I’ve been debating whether or not I should make a “transition fund” for a hot minute – long before I came out as transgender or started medically transitioning – but I keep being harshly reminded that I’ll never be able to afford the procedures I need to live my best life on my own, so I finally bit the bullet and set up a GoFundMe. I’m not really expecting anything to come from it, but if by any chance you might be able to help me out on my journey (and want to, most importantly), donations of any amount will be greatly, greatly appreciated. The fund is available here: https://gofund.me/bcb2375d
I would also greatly appreciate if you’d consider sharing the above link to any platforms that may allow for such funds to be promoted. I don’t know what else to write here, so I’m just going to copy the spiel I have written in the fund itself below. Take care!
Hi, hey, hello!
My name is Ellie, I’m a 26-year-old transgender woman based in Naarm/Melbourne, and I’m hoping to raise a bit of money to cover the rising costs of my medical and social transition.
To put it bluntly, being trans in 2023 isn’t just difficult because of the abysmal state of the political landscape, it’s also extremely expensive. My hormone replacement therapy (HRT) alone costs around $65 per month ($780 per year) and as a trans woman, things like feminine clothes, makeup and skincare products are important to ensure that (most) people view / take me seriously as a woman in society. Additional costs include appointments with my endocrinologist to manage my HRT ($400 each), regular sessions with my psychotherapist to work through the mental aspects of my gender dysphoria ($140 each), and voice feminisation lessons (variable, but on average $150~ each).
I work as a freelance music and pop-culture journalist, so the income I bring in is… Less than fantastic. I can scrape by in covering the above costs, but there are several procedures that would greatly aid me in my transition and help to combat my feelings of dysphoria, which I genuinely consider to be crucial in my journey.
The most important, I believe, is a hair transplant. I began medically transitioning at age 25, by which time I’d suffered significantly from male pattern baldness. My lack of natural hair is the single most significant source of my dysphoria; I am envious of virtually every woman I see with natural hair, I hate looking at myself in the mirror and not seeing my own hair, and I feel like a fraud and a disappointment to myself having to wear hair pieces (aka wigs) to look or feel feminine. It’s had a devastating effect on my mental health – not to mention, hair pieces are expensive, uncomfortable, cumbersome, difficult to maintain and just don’t look as good as real hair – and it’s something I am desperate to remedy as soon as possible.
I’ve been quoted $18,750 for a hair transplant of 3,500 grafts (7,000 hairs). All the money I save at present is going towards this, and I am also looking into securing a loan so I can at least have the surgery locked in and work towards paying it off. Until I’ve had that procedure, all money raised through here will be going towards “Ellie’s hair transplant fund”. My hope is that I can achieve the means to undergo the procedure by the end of 2023… It might be a bit too ambitious of a goal, but I won’t know unless I try, right?
From there, any funds raised through this campaign will be used to save for other procedures I hope to undergo along the course of my transition. These primarily consist of FFS (facial feminisation surgery) and GRS (genital reconfiguration surgery), the two I would consider the most essential to my transition after a hair transplant.
I would greatly appreciate any help I can get here, whether that’s through a donation (of any amount at all) or just sharing this campaign. Either way, thank you so much for taking the time to read this and consider helping me in my gender transition.
Happy #TransDayOfVisibility! Remember to show your appreciation for all the trans peeps in your life by sending them $20 (PayPal works fine, thanks babes xoxo).
Nah but for realsies, this is my first TDOV as an open trans woman, and I have a lot of feelings about it.
My relationship with gender has been chaotic for about as long as I’ve been lucid. I spent the first chunk of my life being completely oblivious to the binary, not really understanding that there was a (societally perceived) disconnect between “girls” and “boys” and sort of just thinking I would grow up to be a woman because… That’s just how it worked, I guess?
Having it made explicitly clear that I wouldn’t* grow up to be a woman kind of spurred on my first real existential crisis. I spent my teen years trying to run and hide away from, ignore or brush aside my feelings of dysphoria, always trying to make excuses for why I felt envious of the girls around me and didn’t fit in with or relate to any of the boys. Like most of the trans people I know, I kind of just assumed that everyone wished they’d been born as the opposite sex – that gender envy was just a normal part of life that everyone experienced.
I didn’t know what the words ‘transgender’ or ‘dysphoria’ meant until 2014, and after that, it was impossible to ignore what was “wrong” with me.
I got real sad.
I tried numbing myself with drugs and alcohol.
I used self-harm as a crutch.
I wrote more suicide notes than I’d care to count.
I was introduced to non-binary identities in 2016 (at the age of 19) and made a bunch of queer friends, and for the first time in my life, it felt like things kind of made sense. I started identifying as non-binary in my private life and slowly started feeling more comfortable with myself, even though I was still presenting 100% masculine. But as I entered my 20s, my beard got thicker, my skin got rougher and I started to go bald, and naturally my dysphoria intensified as a result.
I started seeing a psychiatrist that specialised in transgender care and planned to start hormones in secret in early 2017, but my sister found out and after a fight with her, I was spooked out of it (thankfully she’s no longer a part of my life). Five years later, last May, I was able to “come out” properly and start living as Ellie in my day-to-day life, be more open with how I expressed myself and experiment more with feminine presentation (albeit with the beard intact and a mostly masculine wardrobe). I also started HRT (hormone replacement therapy, for the cis among us) last July.
I did feel very comfy being openly non-binary, but the more I connected with my femininity, the more I was forced to actually address and reckon with my dysphoria. “Maybe I’m actually just a trans woman” was an argument I’d had internally for years, and I settled the debate for myself a little while before I came out last May (which is why I didn’t explicitly use the term “non-binary” when I did), but I didn’t make the full leap and come out as a trans woman then because, among other reasons, I was scared. I didn’t know how to navigate what would come afterwards.
Over the last few weeks of 2022, there were a few key events that forced me to take my battle with dysphoria more seriously. It became painfully clear that I couldn’t keep denying the truth for myself, and… I chickened the fuck out. I freaked, spiralled and ultimately tried to kill myself on New Year’s Day.
After coming home from the hospital and settling back into reality, I came to the conclusion that if I was going to keep living, I needed to accept myself as a trans woman and get myself to a point where I felt okay living as one. I started thinking about how I could work myself towards a presentation I felt comfy with before gently coming out – I’d keep going on my weight loss journey until I felt okay about my shape, then I’d lose the beard and get all the follicles lasered off, get a hair transplant and start growing it out, practise make-up in private until I had it down-pat enough, and then finally come out one last time.
But after seeing my extended family at a funeral in early January, I realised that I didn’t have all that time at my disposal. It hurt too much to keep playing pretend – I couldn’t keep wearing the mask I’d been wearing for my whole life thus far; I couldn’t force myself to hide behind masculinity anymore.
I came out to my partner on January 12th and leapt straight into femme presentation with no sense of aesthetic, a few hair pieces, wicked stubble, no idea what I was doing with makeup… I mean, I still have no idea what I’m doing, but I feel like I’m slowly getting better? I am slowly figuring out how to dress, present and embrace myself as the woman I am. And the truth is that I’ve always been a woman, it just took me 26 years of struggling to accept that for myself.
I’m still struggling. I cry at least once a week over the fact I don’t have my own hair (that surgery is my #1 priority right now). I am finding voice training to be absolute hell (heat from fire, fire from heat). I do not pass in the slightest (as people in the street are always extremely keen to make clear), and the public transphobia is so much worse than I anticipated (see: that TERF rally here in Naarm a few weeks ago, where Victoria Police protected self-declared Neo-Nazis while they bashed trans rights activists). But I would much rather die as an open, struggling trans woman than live miserable and closeted.
