Community spotlight: getting to know community volunteer Phlan-Michelle Purss

Community spotlight: getting to know community volunteer Phlan-Michelle Purss

Each month we’ll champion two amazing drag queens, DJs, or community heroes in the gay scene. This month’s spotlight falls on Mardi Gras Film Festival and community volunteer, Phlan-Michelle Purss.


What do you love about Australia’s LGBTI community?

That I have the opportunity to live in one of the safest LGBTIQ countries in the world today. Also that it’s becoming increasingly accepting of transgender people and that we are in an era where the gay community as a whole is bringing us out of the shadows in which we have been for so many years.

What motivates you to volunteer?

All those years ago when I started I don’t think that there were too many trans people in the volunteer industry. I thought there should be at least one of us stepping up to do it, so I just fell into it. When it comes to the straight cis community, I just wanted one of us to stand and show that we’re just normal people who do the same things as everyone else. Within the LGBTIQ community I’ve been volunteering for 30 years – ten years with Queer Screen and and 31 years with Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

What issue do we as a community need to focus on at the moment?

You might think, being transgender, I would say trans rights. Well I sat back and had a serious think about this question and the only group I was able to think of was the bisexual community. They feel a sense of isolation and abandonment by the greater LGTIQ communities and distrust is shown towards this community in general. You might think that I am wrong here. But how many bisexual people are scared to come out because of a fear of what is thought about them?

What does a typical day look like for you?

I wake up and kiss my partner. Maybe have a chat with the kids (I have two boys – a 17-year-old and a 12-year-old). My partner and I have been together for 20 years now, and you get less time for murder these days, so I may get parole soon.  I have a drink, check my emails, and then check social media to see what’s going on in the transgender community. I check what’s going on in the American and Australian trans communities, because what happens over there tends to come to Australia.

Who do you see as a hero in the community?

For me that’s an easy answer. The homeless and disadvantaged transgender members of the community. Not only are they shut out of the straight community, but they’re even shut out of the LGBTIQ community as well. These are some of the strongest members of the community, because they have to be.

Favourite LGBTI venue?

I don’t really have one. But I do like Richards On The Park in Canley Vale. In the city I tend to gravitate towards the Oxford Hotel or The Colombian during the day because I don’t go into the city in the evenings very much.

Favourite LGBTI anthem?

“Big Girls Don’t Cry” by Fergie.

Advice for young LGBTI people?

Listen to the more elderly members of our community and learn from them, as a lot of us who have been around for a long time fought for the freedoms you enjoy today. Even though they’ve made mistakes, they might be able to advise you on how to make changes in the community, by starting small. Big giant protests only makes the pollies dig their heels in and you achieve very little. But the small things plant that little seed in their minds and if they think you’re working with them, they’ll work for you.

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