20 July 2021

Canberra LGBTQI+ community urged to stand up, speak out and write new stories

| Dr Clara Tuck Meng Soo
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Andrew Barr, Dr Clara Tuck Meng Soo, Phillippa Moss and Adam Stankevicius

Chief Minister Andrew Barr with Dr Clara Tuck Meng Soo, Meridian director Phillippa Moss and Meridian president Adam Stankevicius. Photo: Supplied.

Dr Clara Tuck Meng Soo is a GP who has worked closely with the gay, lesbian and transgender communities, patients with drug dependencies, refugees and recent migrants, patients from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and patients living with HIV/AIDS.

She gave the annual address at this year’s AIDS Candlelight Memorial. Here is an excerpt of her speech. To view the complete speech, visit Meridian ACT.

The 2021 AIDS Candlelight Memorial is a time for us to reflect on those we have lost to HIV and to revisit our memories of them. I believe, and I think some of us will share the thought that as long as those memories live within us, something vital will live on of those we have lost.

So, today, let us reminisce, let us talk of our memories, let us revisit those times in the past.

We tend to remember the difficult and sad and traumatic times. The emotional impact of suffering, death and dying is hard to forget. But they will want us to remember the laughter, the love, the dancing, the sex, the parties. So hard as it may be, we need to strive to remember the good times too.

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In the midst of all this year’s unsettling change, we remain the same human beings with the same human needs, desires and human need for connection.

Many of us in the LGBTIQ+ community still face discrimination in our daily lives. Discrimination can take many forms. The one that really obvious to us is the discrimination we face from the outside world.

While in a place like Canberra, I have encountered no overt transphobia in my day-to-day life, we should remember and acknowledge that courage and the sacrifices our LGBTIQ+ elders made to give us the world we have today.

There are still challenges for us. Religious bodies are still allowed to discriminate in their employment policies, and given the large role that religious bodies play in the education and aged care arena, LGBTIQ+ people can still encounter significant barriers in their chosen field of employment.

The Federal Government has talked about amending the Anti-Discrimination Act, and the messages it sent out about this prior to everything being derailed by COVID-19 suggested it was going to further enhance the ability of religious organisations and individuals to claim religious freedom as an excuse to discriminate against us.

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I want to say something now about transgender kids, a subject that is dear to my heart because I was a closeted, unfulfilled transgender kid myself once too, and also because the treatment of transgender children seems to have now become the key battleground of the culture wars.

For those of us who have lived through the decades of gay de-legitimisation, the arguments used against transgender kids bear an eerie resonance.

I think we need to be aware that sexual and gender diversity elicit the same visceral responses from certain sections of our society and the weapons used against one group can easily be used against another. We need to stand together as allies and support each other.

As you know, I got a lot of media coverage when I returned my OAM earlier this year in protest at the elevation of Mrs Margaret Court to the highest honour in the land. I know it’s not always easy to do, but when you can, I want to encourage you to stand up too.

If there are lots of us standing up, politicians are likely to take more notice of us, too and be more careful about endorsing positions that are abhorrent to us. Standing up also shows other members of our community that they are not alone and makes them feel supported.

Having allies outside our own community lends further legitimacy to our actions because it shows that our views are shared more widely in the community. So, if we can, we should get our parents, brothers, sisters, children, partners, friends all involved in standing up for our behalf.

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Discrimination can also be within our own LGBTIQ+ community too. A lot of you will know that I was a skinny, slight, effeminate Asian man before my gender transition.

So I want us to tell new stories to change the conversation about bodies and sex. I want stories about sexy older gay men and women trailing an entourage of young admirers.

I want stories about transgender women, men and their male and female lovers. I want stories of non-binary people and their friends of various genders. I want stories about a kaleidoscope of colours, forms, ages, genders, desires, abilities and disabilities.

I ask those of us who can to help us create new narratives, to write these amazing new stories of the people in our trailblazing community for our brave new world.

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