I am more comfortable in myself now than I have ever been. Every mismatched fit, botched makeup job and vocal cord squeak is a learning opportunity – a baby step in becoming who I was always meant to be. When I look at myself in the mirror nowadays, i don’t immediately feel like shit. I smile. I see the hormones slowly starting to work their magic, I see my aesthetic skills developing, and I see a future where I feel comfortable in my own body. I see a girl trying her damn hardest to live her best life – a life of authenticity, radically and defiantly so – and my spirit burns for her. She’s my biggest inspiration.
TLDR: my name is Elizabeth Ashley Doria – Ellie for short (and if you’re wondering, Robinson is my mum’s maiden name; I use it for my writing as a tribute to the feminine energy that shaped me). My pronouns are she/her. I am a daughter to Mark and Jeanette, a sister to [redacted], a fiancée to Milo and a dog-mum to Cadbury.
I am a transgender woman, and I am proud as fuck to be one.
QUICK LIL’ CONTENT WARNING: This post openly discusses some potentially triggering topics, like gender dysphoria and transphobia, weight/diet/exercise stuff, financial insecurity and general mental illness vibes. If any of these might be triggering for you, I recommend proceeding with caution or giving this post a skip. It’s all good if you gotta do that, I still love you!
Hey, hi, hello!
Oh my God, it has been a MONTH. I refuse to believe February is the shortest month of the year – this one felt like it went on for approximate 13,462,373 infinities. But we got through it! And we went to a stack of gigs! Ten to be exact!
So like January, this month started pretty dismally – after last month’s whirlwind of emotions I was (or like, I have been) feeling very raw and sad and anxious. Milo and I went to see Girl In Red on the 1st and the show itself was incredible – she played all but one of the songs I was hoping she would (no love for ’Summer Depression’, sigh) and we both had a big ol’ bop – but it was also the first show I went to in girlmode, and it definitely kind of sucked being glared and stared and sneered and double-taked (double-taken?) at by a solid 20 people there.
Like I said last month, I don’t even come close to passing – not even close to close to close – but I was at least hoping that Girl In Red’s own (extremely queer) fanbase would be cool around visibly trans people. It was those curt up-and-downs – those quick-but-callous scans to verify that I was not a “real” woman – that really cut me. But I guess at their cores, cis queers are still cis people and exhibit cis people behaviours. I still had a great time at the show. And fuck the rest of Melbourne, I looked cute. I wore my fuzzy pink top and pseudo-edgy Valentine’s skirt from Dangerfield, fishnets and my buckle-y Docs, and I dolled myself up with a smoky red eye and razor-sharp wings… I objectively served cunt.
The next day I needed to grab some basics and felt confident so I didn’t bother de-feminising when I went for a mid-arvo Coles run; normally I’ll dress femme and girlmode around the apartment from the time I wake up, and then I’ll swap to boymode whenever I need to head out – it’s just a safety/not-feeling-like-being-perceived-as-the-truest-form-of-scum-just-for-existing kinda thing. But like, obviously my confidence was misplaced. I was out of the apartment for maybe ten minutes, tops, and got sneered at four times: first by a couple in an aisle, then by a group of teenage boys who were blocking the entrance to the self-serve checkouts, then by the staffer working those checkouts, and finally by a car of frat bros on the walk home.
It never fails to stun me that transphobes think people actually want to be trans – that we’d choose to put ourselves in these situations, that inviting the rest of the world to openly and loudly hate you would be trendy. I made it back to the apartment and sulked until I fell asleep. There were countless others sneers and microaggressions and other little tidbits of transphobia that I copped throughout February – I went out in girlmode more than I did in boymode – but I’m only going to touch on the ones that feel relevant to what else I did this month. Otherwise this post would need chapters.
I felt second-hand gender euphoria watching my friend Hazel crush it with her band Those Who Dream on the 5th. Seeing the crowd cheer for and celebrate her doing her thing – celebrate her just being her – was truly life-affirming. And the show itself was sick – that was definitely a plus. (Sidenote: I wrote a giant ((5,000+ words lmao)) profile with Hazel that I should be able to post here in a little bit, I’m just waiting for her to send through some assets and one last quote ((but alas that bitch be busyyyyyyyy))).
A couple days after that gig (on the 9th) I went to 100 Gecs’ show at the Northcote Theatre and, very unsurprisingly, that was even transer – there had to be no more than, like, eight cis people there (one of whom obviously being Dylan Brady). It felt weird not being the tallest girl in the venue – I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before? – but every other element of that show felt absolutely incredible. They played most of my favourite songs and all the 10,000 Gecs songs sound absolutely massive IRL. I’m also parasocially in love with Laura Les, (not to simp but) that fucking woman could kick in the face with her Vans and I’d have no choice but to thank her.
I also realised when they played ‘Fallen 4 Ü’ (my favourite song of theirs – absolutely criminal that it didn’t make the cut for 10,000 Gecs) that I have an actual crush on this girl I’ve been talking to a lot recently and holy shit, I hate it. I mean, I don’t hate having crushes – I think it’s nice to have people that make you feel warm and cutesy and give you butterflies, it’s such an amazing feeling – but I specifically hate having this crush on this girl because she is so wildly out of my league and would never have feelings back for me, and I inevitably get stuck on those facts when I think about her.
Also crushes are weird when you’re in a committed relationship; Milo and I are open about the feelings we have for other people (and actively welcome it) and we’re not sexually exclusive, but we are romantically exclusive (ie. we’re not polyamorous, just ethically non-monogamous), and it’s like… I don’t want another partner or a side-piece (a sucky concept to begin with) or anything in that kind of realm, but… Like… Actually I don’t know what I want with this girl? A platonic friendship where sometimes we go out on proper dates and kiss a bunch? I had that simultaneously with Milo and another person before Milo and I started dating, but it ended with Milo and I developing serious feelings for each other and eventually becoming full-on partners (four years strong now!!) – and that other situationship wound up with the other person also developing serious feelings, which weren’t reciprocated by me, which caused problems, which ended up with our friendship ending messily. (But that other person was also very toxic and abusive and just a terrible person to have in my life altogether, so… Yeah look, I dunno).
Some other little moments of gender euphoria from this month: getting my eyebrows and lashes done at Miss Jay’s; having my first session of facial electrolysis and never having to see those few stubbly beard hairs ever again; taking the first step in exploring surgical options and having a consultation for a few FFS procedures (even if the consultation itself was wildly depressing and left me feeling incredibly dysphoric); noticing some of the physical changes I’d been waiting for since I started HRT (namely them PS1 Tomb Raider titties); being gendered correctly in random places like shops and cafés; the handful of insane, OTT full-body orgasms I had (one of the many other benefits of HRT); all the extremely sweet replies I got to all the dumb, cheesy femposting I did on social media.
Last month I vaguely gestured at “not existing in the gender binary where I thought I had for the last few years” and “unpacking that later on” – kind of broadly hinting that I’d probably come out as a trans woman soon – but I didn’t think I actually would for a long while… Maybe another year? Maybe on my 27th birthday? I came out “publicly” as Ellie and started using that name with work and in my day-to-day life last May (I’d been going by Ellie in my social life since 2016 and ID’ing broadly as non-binary since around 2020-ish) so I thought it would feel trite to “come out” again so soon – even though I’d been struggling with the thought that maybe I was actually just a straight-up “binary” trans woman for a hot minute before that time around 2020, and came to that solid, ironclad conclusion for myself a few months before last May.
I didn’t make that full leap when I told my parents/colleagues that I wanted to be called Ellie because I was scared – very fucking scared – and just taking that one step felt like the most I could do at that time. I was still trying to convince myself that I was okay with presenting masculine – that I wanted to, that it didn’t cause me intense dysphoria every time I looked at myself in the mirror or got dressed in masculine clothes or heard myself speak. But repression only works for so long and especially so as I saw more and more of my friends and colleagues come out and embrace their true selves, it felt like I couldn’t keep trying to run away from mine.
