“I just don’t want anyone to post a video of this and say it’s Drag Queen Storytime at Goulburn library, OK?” joked Shane Jenek to laughs midway through a particularly lewd demonstration of a lubrication technique at the Sydney Writers Festival.

Jenek, aka Australia’s most celebrated drag queen Courtney Act, has been an outspoken defender of Drag Queen Storytime after recent protests across the country, and while keeping it light during Queerstories last night he touched on some serious issues affecting the LGBTQIA+ community.

Dressed down as himself he performed a live reading from his memoir Caught in The Act: By Courtney Act, a confession of his smutty capers as a young drag queen following success on the hit TV show Rupaul’s Drag Race. 

He recounted a fleeting romance with a heterosexual security guard turned stripper in an Indianapolis hotel room and having to reintroduce himself as Shane after a night of pleasure as Courtney. 

“I felt nervous, like would he still want to kiss me as a boy? Or would he just put on his clothes and walk out the room? I didn’t know what would happen,” he said, then with trademark drag queen wit, he expertly balanced the explicit detail and sweet tenderness of his night of passion.

“I told him that when I got back from the shower, I wouldn’t present like a girl anymore. He looked kinda confused but he had just had my d*** inside him, so I guess he could do the math.”

It’s a personal story, both heartfelt and horny, but also deeply vulnerable. 

What started as an underground LGBTQIA+ storytelling project, Queerstories has grown into one of the most anticipated highlights of the festival, selling out for the past five years, and due to popular demand, the performance was moved to Carriageworks’ Bay 17 to cater to the hundreds of eager festival-goers, queer and allied alike.

Each year the crowds get bigger and so does the line-up, with last night featuring five storytellers: authors Daniel Lavery, Leanne Yong and Sophie Cunningham, poet Joshua Whitehead and Jenek.  

Queerstories shines in its ability to platform the hugely diverse queer experience. From the mundane to the profound, storytellers harness their revelatory life lessons into affectionate confessionals creating new histories of the queer experience.   

Hosted by its creator and curator Mave Marsden, it is 90 minutes of live reading by storytellers who share personal accounts that have shaped them. Capturing the culture and creativity of the queer spirit, we find out who they are, what they’ve learned and what it is that makes them so damn gay.   

This year’s stories ranged from Indigiqueer poetry, mid-life crisis acid trips, crippling fears of failure and euphoria of young trans kid and their “gender neutral” snare drum. 

It’s in these funny and insightful idiosyncrasies where Queerstories excels, and in the brilliant craftsmanship of storytellers who unabashedly break the boundaries of taboo and tap into that je ne sais quoi of the queer experience.

Sydney writers festival continues until 28 May, 2023. Find out more here.  

Main image supplied.