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 | Haunting | Queenie Bon Bon and Victoria Zerbst

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.

This week’s stories pertain to a haunting of sorts, from the paranormal to the pathological.

Queenie Bon Bon is a  writer, performance artist and sex worker living and working in Narrm/melbourne. Their work focuses on labour and the body. They have created four full length shows – which have toured in Australia, Europe and North America. Their work has been featured on locanto, backpage and in Maximum Rock and Roll and The Lifted Brow. They are  a member of Australian sex worker art collective Debby Doesnt Do It For Free and have been part of the Scarlet Alliance executive committee for 5 years. They are the 2020 Recipient of Firstdraft’s Writers Program.

Victoria Zerbst is a political satirist, comedy writer and performer for The Feed on SBS. She is a co-founder of the Sydney-based comedy collective Freudian Nip and the 2020 recipient of the ATYP Rebel Wilson Comedy Commission.


Hi, I’m Maeve Marsden, and you’re listening to Queerstories 2020, a collection of tales written by LGBTQI+ storytellers during the long strange months of the year that has been 2020. If you’re just dipping in to this series now, be sure to check out our past episodes.

This week’s stories pertain to a haunting of sorts.

First up is a story by Queenie Bon Bon, who is a writer, a performance artist and a sex worker, living and working in Narrm. They’re the 2020 Recipient of Firstdraft’s Writers Program.

This story is called All the Brothels Are Haunted And Now The Internet Is Too.

Queenie Bon Bon

Haunting is one of the most common paranormal beliefs around the world, many believe that almost every town and city has at least one haunted place. I have worked in many offices that have had their ghostly quirks – where maybe one would turn the lights off and the office would decide that, no –  that light would in fact be remaining on. Places that would frequently host unexplained temperature changes and very unusual scents –  although actually those unusual scents were maybe more explainable than the other phenomena. What I am saying is actually not that every brothel should be in the horny and haunted ghost watchers guide – but more that since March, the spaces in which I have often hosted sex work have become shells. Their form and function seems so unstable.

When spaces lose their meaning, what happens to their use? Success in space use is significantly correlated with knowledge about it, providing further evidence that conceptual knowledge plays a key role in its spacial use. What do we know about this emptiness that these spaces hold? I know my workplaces too often have had such coded meanings. How do we read them in this time – what is a brothel with no whores and whores with no brothels?

I think of the lockers filled with pleasers and g-strings and Hello Kitty body spray that have not been touched since March. I feel sad for them, to be in a place made for touch and connection and there they are – alone and abandoned. I think of the prophylactics moving closer to expiry. They never got to fulfill their destiny. I think of the unopened curtains and the dusting floors, the aging snacks left behind that will become a whole new thing, maybe as it sits in a Lorna Jane sports bag in  a locker creating dream conditions for food decomposition, allowing microbe and enzyme activity to be optimized, making food energy more available to the bacteria and fungi. How nice.

I picture all my old offices – and in my mind’s eye draw I portraits of past, but I know it is not just the empty brothels that house these ghosts – the internet is a playground for a modern ghost story to be written in 0s and 1s.

While many of us have been making banana bread, going on little anxiety benders or walking round the block for our allowed 1 hour, there is another Covid hobby – the lesser advertised activity of building escort directories during times of financial adversity. This is not the first time I have witnessed this hobby grow. The last time I witnessed it with such gusto was in 2017, when FOSTA/ SESTA the law designed to stop sex trafficking was passed, a law that did nothing to assist workers safety, just remove our visibility; the idea that if we can not be seen we will be gone. A law moved through our very boarded world in a way that our bodies cannot.

A Law that took down backpage, an advertising platform, and many other vital resources for sex workers worldwide.

Although now it is not the removal of an advertising platform that has caused precarious nature of this time, but the knowledge that workers have lost the ability to work freely that’s created a breeding ground for these new hobbyists.

In mid-March I had taken down what I thought was all my online advertisements. I knew that one could be fined for working and that the police – who we know have no real job in anything really – but like really not the space of attending to any wellbeing of the people, well, the police had taken it upon themselves to play entrapment. Entrapment is sort of like a non consensual role play game, where they pretend to be a client™ and then if you say you’re not working they then try and get you to agree to working – maybe by offering you more dollies etc etc. Anyway, they love to play, it’s their fun games of criminalising survival.

My act in laboriously taking down my ads was what I believed was something of being a future friend to myself. My hotline was COVID cancelled, please don’t leave a message after the beep, or send a dick pic – I’m on an anxiety bender and really just can’t. And yet by the end of that week, 6 people attempted to make bookings with me – all claiming they had no idea about Covid, had not heard of it, one claiming they live out of reception and that he had just driven to the city to see me. I’m not the type of prostitute you drive into the city for –  I’m just like, when someone despo for someone to insert a mayonnaise jar into their anus without too much chitty chat.