I think paradoxically, coming out as non-binary was part of what helped me realise I wasn’t non-binary; I’d shoot for that pseudo-androgynous vibe of wearing femme clothes with a masc face and feel great about the former but awful about the latter. I’d try to describe to people how I related (or didn’t relate) to the gender binary and realise halfway through a sentence that I was actually just describing what it felt like to be an egg who’d thought she’d already scrambled herself but hadn’t even cracked.
Hormones, too, amplified my feelings of physical dysphoria: my skin got softer and my mind got quieter, my titties started doing their thing and I even started smelling differently – not to say anything of how my emotional baseline shifted – but I still had a beard and a thick, bassy voice and I still wore gruffy bear clothes… The more I connected with my femininity, the more I disconnected from masculinity. And then I spiralled into a crisis where every hour of the day was directed by dysphoria, and I tried to kill myself because I’d rather be dead than have to keep hiding away from being a girl. And then I realised I couldn’t keep hiding after my great grandmother’s funeral… It’s all very flowery and dramatic, I know. Zach Braff would have a field day with me.
So I didn’t want to come out for at least another nine or so months because I’d already came out once, like seven months ago, and I didn’t want to look like a whore for attention. But compounding the amount of dirty looks I get every day just for existing in public as a loudly non-passing trans woman (a fat one at that) with the seemingly neverending discourse around Hogwarts Legacy, (in)famous TERF cunts like Glinner and JK Rowling, the murder of Brianna Ghey, and a band like Sticky Fingers being platformed at Bluesfest, it’s hard to ignore the overwhelming likelihood (if not just straight-up inevitability) that I’ll be involved in a hate crime in the not-too-distant future.
It’s not irrational to think that, it’s just a harsh reality of being transgender in a largely conservative world – even if they are a minority, there are people in the world that want people like me to be wiped out from existence. If I die because I happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, I at least want to be mourned as the person I actually am. So I came out with a quick tweet that I put two seconds of thought into on a random midweek morning. And now I’m an ✨open✨ trans woman. So wild. I want to write more about gender and my relationship with gender – as soon as I clear out my current freelancing backlog, I have a billion things to say.
I’m trying to fill that backlog up as much as I can, though, because I don’t really have a “day job” anymore. About 80% of my income came from the shifts I worked in the NME newsroom – a solid 40 to 50 hours of (very well-paid) work every week – but the newsroom got shuttered at the end of February. I’m able to make it through March alright, but unless a miracle happens and I manage to pick up a good dozen projects in the next little bit, I don’t really know how I’ll make rent for April. It’s a really scary time, money-wise. Becoming homeless has always been my number one fear, and, like… I’m fucking scared right now. But I’m putting myself out there and trying really hard to get by. Fingers crossed, right?
If you’d like to help me out a bit, here’s my Kofi link and here’s my PayPal (please ignore my deadname – I’m trying to get it changed but y’know, that process being absolute hell and all). I don’t like asking my friends for financial help, so there is absolutely no expectation that anyone will even click those. But there’s also no expectation that anyone will even read this post – I’m just killin’ time over here. I probably shouldn’t be, I have so much shit to do, but… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Swinging back around to a more positive note, I did some other cool shit this month! One of the biggest highlights was a face-to-face interview I did with Dallas Green at the Forum, talking about his new City And Colour album The Love Still Held Me Near – maybe his most powerful (and heart-wrenching) body of work to date – and the gear he’s been playing for the live shows. We did the rig rundown onstage, which was so wild (genuinely one of the biggest “oh holy shit I’ve made it” moments I’ve ever had), and we had our deep-dive album chat backstage. Dallas was incredibly sweet and wholesome, and he gave me a great story. I am very thankful for him, and the phenomenal women at Deathproof PR who made our lil hang-out happen.
Laneway was also wild. It was the first festival I’d been to just for myself – not to review or “cover” or anything, but just to enjoy – in a solid five or six years. I did go to a press event in the morning though – a lil’ brunch thing to commemorate the launch of SoundOn – and that was really nice; I caught up with some colleagues who I’d known for a while online but never met IRL, and I had some fantastic new people put on my radar.
As for the festival itself, I had a total fuckin’ blast. I saw The Beths, Julia Jacklin, Girl In Red, 100 Gecs, Phoebe Bridgers and Turnstile – and every single set was goddamn brilliant. It was a very fun and chill and gay time. I was so dead after it that I had to bail on two gigs I was really looking forward to the next day – nothing,nowhere. and the Victoria’s Pride Street Party – but I’m not mad about that. I had the best time at Laneway, and I’m glad I listened to my body and gave it the rest it needed afterwards.
Turnstile’s Laneway sideshow was also insane, Glow On was my favourite album of 2021 and it felt so wild to see all my favourite songs from it come to life in the flesh. Milo and I also went to Dodie’s show at the Northcote (very cute and wholesome, such a wonderful vibe), and I went to Leo, Harry Styles and Alexisonfire by myself. I do wish I had more friends I could go to gigs with (Milo doesn’t like going to them anymore, so my +1s often go to waste) but I still had a ripper time at all of those shows. Harry was especially fun – just such a buoyant and bubbly vibe.
The night of that Alexisonfire gig was also the first time I tried wearing a 3XL shirt in a few years – and to my absolute shock, it fit me perfectly. Last March I could barely fit into a 6XL. I know it’s not a super positive thing to be like “I’m a 3XL!!” – I’m still considered “morbidly obese” – but fuck, I’m really proud of this little milestone on my weight loss journey. Because I’ve been struggling a bunch lately: my weight has plateaued between 157kg and 160kg for the past two months or so, and my eating habits have started getting a little more unhinged lately – but I’m still making progress, I guess, even if it’s a bit slow and inconsistent.
I keep needing to remind myself that progress isn’t linear. As long as I’m making progress at all, that’s all that matters. And I’m making decent progress – I weighed in at a scratch over 200kg in the later months of 2021, I’ve lost about ~40kg in 18 months. That’s pretty decent! I have a long way to go before I’ll be happy with my weight and figure, but y’know, baby steps and all that.
This month I interviewed two people for Australian Guitar (Dallas Green, and Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins) four for NME (Hope D, Annabel and Cecil of Body Type, Dallas Green, and Bec Stevens) and one for a freelance biography project. All of them were great!
It’s been such a mission trying to shake off the masculine “radio voice” I’d spent the past eight years developing. I’m doing voice training for just, like, everyday life, and so far that’s been a whole journey and a half in itself – finding a natural, comfortable feminine tenor, then training myself to speak in it and adapt it to my everyday speech patterns, then trying to rewire my brain to make that my default – so trying to adapt all of that to the OTT “radio presenter”-style voice I put on to conduct interviews… It’s been a lot! And I’ve been failing a lot! But I’m still trying! And that’s all that matters!
Like 99.9% of trans girls under the sun, my voice training journey has been steered primarily by studying videos from TransVoiceLessons (aka the actually iconic Zheanna Erose) on YouTube. (I feel like an easy way to identify transfemme people in a crowd would be to yell “HEAT FROM FIRE” and see whose heads whip around in knowing curiosity). I started training a few days into 2023 and felt like I hit a weird kind of snag around mid-February – I was finding it difficult to actually apply the advice and lessons Zhea gives in her videos – so I bit the bullet and booked in a private lesson with her. It was obviously so fucking expensive (and with the whole “losing my day job” thing, probably not the best use of my limited finances) but it was honestly worth every cent.
Zhea not only gave me some incredible guidance, she was able to break down where, how and why I was failing to progress, and gave me tangible and easily applicable tools to overcome those barriers. It’s only been a week since our first lesson and I feel like I’ve made an insane amount of progress in my training, just using what I was taught over that hour. I mean, I still have an insanely long way to go, and I’m nowhere near achieving the voice I want for myself… But things take time, right? I was a terrible journalist in 2014 when I started, but now I’d confidently argue that I’m pretty great at my job. I’m looking at voice training like that – and things cooking, driving, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, etc – whereby practise really does make process. Sometimes ya just gotta trust the process.
