…people saw me as cute, oh, like a Chinese doll. Except I had a horrible temper. They soon found out I wasn’t such a sweet little thing. I’ve had to grow my personality to cope with being different, and I could either choose to be a victim or I could choose to think of myself as special…
My sexuality is the central theme of my experience. Again, I am part of a minority, and I am very proud of it. I am a gay Asian woman, a doctor and a lawyer. It doesn’t matter how conservative the environment is, I am who I am.
How old am I? Let’s just say I am over sixty years of age.
I’ve been uppity since birth. I come from a family of seven children. When there are so many others you have to compete for attention. I am the only princess, and the only queer in the village. Being Asian in a non-Asian country makes you special, particularly as I come from Queensland, which is very redneck. When I was a child there were very few Asian people in Australia, a few Chinese. I went to a school completely full of Anglos, and aggressive ones at that – bullying types. The experience of being Asian was different for the girls and the boys in my family. The boys were bullied and beaten up, whereas people saw me as cute, oh, like a Chinese doll. Except I had a horrible temper. They soon found out I wasn’t such a sweet little thing. I’ve had to grow my personality to cope with being different, and I could either choose to be a victim or I could choose to think of myself as special.
The shock of my life was when I went to Hong Kong for the first time and found that everybody was Chinese, and I was just ordinary – one of the Chinese – just the same as everyone else. And I can’t even speak Chinese! But I really enjoy being different, and making the most of it.
My sexuality is the central theme of my experience. Again, I am part of a minority, and I am very proud of it. I am a gay Asian woman, a doctor and a lawyer. It doesn’t matter how conservative the environment is, I am who I am. What that does is create normalisation. It allows people around me to say, so what? It’s an important political statement to be like that. I have never been negative about myself. I never take a backward step. I only go forward. I never turn and run.
I was involved in working for the right to protest in Queensland, against Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Then feminist consciousness raising groups at university. For a short while I was interested in separatism, but I soon discovered it is totally impractical. I remember being at the Women’s House in Brisbane, and having a new photocopier delivered, and the men had to drop it at the front door because they weren’t allowed in. That didn’t help me!
In the 1970s I took the opportunity to work at the Women’s Health Centre in Spring Hill in Brisbane, because they needed a woman doctor. I was surrounded by women who didn’t shave their underarms and wore dungarees, and here I am being very doctor-ish in my little skirt. They certainly got my attention. I met a couple of ex-nuns, and some strong women from the Aboriginal Health Service. It was so exhilarating. And from then on I prospered. We were demanding better health services for all women.
I met a woman in an abortion clinic in Sydney in the early 1980s, when abortion was still illegal in Queensland. I was involved in referring women from Queensland to New South Wales for abortions, and I came down to review the services, because I am committed to women getting the best medical care.
This woman was so strong, so sharp, and she questioned me, and challenged me about everything. She kept feeding me books about feminism. Juliet Mitchell. She gave me books that blew me away. Foucault. And then she challenged me in my role as a doctor. The seduction side was pretty good too. If only we could all have such a mentor.
She gave me a book, “Our Bodies, Ourselves”, by the Boston Women’s Health Collective, which had a whole section about the physiology of the climax and how orgasms happen. I said, I am a doctor you know. But to read about it was absolutely enlightening. So we tried it out together. That woman was a genius.
Sex is simply another human attribute; it’s a bodily function, like eating and sleeping. Sexuality is part of our physical being, and a deeper connection with another person. It’s recharging, and helps us find out about the frontiers of our bodies.
I qualified as a lawyer after I came to Sydney. I was angry. I’d been involved in a prosecution about health insurance claims, and I found that the whole legal environment leaves people powerless. They speak in words that many people don’t understand. It’s a hostile environment. I wanted to learn about it. It made me understand that it’s the same in medicine, the doctors have the power because they have the language. That elevates them away from ordinary people. It’s about hierarchies and privilege and authority. I soon became interested in refugee protection and human rights. When I finished law I became a member of the Refugee Review Tribunal. Then to the Social Security Tribunal. I do understand the needs of people who apply to these tribunals, and it was an asset being a doctor. Also, as a result of an operation, I’ve developed a disability. I can’t see properly out of one eye – I see double. I have some sense of what it’s like to have a disability. So I now work part-time, mostly because it’s hard for me to sit at the computer.
Racism is an everyday event for me, rather than homophobia. When I came to Sydney, Pauline Hanson was very popular, and some people were very anti-Asian. I found that shocking. Haven’t we learned anything? Racism can be stirred up at any moment by shock jocks. It’s just about cowardice. I avoid situations were I might face racism, or I predict it, and I always have a Plan B to protect my own safety.
I’m very childish. As a child I was always told by my parents that when you get home, you change your clothes, have something to eat and go and play. I take that very seriously. So I rush home from work each night, have something to eat and go and play.
I love the adrenalin rush of sport – if you hit the perfect golf shot, or at the gym you make your muscles extend and spring back, or your swimming is so relaxing, you get those perfect moments. Sport also brings me in contact with lots of people, and I’m really a people person.
But dance is my thing. I do swing, salsa, ballroom and Latin. I love the precision of dance movement, and my favourite is the foxtrot. I love women dancing with women, and I believe the stereotypes in ballroom dancing need to be challenged, and that it is our right to have same-sex dancing. It’s exquisite and artistic. Responding to music and rhythm with dance is part of our expression as humans. I mostly dance in gay groups, but if there’s nothing else available I’ll go to any class! We are planning a big ball for Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras 2014. I’m really excited about that.
I think I’m more stylish than I used
to be. It’s very much aboutwanting to be
seen, because ageing can be another
way of disappearing. I want to increase my visibility, to be part of the scene.
Things have crept into my wardrobe over the years that seem to be about living in the inner west of Sydney. Like black on black on black. But that is also good for dancing – because you’re trying to get a silhouette shape. A lot has changed in my life because of dance. Before I took up dancing I was more into cargo shorts and Hawaiian shirts!
For our age group, we have numbers on our side. I’m lucky because I am financially secure and I’m very aware that many other women can’t afford what I have and don’t have enough for their retirement. I have to make sure we are always aware of those women, making sure they can participate.
But I do find it frustrating when women say, I can’t do that I’m an old woman. The body is actually very capable. I hope I am promoting a healthy lifestyle, physical wellbeing by being physically active.
The only way to feel content is to do things as well as you can. In medicine, saving lives is good. In law, helping someone get a fair outcome is good. I’d like to improve at my sport. To be a happy person in a happy relationship. I’m finished with the law now, but I’ll keep working in medicine for a few more years yet. For me, the best is yet to come.