I wonder if this is our dear friends the  horror hobbyists were at it again. Pop up sites appear in the hope that they will become the new backpage / scarlet blue – they usually do what I guess is untechnically known as reposting – except not cute like and repost way. I know strange technological glitches are another sign of hauntings – but maybe this praxis shows us something more terrifying in our social sphere than in a metaphysical space.

The week after, those wanting to see me moved from 6 to 27, people in Canberra and Brisbane, all calling me. I get offered 10 toilet rolls for a blow and go. I wonder if this is the new world, or at least the start of a weird movie, like that guy who swapped a paperclip for a house. The whore who swapped a BJ for some loo roles, which are now so inflated in value, what could be next? A 100 avos of toast?

I decline the offer – so that’s the end of the straight-to-tv movie idea. Instead I do a google image search for my ads, and find that my ads are no longer really my ads. My photos and phone number are still the same, but the text is different –  I am much nicer in these ads, like they have removed my bossy tone and made it simple. It’s obvious, keep it simple. I am available to be your girlfriend in many cities, which feels very different to the real me.

There are some other ads with my picture but different numbers, like this holographic version of me has now got many phones, so smart, I am building a whole workforce of myself. I see myself reflected and replicated over and over. I wonder if our offices will ever house us again, will one ever be able to work in ways one had that old world, in all of its glorious touching and fluid filled ways. I wonder if these holographic versions of me will keep evolving, are these versions of me also chronically ill, or do these versions of me not bother with that sort of palava? What kind of super whore will I become?

While I’m writing this I get a call from a nice man – he wants to know about my ad I had just posted, I tell him I didn’t post an ad, he says he must have the wrong number, I tell him that he does have the right number, it’s just an offering from the past – or maybe a future version of me, but whatever he saw, isn’t happening now –  because of the pandemic and also, it’s 10:38pm. so I can’t actually leave my house, and I have no office. He asks hopefully, so you’re not doing anything sexy in Melbourne right now?

I have not done or really felt anything sexy this whole time. I have had moments, moments of some sudden desperate longing for something, where I am suddenly desperate for attention. I put on ‘Father Figure’ and do a thrusty dance that is sexual-ish dance while wearing only my pajama top. Imagine If I was at the club on King Street and I was doing this nice sexy dance’ on stage, ‘imagine’ ‘imagine,’ look at me and ‘imagine’. My partner momentarily looks up from their war hammer figurines to inform me that they are imagining. My doggy buries himself into the blanket so he does not have to imagine. And then I’m done, my mania wains and we all return to quiet time. That’s the closest I have come to doing a sexy thing. But that probably not the type of sexy he is looking for.

I search my ad, and see it continue to shape shift. It’s like I’m in quantum leap –  my ads now say I am in Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne. How multi dimensional of me, each version of myself a little different, one has a photo I haven’t used in an online ad for 6 years. And yet here is an old version of me embracing a new world. I’m just really out there. Another has the title all in emojis – ticks and hearts – am I visioning my future direction of digital communication. The opening line is ‘ young and horny’. I’m really more like forty and frigid. Anxious and covered in dog hair would also be a fair description.

The control of sex worker images, how they are replicated and reshaped by others, it’s not a new horror, nor are the conditions that allow us to appear and disappear.  The complexities of navigating your virtual self in your analog body are plentiful.

I get a message from an old client who loves to eat a little treaty out of the bin. It’s really a sad time for pickers. I really have nothing for him, in every sense of what having something for him might look like.

I’m walking my dog in our one hour of out-the-house time, my dog is also a real lover of bin treats, although his real love is eating poo. I watch my doggy delicately sniff before committing to which poo to eat. Testing the aroma, I imagine, can be one of the most overlooked parts of deciding which poo one should eat. Dearest doggy will hold his nose just above the poo, letting himself run the entire poo across his nostrils. He usually takes a long inhale so he can get a real feeling for the scent. I like to imagine that he is poo connoisseur, in the same way that a lover of cigars may understand them to have many different flavors: earthy, leather, nutty, floral, garbage, etc.

I imagine him describing how these flavors come from the aroma itself, not necessarily the actual taste of the poo; however, smell and taste are so closely knit that the smell of the poo will directly determine what the taste will be like. Our senses directly impact each other. He is an expert in finding the bestest best poo poo –  but are we not all experts in our own desire?