I know I need to take that same advice when it comes to transitioning in general. I have some friends who have been openly transitioning for years now, and they seem to have everything under control – they pass flawlessly, they have the most stunning fashion senses and makeup skills, they sound incredible, they seem so confident and fearless in themselves… But I scroll back to where they were a couple months after they came out, and see they were in the same spot I’m in now: rough makeup, garish fashion choices, overly forced “confidence”. There are some girls I know that seemed to nail femininity right off the bat – like they skipped the first five years of transitioning and leapt straight to the optimal “endgame”… But I’m not one of them, and that’s okay.
I think this point in particular is when I need to remind myself of that often. It helps to have goals and targets, and (for most of us at least) there’s a long and tricky process involved in reaching them. Every time I fuck up my foundation, I learn what not to do next time; every time I clash my colours or contrasts with an outfit, I learn what top and bottom combos don’t work. I’m not [names redacted] and I can’t speedrun my transition. And that’s okay. I am where I am and I’ll keep working on myself, and then in a year’s time, I’ll be where I’ll be. I’m not waking up, scratching a beard and immediately wishing I was dead; I’m not who I was in December 2022, and fuck, dude, that’s a huge enough leap for now.
In terms of other media I consumed this month, I… Actually haven’t consumed much at all. I haven’t had time. Milo and I went to a press screening for Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania, and as expected (being a giant, unapologetic MCU slut) I thought it was so fucking sick. And of course I have remained absolutely fucking obsessed with The Last Of Us. I love everything about this fucking show. I truly am not ready for it to end next month.
Speaking of which, March is shaping up to be enormous. I have 16 gigs in the pipeline – six of which are My Chemical Romance (yes, Milo and I are doing the entire tour) and all of which I am very excited for. I also have a bunch of features trickling out over the next couple weeks, and I’m hoping I can get a few more over the line to make March a really solid month, writing-wise.
If you ended up reading all of this:
1. Why? What is wrong with you?
2. I’m sorry that a lot of this was just aimless rambling about dumb shit
3. I hope you taking the best care of yourself that you can. I know this post was about 4,000 words that made it sound like I very much am not, and maybe I’m not taking great care of myself – I mean, I know I’m not – but I can promise I’m making the best effort I can to change that. I don’t know if March will be a good month, or whether I’ll make any progress with the things I’m struggling with – shit, I might spiral even further down!!! – but I’m going into March feeling hopeful and optimistic that it will be and that I will. I went into February with the same mindset and was swiftly kicked down, repeatedly, but I’m not letting that stop me from hoping things will be different in March. I can’t let it. I don’t want to be spiralling, I don’t want to be in a constant state of crisis. And if I don’t try to stop spiralling or try to reckon with my crises, they’ll kill me. And as much as I’m struggling with suicidal ideation right now, I don’t want to die. So I am trying to take care of myself, and I hope you are too. I hope you’re taking time to think about the positive things in your life and find positive ways to approach the negative things in your life. I hope you’re allowing yourself to feel loved and I hope you know that you are loved either way. I believe in you.
All the love in the world, Ellie 💖
Here are some songs from this month that I’m vibing a whole bunch:
QUICK LIL’ CONTENT WARNING: This post openly discusses suicide and gender dysphoria. If either of those might be triggers, I recommend giving this one a skip. It’s all good if you gotta, I still love you!
Hey, hi, hello!
I wanna try to do a little recap thing every month for this year; I feel like 2022 kind of just zoomed by and I didn’t take the time to stop and reflect, or appreciate, all the beats I hit. And I’ve never had the best memory – we can chalk that down to my tendency to repress both emotions and general everyday thoughts, my ADHD and my complex PTSD – so I think journalling regularly will be healthy for me. And I already have this blog so like, why not make it all public? It’ll be rough and sloppy and very word-vomit-y, but I think I like that about it?
Anyway, I tried to kill myself on New Year’s Day. December 2022 was one of the roughest months I’ve ever lived through, mentally, and I lost hours every day to spiralling thoughts and multifaceted crises – most relating to gender dysphoria, isolation and hopelessness. Those last couple weeks of the year, I was sleeping maybe 2-3 hours a night, 3-4 if I was lucky. I would struggle to make it through shifts at work or day-to-day chores/errands because all I could think about was cutting or getting high or just straight-up killing myself.
I made it to January 1st and… I don’t know, I kind of just lost control? I was high and I was sad and I was just not in a good place – I succumbed to the voices in my head, that’s the vaguest way I could explain it. I tried to overdose on amphetamines. Milo saved me. I spent a few days in physical agony and a few more in mental agony, and then after about a week, it properly dawned on me that I’d lived and I couldn’t keep trying to shove my dark thoughts to the side. I had to address them and address what was causing them and try to fix the issues head-on. I booked in to see a psychotherapist and stopped taking the meds I’d started right before my mental health began slipping (y’know, more than it usually does).
And then on Monday January 9th I went to my great grandmother’s funeral; she died on December 29th last year. I could spend hours writing about her – how much of an icon she was, how much she meant to me, how much she meant to literally hundreds of people – but I think for my own mental safety, that stretch of time needed to be a blip on my radar, lest I spiral again. I will most likely write something in-depth about the legendary Olive Robinson in a separate thing. But that trip to Whittlesea felt like a turning point of sorts – I saw family I hadn’t seen in years and felt like I was doing so behind a mask that I’d really grown sick of wearing.
On the drive home I decided I wanted to stop presenting as masculine. It became clear that the masc-leaning enby aesthetic no longer represents me; I don’t feel connected to androgyny like I did a hot minute ago. That’s a revelation I’d been inching towards for pretty much all of 2022. We got home on Tuesday morning and I shaved my beard. I bought a bunch of skincare and makeup products, jewellery and a whole new wardrobe of feminine clothes, and then a wig that I felt comfortable wearing almost all day, every day. On Friday January 13th, for the first time in about three years, I had exactly $0 to my name (in fact I actually owed Milo a couple grand). But I drained my savings on shit I needed… shit I needed to survive.
I do not pass. I don’t even look like a cute non-passing trans woman; I straight-up just look like a man in a dress, the kind TERFs and Tory types tout in tweet threads to “prove” why trans people are evil and disgusting. I look like I should be on a sex offender registry. I make the transvestite bartender in Shrek look hot. I am disgusted by myself every time I look in a mirror, and I know my family and friends are when they see me too. But I’d rather look like a grotesque caricature of a woman than any kind of man – inflamed five-o’clock-shadow, boxy nose, quadruple-chin and all.
I am learning to be confident in myself. I am taking and posting selfies and not caring that they’re more embarrassing than anything else. I am noticing every curious glance and side-eye, double take and grimace I receive and choosing to parse them as empowering rather than callous – I am being perceived and I am making people think critically about what they consider to be acceptable displays of femininity. I don’t care that I disgust them. I just hope their disgust morphs into reflection; “Why am I disgusted when I see someone that looks like that?”
In attempting to present more femininely, I’m allowing myself to connect more with my femininity. That seems obvious, writing it out, but there’s layers to it. I’m not hiding away from my gender dysphoria or trying to brush it aside when it shows; I’m confronting it and learning why it never settled after I started living openly as non-binary; because I don’t exist on the spectrum where I thought I had for the past five, six, however many years. We can unpack that later on, for now I’m just really enjoying wearing more feminine clothes and practicing makeup, diving into voice training and just generally living more freely with my gender expression.
