Heaps Good: Mason Browne of BOYTHiNG
By Sam Eacott
BOYTHiNG is a new series of parties from stylist, writer and events producer Mason Browne of Sydney. In the wake of the latest BOYTHiNG, which was a full blown Halloween extravaganza that took over the the Imperial Hotel last Friday, we decided it was about time we picked Browne’s brain to find out more about his previous events experience and what makes his new parties so unique.
How did you get started with events?
Somewhere around 2007-2008 I moonlighted as a door host at a few (straight and queer) club nights whilst holding down a full time job as General Manager of the Verona Cinema. It wasn’t till I moved down to Melbourne for a three-year stint that I summoned the motivation to hold my own, and that was when I met one of my collaborators, Anna Whitelaw. We had no idea what we were doing but we had a few mates who’d cut their teeth on the Melbourne music scene already so we asked them to DJ. We booked a venue, put some posters up and bit our nails, thinking a hundred or so kids would come down. When Closet opened its doors in 2009, 1200 people showed up and there was a line down two city blocks.
What made you want to get into it?
I moved to Sydney in 2001 to attend university and at the time I was extremely ‘young’ in every sense of the word. Like everyone I struggled to come out of the closet but then once I did, I felt as though I were an outsider. Even now I don’t always feel that comfortable in I guess what you would call the more ‘popular’ gay bars. I’ve always been thin, very pale and a little body dysmorphic, which isn’t exactly the ideal in these spaces.
It wasn’t until maybe 2007 when I met a bunch of queer friends who didn’t fuss over what people thought of them. They went out and expressed themselves just how they wanted to. There were several dance-offs to Kate Bush in the clubs we frequented, we rolled around on the floor to the last song and no-one gave two hoots. It was wonderful. When it came time to figure out what we wanted from our own party, we both decided to offer something inclusive for those who didn’t want to feel ghettoised or ashamed to just be themselves. We wanted to open the door to all the colours of the rainbow, their friends and allies.
Do you feel you approach what you do differently than other people in your field?
There are many people who work in this field who do it for the wrong reasons. But there are so many more who are really passionate about curating queer spaces with points of difference for a spectrum of wild and wonderful people. I would like to think that’s what we do. We want to make people feel safe in that environment. The approach changes with the times and a lot has changed… or I should say ‘come into focus’. In order for these events to be inclusive you have to be dedicated to what you’re doing and you must be objective. What is deemed inclusive these days is constantly developing, so it’s important to listen, and allow people to have a voice.
What are you most excited about with BOYTHiNG?
BOYTHiNG came about because my good friend Jacqui Cunningham (DJ Cunningpants) has been running the hugely successful GiRLTHING for 8 years, an inclusive party for all women and their friends. It’s one of the most fun parties I’ve ever been to, surrounded by queer love. Jacqui and I said it was time to turn gender on its head and start BOYTHiNG together. Jacqui laughed and said YAAASSS!
We are excited about its potential to set people free. There is a toxic masculinity issue plaguing our community and you see it in most of our popular clubs and bars. BOYTHiNG is a safe space for us femmes. If you want to be fancy free and be who you want to be, there’s a place for that. If you don’t feel like you fall into any category or definition society lays out for us, you’ll feel safe there. What excites us is the joy you see on people faces when they’re just allowed to express themselves without fear or judgement, and that’s just so rewarding.
What do you want people to experience at one of your events?
Joy, freedom, artistic expression and great dance music.
What don’t you want people to experience at one of your events?
We never want to people to feel shame. Pure and simple… the fact that there is a list of phobias that are designed to shame us all is abhorrent, and we all need to work together to end them. That means you have to open up the conversation, respect everyone and what they’re doing. I’ve always encouraged people to come to us with what they need but do it with respect. We live in a time of click-bait, keyboard warriors and hateful comments on social media, but we also live in a time when you can reach out to perfect strangers very easily and have an open and frank discussion about what it means to feel safe – and for that we hold hope.