I know I have a desire to be in my fullness. I think that the ghosts that are haunting me are maybe not even my ghosts, when nothing on the Internet belongs to us. And we can’t keep it if somebody wants to take it away. Maybe these ghosts are communal metadata. And the brothels, they were never ours – it’s just the way we used them that was magic.

The picker calls again a few days later to let me know to contact him if I “find anything he would like.” I wonder if anyone took the bins out at the office. I think about the fermenting seed left behind. I know a sperrmy can live for 5 days in a front portal, but I’m unsure of its lifespan on a tissue and then a nappy bag. I think of all the little ghost spermys flopping round the office.

I wonder if I can DIY a treat for him, and post it – like maybe out of kefir and flour? I can’t find a good recipe online and I’m not really thinking of returning to my office for a little root around – but if I did – that would be fine – I mean the ownership of human waste feels maybe a bit of a grey area, is that right? Like people are free to take their cummy tissues home, which I don’t state and so far only one person has ever requested to do so, but once they have left them with me, are they mine? Is the bin a neutral zone that no one has ownership of? So yes, have I ever fed a hungry lil hippo out of the bin, sure. Was it mine to feed them? Unsure. It’s sort of like the ‘you wouldn’t steal a car’ ad – but i mean, I def would if it was just downloading one from mega upload.

Would you steal someone’s spermies – no – but if you just left them in a bin from your mega download, I would gladly feed it to a client who wants to give me 50 dollies for a sneaky snacko. But there are no snackos for me to feed any online good boys at the moment.

In between tracking my new online selves I see an article called “Block porn: Free up the internet for essential services and community.” That the internet must be used for Important activities in these times. An appeal for our bad bodies to be banned –  to just really help the crisis.

If one was truly worried about the internet being blocked up, one could start a campaign for people to delete their spam email. Like, that’s so easy. I would definitely for covid 19 delete all unread, which is currently sitting at 16,500 – not to brag or anything, plus if I haven’t replied to your email, just know that I’m just probably waiting for the right time you know, to open it.

I know an individual spam is insignificant, but if a global community as a whole took a stance against spam, we could remove 80% of all email traffic, or approximately 40% of all data traffic from the internet. This would free up the bandwidth for literally everything else that is more important.

And let’s for a moment imagine that not cutting off income from those who make money from porn is important. I suspect the author already had a few feelings about the internet and porn, and this was just a cute way for them to marry these ideas.

At some point I still believed this would all just be a moment, and now it has been so many, many moments – time has become bendy, and my body feels hardened in this uncertainty.  I get another message: “are there any spots at the shop today?” It’s cute how they call it a shop, like ‘I’m just nipping off to the shop’. I think of my lonely shop, which is not a shop at all, but in fact an unlicensed brothel. I think of the sad massage tables, with no oily bodies pressed into them. What is their destiny now? “It’s shut,” I reply, “because we are in stage 4 lockdown.”

He seems surprised that we were not considered an essential service, or maybe that because we were already being illegal, he thinks that we would continue to just be more illegal, because really isn’t illegal plus illegal still illegal.

“So definitely no spots avail today?” I offer him this, “Sex worker says ‘I know a spot.’ Client says ‘nah that’s just a skin tag.”  I don’t get a reply. I guess with comedy it’s a real know your audience game, but I was shadow banned from my real audience for posting about butts, and that joke needed to go somewhere. We all want and need somewhere to go in these times.


From the paranormal to the pathological we go, because my friends, let’s face it, it’s queer culture to lug around the ghosts of exes past like a non-culturally appropriative talisman. Our next storyteller, Victoria Zerbst,  is a national treasure. I say that with not a hint of hyperbole – Victoria is a phenomenal force of nature – a political satirist, writer and performer for The Feed on SBS, she is also a co-founder of the Sydney-based comedy collective Freudian Nip and the 2020 recipient of the ATYP Rebel Wilson Comedy Commission.


I have to begin by telling you that my ex-girlfriend and I had a song. I am pretty sure other ‘couples’ have ‘songs’ and good for them, but this is a story about our song and how it became the sad, unforgiving soundtrack of my coronavirus lockdown.

It’s a story of regret, sure. Longing, definitely longing, declarations of love, the politics of performance, and the warped romantic education of a bisexual.

And I am that bisexual.

And I think it’s fair to blame all of my maladaptive psychology on the Internet: you know, the irony poisoning, the knowing things, the normalising of shameful but inevitable activities like reaching out to an ex in these ‘unprecedented times’. The Internet can’t help it with all the memes they do, and simply, neither can I.