I stopped biting my nails so I can grow them out and paint them – that’s been a really tough habit to kick. But it’s been a few weeks and I’ve only caved a few times, so… We’re getting there! I bought a fidget spinner and started picking up some new stimming techniques that don’t fuck with my fingers or teeth. And then on January 31st I got them done professionally for the first time, with hard gel extensions, at Miss Jay’s in Thornbury – a queer-run and -inclusive salon that I could not recommend more. I had a wonderful experience there, left feeling high as hell on gender euphoria, and I adore my new nails.
Milo and I drove to Tharawal on January 16th. We spent most of our time at my parents’ house just enjoying some R&R but we did go to the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo to see the Unpopular exhibit (small, but very, very cool) and we went to Donut Papi in Redfern (also small, but also very, very cool) to finally annihilate the doughnuts I always see on Instagram and wish I could annihilate… Is it possible to have a crush on a doughnut? I might have a crush on Donut Papi’s strawberry milkshake doughnut. That may be the fattest sentence I’ve ever written out. Anyway, 10/10 on those ‘nuts. The trip as a whole was pretty solid. We saw Bruno and caught up (a bit) with my parents and got to spend a few days away from the city… It was nice. I do miss home a little. But the trip also made me realise how much of a home Naarm has become for me over the past year. I love it here a lot more than I love Tharawal.
This month I interviewed six* people for Australian Guitar (Eric Gales, Bonnie Raitt, Tony Perry of Pierce The Veil, Isaac Hale of Knocked Loose, Jordan Finlay and Connor McLaughlin of Teenage Dads, and Javier Reyes of Animals As Leaders) and one for NME (Tim Nelson of Cub Sport). I finished a ~5,000-word profile that I am so proud of and happy with, for an artist I think is doing amazing things both in and outside of her professional life; I also wrote a bio for an incredible up-and-coming indie artist named Leo (whose new single ‘Half Unconscious’ is STUNNING and you should absolutely pre-save it!) and I started working on a few other little freelance-y bits and pieces. Work in general is going good, I think. I’m optimistic for the rest of the year and how my career will progress over it. I am very keen to pick up a lot more work in 2023 – swing me an email if you wanna do something together?
Milo and I saw Remi Wolf play the Forum on January 5th. That was my first real “outing” after the suicide attempt. Milo isn’t a fan of Remi’s music but they came with me because they were too worried to have me go alone. We ended up having a super great time and although they still haven’t been able to get into Remi’s studio material, Milo conceded that she absolutely fucking served on that stage. I also saw Montaigne play a free corporate gig at District Docklands on January 28th; it didn’t scratch the itch their headline show last year would’ve (but as I wrote about in this post, I’m a fuckhead and got the dates mixed up for that) but it was a very solid show nonetheless!
Milo has been championing my feminine overhaul wholeheartedly, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have them in my corner. Since “the incident” we’ve been a lot more open about our feelings and what’s going on in our heads. It’s been difficult to open up but it’s been great, too. I feel more connected to them than I have in ages. And we’re fucking more often than we have in ages, too, so that’s cool.
In terms of other media I consumed this month, I finally started watching the second season of Euphoria (great), I finished reading None Of This Rocks by Joe Trohman (decent) and I read Kisses For Jet by Joris Bas Backer in one marathon binge-read (meh). I finished collecting the colour editions of Scott Pilgrim and finally started re-reading those – I’ve mowed through book one and half of book two so far – and I started reading Sellout by Dan Ozzi (so far, really solid). I am absolutelyobsessed with the HBO adaptation of The Last Of Us – I can’t believe they knocked it out of the park so perfectly? I was really worried they’d fuck that up. I will definitely write something about it when the season is finished.
It feels like it’s been a huge month. February is looking even more stacked – especially gig-wise, I went to two (2) shows in January but I have 18 on the itinerary for this month (SO FAR) – and I’m… actually really looking forward to everything?
Anyway, this blog has been dead since I published those Good Things interviews because of all my mental health struggles and gender-reckoning shit. I really need to focus on getting some paid work under my belt right now (my bank account has a total of $1.62 in it and I still owe my partner like $400) so I probably won’t have much up on here for a little while, buuuut I have a stack of content in the backlog – I just need to find the time to edit/tidy up/do all the furniture for it all. Soon!
Until then, I hope y’all are keeping safe and feeling groovy like a smoothie!
All the love in the world, Ellie 💖
Here are some songs from this month that I’m vibing a whole bunch:
There’s a unique and enigmatic vibe that I’m pretty sure exists exclusively at free music festivals (and is only amplified when it’s one either hosted or funded by a Government body).
At “normal” festivals, punters are usually some flavour of staunch – there’s a rigid itinerary of artists they want to see and/or activities they want to check out, and there’s this energy, driven by the atmosphere and the excitement and the fact that tickets cost a truly stupid amount of money, that makes it all feel spectacular. And I love that. I love big festivals like Splendour and Falls and Good Things (which is in less than two weeks!!!!) and UNIFY. But I love the inverse atmosphere at a free music festival – this youthful looseness and “whatever happens will happen” kind of spirit – equally so. It’s much more lowkey; crowds are a lot more diverse, settings are a lot more suburban, and the setups look (and sound) like they were put together by students and interns and members of local communities who wouldn’t normally be involved in events like music festivals. However, because government bodies tend to have government money, the lineups certainly don’t reflect the DIY energy.
Cue: Illuminate The River, a daylong “festival of music and light”, hosted collaboratively by the City of Moonee Valley and Creative Victoria (via their ‘On The Road Again’ initiative), taking place last Saturday at The Boulevard in Aberfeldie. The lineup looked too good to be true: Art Vs Science, Baker Boy, Something For Kate, Montaigne and Mia Wray (and Teenie Tiny Stevies, but seeing as though their target audience are no older than preschool-aged, they didn’t particularly appeal to me). It became even better when set times were released, with each act given a full hour to perform. Ancillary to that, the festival promised carnival rides, food trucks, a beer garden, and at the end of it all, “an extravagant laser and water show on the river.”
The festival’s team hit a major snag in the weeks leading up to it, when they were forced to pull the laser and water show because… Actually, I’m not sure. I can’t find any info online about it, but it might have something to do with the recent floods? Either way, the team soldiered on and remained devoted to putting on a killer festival (even if its title had become a lot more metaphorical than they’d initially planned) – the right move, I’d argue!
For myself, the biggest two selling points for Illuminate The River were Montaigne and Something For Kate. I missed out on both of the latter’s 2022 tours (they played The Forum four times in March, when they played both Echolalia and The Modern Medieval in full, and then the Northcote Theatre in August, when they played Elsewhere For 8 Minutes) because I’d been swept up in other events and bullshit deadlines, and I missed Montaigne on the Making It! tour last month because I’m a fucking idiot: I went to buy a ticket to their Melbourne show on Monday October 24th – four days before it was set to take place – only to realised I’d fucked the dates up when I put the show in my calendar; the show happened on the 20th. I’ve been absolutely rinsing Making It! since I got my copy in August (I reviewed it for NME) and wouldn’t hesitate to call it one of the best albums released in 2022 – and of late, Montaigne has been performing it in full. Keen was a massive fucking understatement.
The day before Illuminate The River, Montaigne dropped off the bill for illness – a huge bummer, obviously, but not one without a notably shimmery silver lining: Sly Withers were stepping in to replace them. Their own third album, Overgrown, is also one of this year’s best, and on the Friday, I was set to see them play a headline show at the Northcote Theatre but got buckled in bed with a miniature depressive episode; so rather than force myself out and mentally drain myself further, I could just see the band play their full hourlong set at Illuminate The River. Again, a huge bummer on the Montaigne front, but a huge win everywhere else.
