A trans doctor who was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia has handed it back after learning homophobic tennis star Margaret Court would be honoured.
Clara Tuck Meng Soo was given the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2016 for her work as a medical practitioner with LGBT+ and HIV positive communities.
She has now returned it in protest after learning that Court will be promoted on Australia Day to a Companion of the Order of Australia, the highest civilian honour, and the second time Court has received such an award.
“As someone who has lived as a gay man and now as a transgender woman, I am aware of just how deeply hurtful Court’s outbursts can be to my community,” