New podcast “The Dorothy Project” explores what it’s like being a woman on the gay scene

Gay men like to talk about ourselves a lot. We’re always talking about where we fit in, what we wear, what we like, what we don’t like and what our experiences are (to read all this, just pick up a copy of a publication called QX Magazine, available for free in a sauna near you).

But something we probably don’t talk about enough is the women who support us, and THEIR experiences. Someone who’s certainly well-versed on this is Alice Beverton-Palmer.

She’s one of the sequin-spattered brains behind queer pop disco Push The Button. She’s got a degree in Dannii Minogue and NVQ in Grindr emojis. She’s also had more Eurovision parties than you’ve had hot dinners and she’s probably taken more Ubers to Vauxhall than Son Of A Tutu. 

She’s started a podcast called “The Dorothy Project” where each week, she muses on the trials and tribulations of being a woman in a gay man’s world. She interviews kindred spirits as well – other women who have shared her experiences. 

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We chatted to Alice to about dream guests, why she started it all, and more!

Hey Alice Beverton-Palmer. Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Hey! Well, by day I work in partnerships at Twitter, helping bring the best entertainment content to your newsfeed. By night, I DJ at Push The Button at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, I campaign with RVT Future, and I’ve just launched a new podcast. I don’t get much sleep!

And your podcast, The Dorothy Project – it’s about gay culture, right?

It is indeed, and specifically women who’ve found themselves part of gay male culture. In each 25-minutes-or-so episode, I get to know another ‘Dorothy’. It’s a sort of ‘This Is Your Queer Life’. We hear each interviewee’s Dorothy origin story, and discuss their experiences. So far I’ve met everyone from drag queens to HIV doctors, actors to activists. It’s been fascinating how my interviewees – women of different generations, sexualities, personalities – all see things differently. 

Everyone’s loving podcasts right now. A cultural phenomenon. Why?

It’s interesting because people keep declaring ‘peak podcast’ – and in the London media world it feels like everyone has a podcast. (Someone recently asked me, “do any of your friends NOT have a podcast?” Savage!) 

But I actually think it’s just the beginning. Podcasting started as a very middle-aged white straight male medium, and it’s so exciting to see the diversity of podcast topics and listeners explode. 

I think podcasts are so popular with listeners because there’s just such a huge variety – The Dorothy Project is pretty niche! – and they’re free, and easy to listen to as you go about your day (I’ve had people tell me they listen on their commute, while running, while cleaning…). As a producer, it’s fairly easy and cheap to get started, and you can get your content up alongside the biggest names without any gatekeepers.

What’s it like being a straight woman on London’s queer scene?

You assumed right! Quite simply, it’s the joy of my life. In the London queer scene I’ve found an ever-changing world full of brilliant people who love the same music and cabaret that I do. What straight venues play some Eurovision entry from ten years ago, followed by a drag queen wearing a mop on their head?! (Cola Falquero, I love you.) But I’m very aware that this scene where I feel so at home belongs to the queer community, and I always try to be thoughtful and not overstep boundaries or take up space. I’m a visitor, and I’ve been made so welcome. The only downside is the rare times I’m ignored by men trying to give requests to ‘the DJs’ (the male DJs at PTB) when I’m standing right there by the decks with headphones round my neck!

What made you want to do the Dorothy Project?

After a few years of DJing at the RVT, and generally surrounding myself with gay men, I found myself wondering – how many other women like me are out there? What draws us into this amazing culture? And what do us Dorothies have in common? I overthink everything in life, and being part of the queer scene is no exception…

Then I heard about a woman called Mother Clap, who ran a sort of proto-gay bar in 18th Century London. Men would come to dress up in drag and dance and hook up, and she’d bring them beer! Mark Ravenhill wrote a play about her called Mother Clap’s Molly House. It absolutely blew my mind that there have been women in the gay scene since then, and made me think – how many Dorothies’ stories are out there yet to be told? 

And in terms of why do it as a podcast – even if I was writing a book about it, I would have needed to interview all these amazing women. So why not record the interviews, and publish them as a podcast?

Who would be your dream guest?

I have a massive spreadsheet for guests – my wishlist is so long! Right at the top though is Madonna. There’s so much to talk about, I could do a whole Madonna season. New York in the 1980s, Vogue, Truth Or Dare… Madonna has been so enmeshed in gay male culture from day one, and such a vocal ally even when there was absolutely no cachet in it. 

What do you think about the London queer scene right now?

Ooh, that’s a big question. I think it’s more under threat than ever, sadly – property prices are crazy so even thriving venues can struggle against rising rents. And who knows what will happen with Brexit. What I’d love to see is for the boundaries to keep blurring, to see more and more places where people from across the LGBTQ community can party together safely and happily. Where trans and NB people are welcome and celebrated, as well as people of colour, and queer women. I’ll also be watching with interest to see if there’s any impact from the UK edition of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Will it blast London drag queens into the mainstream like it has in the States? What impact will that have?

And queer culture in general? It’s interesting times. Pride is bigger than ever, and our profile is arguably higher than ever.

I’m very cautious about speaking on queer issues, because I’m not queer myself. One trend I do find worrying, though, is the increasing attacks against trans people across the media. I just can’t see where it will end, and it scares me. Trans lives matter! And it seems to be spilling into a backlash against LGBTQ people in general, for example in education. Section 28 went on long enough, and now it feels like it’s coming back. Awful. It just makes Pride even more important. Every time I go to a Pride it makes me emotional, overwhelmed by the resilience and beauty of queer culture.

Finally – what would you like people to take away from the Dorothy Project?

That gay men have a whole community of women onside, who love them and their culture. You might not have heard much about our contributions, because we know it’s not about us. But I think those contributions matter, and I want to bring them to the light. 

It’s also been depressing to hear nearly all my guests mention – often in a heartbreakingly offhand way – how unsafe they feel around men and in straight spaces.

Oh – and I want people to know that us Dorothies are aware how awfully some women behave in their spaces… we’re sorry!

The latest episode of The Dorothy Project features Derry Girls actor Nicola Coughlan. Follow Alice on Twitter at @alice and The Dorothy Project @Dorothy_Podcast.

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