I made it to the festival halfway through Mia Wray’s set, thanks in part to my own lack of planning (I couldn’t find a clean pair of pants lmao) and my Uber driver swearing erroneously that he knew a shortcut. I’m not calling this a downside, though: I still caught a very solid 30 minutes of Wray time, and she absolutely slayed. Her songs are emotive and melodic and slathered in colour, Wray herself always bang-on with her tonal and characteristic balance of gentleness and fervour. The skies were grey and the spittle grew as her set reached its end, but this felt more like a feature than a bug: Mia Wray in the (Mia W)rain. A collision of gloom and community. Poetic, given the Noosa-born singer-songwriter’s material.
With 30 minutes to kill, I took a lap of the setup – food trucks (including a Boost Juice and a Chatime!), stalls for markets and community initiatives, carnival rides, no less than three charity sausage sizzles, and plenty of dogs, young and old alike, just begging to be petted – all set along the idyllic Maribyrnong River. I copped four pairs of downright adorable earrings (handmade from polymer clay by the sweetest elderly woman) and a Caribbean Green juice from Boost (because it was the least calorific option, at 278 for a large) before strolling back to the main stage – a whole 40 metres away – for Sly Withers. The vibes, grey skies and spittle and all, were immaculate.
Expectedly, Sly Withers’ set was fucking magical. Their banter was on point (co-frontman Sam Blitvich started by apologising for not knowing any Montaigne songs, and a few times throughout the set, noted the band’s collective anxiety over missing their flight to Hobart layer that afternoon), their performance was as tight and sharp as the band have come to be known for, and the setlist itself was stacked from start to end with only their biggest and most belt-worthy bangers. They also played the rain away, quite literally: it was nigh-on pissing down when the set started, but but by the time it ended, we were all standing under baby blue skies with only wisps of cloud in sight – the power of pop-punk in action. Also noteworthy is Blitvich’s guitarsenal: old mate rolled through something like five Telecasters, each more beautiful than the last.
And the juice, though chosen for its healthiness, was actually pretty great – just sweet enough to feel like a treat, with a nice ratio of tropical fruitiness (from the passionfruit, mango and banana), coconut-inferred silkiness (from the one-two punch of coconut milk and coconut water) and vegetal bite (from the spinach that, surprisingly, works in this application). Subtle and refreshing, it paired nicely with the band’s musical crunch and belly-strong energy.
With another 30 minutes to kill, I perched myself under a tree on a hill leading down to the river, whipped out my Switch, turtle-shelled my arms and head into my shirt (for additional shade) and started beating the shit out of Golducks – Pokémon Scarlet came out on Friday, and in the pursuit of becoming the very best – like no-one ever was – the hustle never stops. Halfway through my Goldduck grinding sesh, this saccharine, pseudo-squealy toddler voice piped up from a few metres away: “is there a person in there!?” I popped my fat head up and two facepainted ragamuffins, no taller than two feet each – one a pretty pink butterfly and the other a glittery blue unicorn – giggled in unison. They were enamoured by Crocalor’s fiery breath on my Switch screen, and together we epically decimated two Goldducks – the girls feeding me instructions (“light him on fire!” and “do the spooky face!” being their main commands) and me executing them on the Switch – and taking on a Fidough in a Tera Raid Battle. They were very keen to tell me all about their own Fidough (a pug named Stevie) and show off the badges they’d drawn in crayons a few hours earlier.
Hearing the hum of amplifier feedback cascading over the hill, I palmed the kids off to their parents and dashed back to the stage, where Something For Kate promptly launched into a punchy and hypnotic rendition of ‘Ain’t That A Kick In The Head’. Paul Dempsey’s vocal prowess was only matched in its butteriness and depth by his fretting hands, and on bass, Stephanie Ashworth (also Dempsey’s wife) brought a stunning richness to the mix. What followed was my favourite song from The Modern Medieval – ‘Come Back Before I Come Back To My Senses’ – and then a brief pause as one of the crew members darted out to whisper something in Dempsey’s ear. Seemingly flustered, Dempsey told the crowd he and the band would have to leave the stage (momentarily, or course) while the crew dealt with an electrical issue caused by the harsh winds.
20 minutes passed without a glimpse of Something For Kate, and after some punters started shooting enquiries off to staffers on the ground, someone came out onstage to promise us the band would return and perform their full set. But at 5:30pm, 15 minutes after their set was supposed to finish, Dempsey sauntered out (cue: cheers) and informed us that, regretfully, the band wouldn’t be able to come back out because the winds posed a safety hazard. This feels like something the festival team should have planned for more in advance – it was windy, yeah, but it wasn’t windy (I’ve certainly been to windier outdoor festivals) – but I will not be one to question their moves: this was, at the end of the day, a decision made in the interest of punter safety, and for that I can only applaud them. Still: this fucking sucked.
Cut as I was, I’d told myself repeatedly in the mirror that morning that I wasn’t going to let my shitty mental health affect my enjoyment of the festival. The river trail looked beautiful, and the weather was perfect, so I went for a walk. It was something like four kilometres, shrubbery and bird songs and (obviously) a sprawling river to visually soundtrack the excursion. It was nice! I burned off the whole juice and then some! I came back to the festival grounds feeling refreshed and relaxed and ready for a big ol’ bop to Baker Boy… Until again, right at Baker Boy’s start time of 6:30pm, we were informed that the rest of the festival had been cancelled; the winds had only intensified (to reported gusts of 80km/h) and with most of the crowd now comprising families with young kids and pets, it wasn’t safe to roll on. Cue: crying children and dejected parents (and, fittingly, a return to grey skies and spittle).
Try as we might to avoid it, the mood shifted well into dourness. It was a bit of a shit end to an otherwise solidly nice day – and again, at no fault of the promoters or staff or anyone else involved in Illuminate The River – and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bummed out. But I kept my stride going and took myself on a little tour of suburban Aberfeldie. It’s a quaint little area – I’m sure houses there cost like $10 million and the souls of your extended lineage, but they’re pretty, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
If nothing else, Illuminate The River was, for me, an exercise in forced positivity – a test to see how high up I could keep my chin in the face of repeated blows to my excitement and expectation. This is one test I’d never been great at passing; I am, at my core, a giant fucking Debbie Downer. But that’s something I’m actively trying to change, and this trainwreck of a Saturday gave me the perfect opportunity to make a cogent effort doing so. And I think this alone – that I have the perspective outlined above – shows I’ve succeeded.
I still had a bloody great time at Illuminate The River: Mia Wray and Sly Withers both played phenomenal sets, and the two songs Something For Kate played were similarly stellar. I enjoyed every last sip of my juice – one I’d’ve never thought to order at an actual Boost – and I had a blast playing Pokémon with those future Champions-in-the-making. I love my new earrings, too, and that walk along the river was exactly what my stale soul needed that day. If given a chance to relive the day exactly as it was, I wouldn’t hesitate – I would certainly temper my expectations (and leave early enough to see Wray’s full set) but fuck, sure, I’d do it all again…
It’s wild to me that my last post on this blog was last November – just shy of a year ago, and just shy of two weeks after I moved into my apartment with Milo. To be honest, for a good while, I did what every writer with full-time work and a regular adult schedule does eventually: I forgot I even had a blog. I think with everything else going on in my life, the idea of regularly setting time aside to maintain a curricular accessory that I didn’t need to just got squeezed out of my mind. Because as brutally short as it’s felt, 2022 has been a year. Since the last time I checked in here, I:
Got a new dog! He’s the big doofus you see above: a four-year-old staffie/pitty cross named Cadbury, who never fails to make me feel some type of way (whether that’s love or frustration or sheer bewilderment). He’s a big cuddly sook who loves to play and sleep and chew things, and he is not a replacement for Bruno in any way whatsoever, but he does kind of fill the Bruno-size hole I’ve had in my heart since I moved to Naarm.
