in fact, only – support for this band’s tour is not met with widespread excitement. Comment sections of posts announcing the news are split pretty evenly down the middle between people who were hoping for someone else – these alternative options are, not for nothing, all bands made up entirely of straight men. I’m just saying, It’s not a big deal, I don’t want to make a whole thing of it, I’m just saying. The other half are people who’ve given us a listen in light of the news and felt powerful indifference. Like true, true indifference.

Undeterred, we crack on – flying to the other side of the country for our first stop of the tour in Perth. We meet up with the band we’re touring with – they are kind, generous folks who are immediately welcoming and accommodating and it feels great. And things are great. We play an excellent set enjoyed by a not insignificant amount of people, I hoover the alcohol rider. We’re all good.

Over the next few weeks, I feel more visible and exposed than perhaps I ever have. Night after night, we drive to a venue and play songs about queerness and trauma and in many instances queer trauma. And some nights we’re fucking on. Friends from other cities turn up, watch us, hang out. It’s good. The best nights are the ones when there’s obviously people who give a shit about what it is that we’re doing – queer kids who get it and relate to it. That feels pretty special.

But some nights, shit is decidedly not on. Midway through the tour, we play in a regional Victorian town to a crowd of, generously, a dozen people – almost all of which are scrolling on their phones or talking to their friends.

Sometimes it’s a weird mix, such as on multiple occasions, as we are preparing to leave the venue at the evening’s close, someone will approach us and say something to the effect of, “I saw you come onstage, and I really thought I would hate it. Like I really thought I would fucking hate it. But then, it was actually okay.” I am relatively sure this is straight dude code for “that was great, really loved it”.

Touring is a lot of fun but it’s also hard work and – to keep expenses low – we keep it pretty basic, largely sleeping on friends floors, largely touring in a van borrowed from our guitarist’s housemate’s ex-partner, cramped, with a broken air conditioner. We all slowly, collectively, start to lose our minds.

By the time we arrive in Wollongong, the 12th stop, we are, to put it delicately, fucked. We’re exhausted, the city is in the midst of a torrential downpour. We soundcheck at the venue, an Irish pub, where a crowd of middle-aged-to-elderly men stare at us with a look somewhere inbetween contempt and incredulity. When I say I’ve never felt more visible, this is what I mean.

The worst show is in a stop in Queensland at a hotel on the Gold Coast. We soundcheck with a sound guy who is already so beyond checked out by the time we start setting up, using a preset rather than actually adjusting any levels for us. It’s only after our tour manager has some stern words with him that he agrees to actually put any effort into making us sound the way we want to sound. I think my favourite thing about being a trans queer person, in a band full of trans queer people, would have to be how respected and treated seriously I feel all the time. So respected. Just absolutely filled-to-the-gills, balls-to-the-wall overwhelmed with how respected I feel this entire time.

Anyway, we play to a smattering of people who are, again, largely on their phones or talking loudly to the person next to them. I am nothing if not petulant, and adopt a strategy that is, admittedly, juvenile – if I play louder, shout the words more aggressively, they won’t be able to chat? It’s silly, and it doesn’t really work – but it does feel a little better, which brings me to my next point.

The whole time I am kept going primarily by two things. The first is the people I love, my bandmates, our weird, scrappy little gay emo band. Touring forces you to become very comfortable with the people around you in intense and intimate ways, and I feel an overwhelming amount of warmth and love for the people I play music with.

The other thing that keeps me going, naturally, is spite. Now, the thing about spite is that it’s already an underrated motivator to begin with. Queer spite, however, may indeed be one of the most powerful catalysts that exists. I am going to play these stupid songs for you whether you like it or not. We are going to finish this tour despite 1-4 of us being on the verge of a nervous breakdown every day. Spite is queer culture. I will not be taking questions on this opinion at this time.

And eventually, we do finish. We play the final show, on the Sunshine Coast, and it feels quietly triumphant. We play well, we say our goodbyes to our tourmates, and begin the long journey in the air conditionless-van back to Sydney.

I arrive home and have no idea what to do with myself. I pace around the house. I sit down and stand up and then sit back down again. The rhythms feel off.

I didn’t really know how to approach writing a piece for this edition of Queerstories. I didn’t want to write about the pandemic, and apart from that, this tour was the last really interesting thing to happen to me.

But I have been thinking about this period a lot, given that we’re currently unable to really play shows at all, much less tour, given the global pandemic and whatnot. Tour has a strange momentum, its own system of time that has nothing to do with the real world. It’s, inarguably, a bizarre concept. You spend the majority of the day waiting in a van. You turn up to the venue and, apart from soundcheck, what you’re mostly doing is waiting. You get up and play and for 45 minutes you feel electric – then the clock resets, and you’re waiting. In a lot of ways, I feel similar lately. A lot of what I’m doing at the moment is waiting.

Mostly I have been thinking about what taking up space is like as an artist who is not able to move about the world without feeling hyper-conscious. When I talk to bands full of straight white men about what touring is like they are often full of wild stories about what a fun, crazy time they had. Our story is that we tried to tour the country as a bunch of weirdo queers and nearly all felt unsafe and uncomfortable at some points – and came unbelievably close to burning out.

Six months later we play our first proper show since the tour ended –  a Mardi Gras party, in our bubble. It feels strange in different ways – I don’t really know that anyone wants to hear sad emo and guitars while dancing and doing a lot of drugs – but people are into it, and I’m reminded that playing music can feel good. Taking up space can feel good. Being around community can feel good. I can’t wait to do it again.


Thanks for listening, to this episode and to the entire Queerstories 2020 series. Remember you can get more Queerstories episodes wherever you get your podcasts, please rate, review and subscribe while you’re there. Follow Queerstories on Facebook for event updates and photos, and follow me, Maeve Marsden, on Twitter and Instagram. This project was made possible with funding from the City of Sydney, and from my supporters on Patreon. For as little as $1 per month you can help make Queerstories happen.

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Queerstories is produced by Maeve Marsden and recorded by wonderful technicians at events around the country. Editors and support crew have included Beth McMullen, Bryce Halliday, Ali Graham and Nikki Stevens.