You might try to ignore the ex itch with a craft project – a cross-stitch, an oil painting – but then you re-read a tweet reminding you that “Girl, whatever you do, don’t text your ex, he’s not worth it.”

And you agree, he’s probably not. Men often aren’t.

But what about your ex-girlfriend? The one with whom you shared a song? Might she be worth it? And then commences this little dance in your mind, that back and forth, the should I/ shouldn’t I?

You dance towards this little quote by Hume you in the corner of your mind because you’re unhinged, and it tells you, “Reason alone cannot be a motive to the will, but rather is the slave of the passions.” And you remember whatever reasons you give for or against, your passions will guide your actions. So you let yourself reminisce back into the time you felt safe… and excited by life. Besides! It’s corona! You’re living through a screen. You’re re-watching 90s romcoms and reading about contemporary economic recessions. Of course you’re gonna think about all the love you had that went away.

How she made you laugh like no one else. How you would dance on the bus together heading into work. How you made your pictures on your work security passes kiss, how you both worked for public broadcasters at the time. And how you would gift each other books with love notes written on the covers.

You remember that you only broke up because she moved overseas to study neoliberal temporalities in queer literature. You remember that in these neoliberal corona temporalities, the concepts of place, time, space, these things don’t exist anymore. She is but an email, a facebook, a zoom (heaven help us) away at any moment and you’re stuck inside at your parent’s place, painting a table.

But then you remember what that might look like. What you might say. How you left things.

Maybe a check in, a hey feels ridiculous, limp, even. An underachievement in imagination, tonally jarring in this heighted, operatic time. So you think: How else might I communicate everything I’m feeling and more. Maybe a gesture of sorts. A declaration, maybe?

And then you have it…what if I sent a recording of me singing (which you know she likes) and playing the piano (which she probably likes) but it’s a cover of the song (which you know she loves). And then it hits you. That’s it. That’s the means of expression most suited to the intensity of feeling.

The song is a Bec Sandridge cover of the Cindy Lauper re-cover of a song by Roy Orbinsion originally written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly. It’s about a person so desperate to see their lover in the middle of the night that they drive all night to visit their lover, they wake their lover up and they make love to their lover. And during lockdown, yeah, I really feel that.

For this to be a queer love song the drive part, of course, has to be a metaphor. That was apt for me and my ex-girlfriend because, true to form, neither of us can drive.

The song starts like this:

I had to escape, the city was sticky and cruel

Maybe I should have called you first

But I was dying to get to you

I was dreaming while I drove

The long straight road ahead

Could taste your sweet kisses, your arms open wide

This fever for you was just burning me up inside

Yeah, it is, it’s quite a tune.

And then you realise how cool and masc it feels to be the one making the grand romantic gesture. Not that any guy has really done this sort of thing for you, but you’ve grown up with the understanding as a bisexual woman socialised as a straight for slightly too long, that…if… man loves, man do gesture. But now, you – transgressive, you love and… you do gesture. And upon someone who will appreciate it, a beautiful woman, a fabulous, sensitive gal just waiting to be expressed to. She’s probably been socialised that way as well. I mean, you’ve never really understood how roles work. You’re a switch after all. And now you’re switchin’ roles with Michael Cusack with the boombox, Heath Ledger with the microphone, the kid from Love Actually they let through the airport to say goodbye to his 10 year old crush which was fine because it was before 9/11.

And now your only worry now is…is my cover of this song that I will send to my ex during corona… is it too derivative? Too similar to the original? I mean..imagine sending her bad art? In an email? With the subject line: Thinking of you. And then you’ve just like, what, attached an audio file.

You worry that from the voice of Bec Sandridge, the song is pure liquid poetry. But you don’t want to directly replicate. So you listen to Roy’s take on the song. You want to hear the first recording, that 1987 shit. So you can steal from that musically instead.

So you listen. And then something shifts. Especially when he gets to the chorus and it goes:

(spoken) I drove all night to get to you  Is that all right?

I mean it’s pretty benign, but in pure Silicon Valley style the singer asks for forgiveness instead of permission. I mean, dude, you’ve already driven there, but go off. It gets better, he continues:

I drove all night crept in your room

Red flag.

Woke you from your sleep


 to make love to you

Is that all right?

I drove all night

And now we’re in danger, especially with that passive aggressive defensiveness. Like, is that alright, babe? I did drive all night.

Maybe you SHOULD have called her first, Roy. Maybe you ask before you drive all night and turn up at this poor woman’s door.

Now am I being heteronormative to assume that Roy is singing about a female lover? Sure. But in my poetic imagination and because of the song Pretty Woman I feel comfortable pitching at a vibe here. To answer your question, quickly, am I cancelling Roy Orbison? No, he is dead. But am I about to cancel my own romantic gesture? Now that is the question.