Changed my name! I’ve been going by Ellie to close friends since 2016, but earlier this year I bit the bullet and came out with it as the baseline thing. So yeah, my name is Ellie now – woo! I’m writing under the name Ellie Robinson, with Robinson being my mum’s maiden name. There’s a bunch of reasons for both parts, a bunch of reasons why I changed my name and a bunch of reasons why it took me six years to make it official, but this isn’t the right post to get into those. Maybe later.
Wrote a bunch! I’m working in the NME newsroom pretty much full-time at the moment, and writing features more regularly for them too. I’ve also shifted my role at Australian Guitar – I’m now the magazine’s editor-at-large, steering the ship on its local/in-house slate of editorial. It is technically a demotion, but… not really? It’s more money for less work and it’s a role I feel much more comfortable in; I have the freedom to write whatever I want, but I don’t have the burden of coordinating and producing an entire magazine around that. I’m super happy with the current setup.
Did a bunch of other stuff! I’ve made some huge strides in getting my shit together as an independent adult who is taking care of theirself and balancing their needs with their wants. I don’t know if I’m quite there yet. I think I have a long ways to go before I am the person I want to be (and the person I need to be), but I’ve been trying real damn hard and taking those scary first steps, and I’m hella proud of myself. I’ve also started collecting enamel pins, teaching myself how to play guitar (I know) and cooking a bunch.
I will admit that I’m pretty burnt out at the moment. I’m not sleeping as much as I need to be or spending as much time with Milo and Cadbury as I should be. But I’m figuring out how I can remedy that; I’m learning what my limits are and where I need to draw the line when it comes to a healthy work-life balance. I’m teaching myself that it’s okay to switch off when I need to, and that it’s not a sign of failure to admit defeat, but a sign of success to acknowledge when I’ve pushed myself too far and take a step back. I’m certainly not going to force myself to maintain a blog or a presence on social media, or really do anything that I don’t absolutely need or want to.
I think that’s probably why most writers ditch their blogs when they hit their twenties or establish themselves with regular work and independence in their personal lives – at a certain point, a writer’s active blog no longer implies a passion for their craft, but a lack of success. Good writers don’t keep blogs because they don’t need to. They have nothing to prove or sell, they’re too busy writing “real” stories and doing “real” things.
But that’s not true. No writer is “too good” or “too professional” to have a blog – whether that’s just for themselves, as some kind of pseudo-personal diary into which they can vomit their lingering thoughts, or as a loose portfolio-of-sorts for their professional output. I don’t give a shit if blogs stopped being trendy in 2013 – they’re cool. I have thoughts I want to express that wouldn’t fit – or make sense – to put in a feature. I have things to say that none of my editors would ever commission a story about; I have things to say that I want to say in the first person, goddammit! Sometimes I just want to ramble into the void and get shit out of my head without the pressure of needing it to read concisely or tell a straightforward narrative, or even make sense to anyone but myself. And I want to show off when I do write a cool feature for NME or Australian Guitar or whatever other publication takes an interest in my work.
Am I trying to justify, for myself, the viability of a blog? In a blog post? Violently embarrassing myself in the process? Absolutely. But that’s the great thing about having this blog to do that on: I don’t have to give a shit about that.
So anyway, hi, my name is Ellie, I’m a 25-year-old music journalist / pop-culture writer and editor from Benkennie (Camden), currently based in Naarm (Melbourne). I write news and features for NME and lead the in-house editorial in Australian Guitar. My partner is named Milo and my dog is named Cadbury. I like road trips and music and dogs and pineapple doughnuts. I am perpetually tired and I don’t know why I’m writing any of this.
I’ve had a pretty shit week, so let’s kick this post off with a really nice, happy photo of Bruno. I took it during one of our last walks for the RSPCA Million Paws Walk last month – Milo and I were both absolutely ruined by that point, but Bruno was having the time of his life going out and sniffing up a storm every day. And that’s all that matters, really. He had fun going walkies, and we had fun watching him have fun.
But yeah – this week, man. My mental health just tanked at the start of it, and didn’t really recover – I still feel like shit, but I guess I’m trying to keep my chin up? Kind of? I said ‘fuck it’ and did some things I ~wanted to~ over the weekend, which was nice.
Friday night, Milo and I drove into the city to see Cxloe play at the Oxford Art Factory. We got dinner at BL Burgers (the micro offshoot of Sydney’s hands-down best burger joint, Bar Luca) and I tried the Queen Bee – their special of the week for this week – which had honey butter-dipped fried chicken and pickles on a milk bun (it also had coleslaw and sriracha mayo, but I’m not that hot on either so I kept it simple). The chicken was a little too spicy for my embarrassingly white tastebuds, but otherwise it was another smash hit from the brains at BL.
We also got these super delicious, made-to-order mini pizzas from Detroit Sliced Pizza – I can’t remember what Milo got (except that it was some kind of vegetarian one), but I got the Roast Pumpkin slice that had a pesto aioli, pine nuts and feta. I was full as a butcher’s dog from the burg, so I had it for breakfast yesterday morning. Truly life-affirming.
There’s this one Indian street food place on Oxford Street that I always walk past and become immediately hypnotised by how good it smells. Well, okay, there are actually three on the same block, but it’s this one in particular – the north-most, with the red sign – that always looks the best. I finally gave in to the smell and tried a vegetable pakora. It cost – get this – a fucking dollar. One dollar. 100 cents. No shit, I found a fresh, hot snack in Sydney – on fucking Oxford Street, no less – for A DOLLAR. And it was delightful. Crunchy, savoury, filling, a tad spicy… Happy belly, happy baby.
Our last culinary stop on Oxford Street was a convenience store called 24/7 Baby, which drew us in with their TikTok famous F’Real shakes. I got a cookies ’n’ cream shake, and Milo got mint choc chip; mine was delicious (and surprisingly not too sweet or overbearing), and Milo’s was, uh, pretty fuckin’ bad. It looked like radioactive sludge, and tasted like peppermint essential oil. But they liked it, so all in all, it was a win-win sitch.
On the way home, we got lokma from Loukoumades on Greek Street in Beverly Hills. I am always a slut for lokma (there’s this one place in Melbourne that we always order from because they do the most incredible, soft, warm and rich lokma) but these were total shite. Oily, chewy, bland… It only cost a little over $20 for two servings, so they weren’t too bad on the price side, but yeah, never again. Ah, well – we tried something new, and not every new thing you try will be a hit. You live and learn!
So Friday night (and Saturday morning, by proxy of those leftovers) was pretty food-oriented. Saturday was my only day off this week, so we decided to have a quiet one inside and just zen out – maybe fire up the PS5 (which has been gathering a mighty fine coat of dust in recent months) and chew through a bit of Ratchet & Clank. I somehow managed to throw my back out in the shower, so I was pretty keen to move around as little as physically possible…
…Then we decided we were unbearably bored at home, so we made plans to go out. We’ve been wanting to check out Ed Square for a hot minute – it opened in April and is now our most local shopping plaza, and there’s a bougie new Event cinema there with reclining seats as standard – so we figured it’d be nice to catch a movie and some dinner there. We were going to book tickets to catch a 6:20pm session of A Quiet Place Part II, but it was completely sold out by 1:00pm, so we opted for the 9:00pm screening.
As for dinner, we had no idea what restaurants had opened up at Ed Square, so we hit the website – to which we found there were so many of our usual going-out go-tos. They had a BL Burgers. They had a Gami Chicken & Beer. They had a Sushi On Fire. There was an Indian restaurant and gin bar that looked phenomenal (Masala Kitchen), and a cute lil’ dumpling spot with a small, but super promising menu (Baby Bao).
What are you to do when there are so many options, but make two punishingly indecisive people choose from them?
Well, why not go to all of them?
