Dr Clara Tung Meng Soo, a Canberra-based doctor, said she was returning the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) awarded to her in 2016 in protest against the decision to honour controversial tennis player Margaret Court on Australia Day. 

On Friday news leaked that Margaret Court would be awarded Australia’s highest civilian honour – the Companion of the Order of Australia. The news had invited a fierce backlash as Court, a Pentecostal Church minister since her retirement, has made and continues to make abhorrent remarks against the LGBTQI community and marriage equality. 

First GP In Australia To Undergo Gender Transition

Dr Soo is one of the first General Practitioners to undergo a gender transition and is known for her work with the LGBTQI community, people with HIV and people with drug dependencies. She was awarded the OAM for her work and said she was disappointed to read the news about the award for Court. 

“I have spent most of my adult life as a gay man before my gender transition to a woman in 2018,” said Dr Soo in her letter to the Governor General. “My partner and I were one of the first couples to undergo a civil union when that legislation was passed in the ACT and I am also one of the first general practitioners to undergo a gender transition in Australia. I therefore have both professional experience as well as lived experience of the communities that Mrs Margaret Court makes these derogatory and hurtful remarks about.” 

 Dr Soo said that many in the LGBTQI community do not have strong support structures around them.

“We know that transgender adolescents have the highest self-harm and suicide rates in our community and the remarks that people like Mrs Margaret Court make are very damaging to their morale and health. By giving this promotion to Mrs Margaret Court, the Council for the Order of Australia is sending a strong signal to these distressed youth that discrimination and prejudice towards them is tolerated in our Australian community.” 

Dr Soo said that she would like to return her award as she does “not want to be seen as supporting the values that the Council for the Order of Australia seem to be supporting with this promotion of Mrs Margaret Court.”

Award Winners Register Protest

Other Australians who have received the award from the council have registered their protest as well. Rebekah Robertson and her daughter, trans actor and activist Georgie Stone, were last year awarded the Order of Australia Medal for their work.

 In a Twitter post Robertson  said she was “disgusted” with the honour for Court. “Recently, my daughter Georgie Stone was awarded an OAM which she received for Service to the Trans and Gender Diverse Community. Most of her childhood was taken up with fighting for her own and other young TGDNB people’s rights.”

“Today we discover that a person who refers to kids like Georgie as ‘the devil’ has been awarded Australia’s highest honour. I can only assume a reward for holding those views. My daughter is making the world a better place with an exemplary example of kindness. This other person is filling the world with hate, chewing on her bitterness and spitting it out, not caring about the damage it brings. This is not honourable behaviour. I’m so disgusted by this.”

Sydney city councillor Professor Kerryn Phelps, who was awarded with a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) said she had written to the Governor General to register her protest. “Dr Clara Tuck Meng Soo earned her OAM. She should not have to feel compelled to return it,” said Phelps in a post on social media.

Transgender athlete Hannah Mouncey questioned the award for Court saying, “such a hate filled person who causes so much pain for the LGBTQI+ community. These awards are to honour great Australians, not great tennis players. She fills one of those criteria, definitely not both.” 

‘Reconsider Decision To Honour Court’

Ivan Hinton-Teoh, a spokesperson for LGBTQI advocacy group just.equal asked the Council of the Order of Australia to reconsider its decision to honour Court. Hinton-Teoh said that other Australians may return their awards as well as they would not want to be associated with a system that honours someone like Court. 

“Margaret Court’s primary contribution to Australian society since being awarded an Officer of the Order Of Australia (in 2007) for her historic tennis achievements has been to marginalise and malign LGBTQI Australians. Either the Council was not aware of the damage and division she has actively contributed to or they are and they are supporting it,” said Hinton-Teoh in a statement.

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