I learn almost everything I know about love and romance from movies – also the internet and songs and books – but from mostly those capital F Films. I’m a cinephile, after all. But it’s all endless poison. And it’s usually so easy to imagine myself as the girl in the boy meet girls movies.

Especially in those saccharine sweet scenes of men chasing women through airports, arriving at New Years Parties just in time, interrupting soccer practice and stopping traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge.

When men do these courageous and defiant acts, you MUST forgive them. For whatever. The crowd is obsessed with this. Someone in the 90s film will always start the slow clap. Man win woman over. The order is restored.

Except we don’t really believe that anymore. When I take off my Hollywood tinted glasses, I see that men in movies will come to the rescue with big romantic gestures only when they have to make up for the fact they have been emotionally stunted for the majority of the film’s plot.

But, still. Might there be something cool and transgressive about a bisexual woman reclaiming this typically masculine narrative for herself? Should she even want that narrative? Aren’t these acts just hollow ego gestures?

And then you think about how you left things with your ex-girlfriend. How you never made it to the airport to say farewell. How the two of you decided to call it and not try long distance. How you tried to perform a version of I Drove All Night at her going away party and then cried when you messed up the chords and gave a less than professional performance.

How in this story maybe you were…or still are….emotionally withholding, stunted and disappointing.

How you sit there recording your song, singing your song, getting ready to send it via email. And that’s your way of trying to break through the walls you’ve built for yourself. That it’s so much easier to perform for a crowd than it is to tell one person that you messed up, that you miss them and that you’re sorry.


I never sent the recording. Yeah, I guess you could say I “bitched it”? I think honestly I was too scared of being rejected but in this story it is because I am too wise and I know better. One of my friends sent me this wholesome Instagram infographic that said something like, ‘grief is so hard because you’re feeling all this love that is now missing a place to go’. I was, like, wow that is so me.

I’m still heartbroken and during corona I had nowhere to go but backwards, back to my last point of comfort, back into the memories of our love. Our first perfect kiss by the beach on a moody autumn’s night, when I wore all her clothes to a party that was themed “strong, powerful women in history’. When we sketched each other and her drawing was magical and I drew her like a child draws. When we laughed over orange wine and dumplings and I felt so happy I thought I would burst. And when she listened to me playing piano and cried, I felt heard and seen for the first time, yeah, ever, in a relationship.

And, while it still breaks my heart, I know I can’t drive all night to take this love back to its original owner. It wouldn’t be fair on her. It would be an ego move. And I still don’t have a licence. So I’m trying something new.

I want to take that love and redistribute it. God, call me a heartbreak socialist. When I sing this song now I need it to be for everyone because I can’t carry these feelings alone and I’m no longer trying to win her back, even though, you kn0w, some say I’m a real catch.

So, now I’m just truing to real you all in. Because who is this song for if not for everyone?

For everyone who has ever wanted to be there for someone and never known how.

For everyone who wants to drive all night to be there for someone but knows they shouldn’t. Which works, because they also can’t drive and will never learn.

And for everyone who wishes for a romance lifted from a film script or love song but knows that is not really how it ever goes.

This is for you.

I had to escape, the city was sticky and cruel

Maybe I should have called you first

But I was dying to get to you

I was dreaming while I drove

The long straight road ahead

Could taste your sweet kisses, your arms open wide

This fever for you was just burning me up inside

I drove all night to get to you

Is that all right?

I drove all night crept in your room

Woke you from your sleep to make love to you

Is that all right?

I drove all night

What in this world keeps us from falling apart?
No matter where I go
I hear the beating of your heart
I think about you when the night is cold and dark
Uh-huh, yeah
No one can move me the way that you do
Nothing erases this feeling between me and you-ohhhh

I drove all night to get to you

Is that all right?

I drove all night crept in your room

And woke you from your sleep to make love to you

Is that all right?

I drove all night

I wanna hold you tight

I drove all night

I wanna hold you tight

I wanna hold you tight

Could taste your sweet kisses, your arms open wide

This fever for you was just burning me up inside

I drove all night to get to you

Is that all right?

I drove all night

I drove all night

So I think I should conclude this all by telling you that I performed this piece, live, for Queers on the Fringe, and on opening night, unbeknownst to me, my ex-girlfriend, the one with whom I shared the song, the one with whom I shared these stories, yeah, she turned up. She was right there in the audience next to the live stream camera, and she had to sit through all of this and I had to perform this, knowing she was right there. That is a queer story.


Thanks for listening.

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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.