Thus the idea was born: The Great Ed Square Snack Crawl of 2021. Five hours, seven restaurants, one bubble tea spot and an endless supply of good vibes. My back fucking caned, and I was brutally exhausted from the past week, but I was determined. Not just to eat a whole bunch, either, but to spend a nice day out with my partner and enjoy actually living my life for a little bit.
The crawl started at 3:00pm with bubble tea from Chā Bar. I got a mango tea and Milo got a strawberry-lychee blended drink. The mango tea was really nice. It wasn’t overly sweet like a lot of bubble tea places tend to make them – in fact I think the only thing sweetening it was the fresh mango puree in it, unless the tea base was pre-sweetened. Milo’s drink stumped me a little bit – it was delicious on the sip, but the aftertaste was so blunt and chemical-y. I had to keep trying it every few minutes to decide whether I liked it or not… I don’t think I did?
We got dumplings from Belly Bao to go with our tea. I got xiao long bao (pork soup dumplings) and Milo got ‘emerald’ dumplings (mushroom and spinach, in the most adorable matcha-coloured pastry). I didn’t try Milo’s dumplings because I don’t like mushrooms, and Milo didn’t try mine because they don’t like pork – but we both really enjoyed our own orders, and mutually agreed that the chili oil we got on the side was bullshit good. Like, unfathomably good – maybe the best chili oil we’d ever tried? I don’t know, I don’t think either of us have tried enough types of chili oil to make a definitive judgement, but it was really, really good.
We didn’t get the golden mantou (fried buns served with condensed milk), but they looked delicious. I’m definitely getting those next time – and there will definitely be a next time.
Stop #2 was BL Burgers. Technically the BL at Ed Square is one of their ‘Loaded by BL’ restaurants, but they don’t do the build-your-own-burger/hotdog thing that separates Loaded from a standard BL, so I’m refusing to call it an actual Loaded. Yes, we already had BL on Friday night, but we both got chicken burgers then, and BL does the single best beef burger in Sydney, so we pretty much had to stop in. We shared a classic BL Beef with the lettuce and tomato swapped for streaky bacon. I also got their house-made lemon, lime and bitters.
The LLB was pretty weak, but the burger was one of the best I’d ever had from BL. The bun was pillowy and warm, the beef beautifully seasoned and cooked to medium, and the Dijon-forward sauce was creamy and savoury. Honestly, I don’t see how anybody could choose Mary’s or Milky Lane over BL when it comes to premium burgers in Sydney. BL have been the undefeated champions since the day they popped up, and their reign hasn’t been even slightly threatened.
We took a short walk around Ed Square to settle our stomachs, and there were two things I learned. Firstly, walking on a strained back doesn’t help the pain settle, it only exacerbates the pain. Secondly, Ed Square was massively overhyped – it’s relatively tiny, all things considered. But it’s cute and ticks all our boxes for what a good plaza should have, and it means we have an Event cinema ten minutes away from where we live.
Our next stop was Masala Kitchen, where I was extremely keen to try a gin cocktail… Before seeing how much they cost. So we shared a Tropical Punch mocktail, which had strawberries, lychee, pineapple syrup and fresh-pressed citrus. It tasted like a liquified assortment of Skittles, except notably fresh – $12 well spent. We got these pinwheel samosas that were perfectly seasoned and struck the perfect balance of crunchy and soft, and one of those bougie apple desserts that look like an actual granny smith apple. The latter was a little underwhelming, but a cute and cool little experience nonetheless.
We checked out the iPlay arcade next, but it was packed with screaming children and their apathetic parents, so we couldn’t muster more than 20 minutes or so. I used to be the best at skee ball, but tonight I fucking sucked. I’m blaming it on my back. I outright refuse to accept that I am no longer a certifiable skee ball champion. We also played a Wizard Of Oz slot machine, on which Milo kept scoring jackpots and winning cards worth crazy amounts of tickets; if I ever develop a gambling habit, I want them by my side.
The next stop on the food crawl was the one we considered our ‘main course’: Gami Chicken & Beer. We ordered the smallest amount of fried chicken possible – a half bird – with sweet chili sauce on the side. To drink, Milo got a passionfruit mocktail (that was shaken for them table-side) and a canned Korean grape juice that had actual whole grapes in it. I got a Thunder Road Gun:Bae lager (brewed specifically to pair with Gami’s fried chicken) and a canned Korean pear juice that had actual pear chunks in it.
The beer was delicious and did pair really nicely with the chicken, but the pear juice was rank. Milo dug it though, so we swapped our juices. Yes, I realise how bad that reads out of context. I also (very impulsively) ordered a plate of hotteok, which was like deep-fried mochi filled with brown sugar paste and crushed nuts. The texture was a little off-putting, but it was otherwise wonderful.
The chicken was obviously the star of the show, though. On its own it was super flavoursome and super juicy, with the breading understated, yet impeccable. But with the sweet chili… Oh my GOD. It was super thick and super sweet, but also super savoury – a true culinary experience. I don’t think my dad likes fried chicken, but I feel like I have to take him to Gami anyway, if only for the beer and the chili – I’m sure there’s something else he could dip in it to take his tastebuds on that night-making rollercoaster ride.
We considered our next stop to be somewhat of an interlude. We got ice cream from Royal Copenhagen – I got banana, and Milo got vanilla choc chip. I’d say we’re usually pretty adventurous when it comes to ice cream flavours, but tonight we both just wanted something simple and sweet, which we’d know would be good. And it was. I do kinda wish I’d gotten a waffle – I have fond memories of my Nonna taking my sister and I to the Royal Copenhagen in Manly as a child, and the smell of fresh waffles was always the highlight of those trips – but my belly full of chicken, beef, pork and samosa said, “Don’t the fuck you dare.”
Besides, we had two more places to hit. First up was @Mex, which I didn’t realise was Halal until after I looked at the menu and thought to myself, “What kind of Mexican joint doesn’t have a pulled pork option!?” Milo and I both got the same base tacos, with beef carnitas in mine and grilled chicken in theirs. Both of them were so nice that I didn’t realise I hadn’t taken a photo until Milo only had half a taco left. The restaurant’s staff was a bit all over the place, but the food didn’t reflect that at all.
Lastly, Milo wanted a teriyaki chicken bento box from Sushi On Fire to take with them into the movie. I can’t stand sushi in any of its forms, so I sat this one out – plus, I still had leftover hotteok from Gami resting under my shoulder, so I was all good for movie munchies. We got a second round of bubble tea on our way to the cinema – Milo got another strawberry-lychee blended drink, and I got a watermelon blended drink. I didn’t rate it. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t anything I’d order again.
A Quiet Place Part II was pretty decent. It wasn’t anywhere near as good as the first, it had some pacing issues (which especially stood out for how short it is) and its plot was a bit thin, but for what it is, it’s a really enjoyable little slice of good-natured horror. And much like in its predecessor, Millicent Simmonds stole the show as Regan. I want to think there’s plenty of potential for a third film, but I also think Part II wraps the Abbott story up really nicely. I’m excited to see what comes of the spin-off that recently got announced, too. I think there’s potential in the Quiet Place franchise as something like Final Destination, where the focus lies on a new cast in every instalment.
The new Event is great, too. It’s a really small and cosy cinema, but it’s beautiful and ridiculously comfy. I can’t wait to see Black Widow there next month.
We got home at about 11:30pm, and I was out cold within 15 minutes. All in all, I had a great day out – mostly because I got to spend it with Milo, but also because I got to eat a lot of really nice food and see a movie I’d been dying to for the past two years.
If you made it to this point:
a) What the fuck is wrong with you?
b) Thank you!
c) I’m sorry this has been one giant, barely cohesive ramble. I didn’t proofread any of this before publishing it, and I’m certain it shows. I just wanted to pour my thoughts out somewhere before the memories faded from my slushy, rotting brain, and here seems like as good a place as any.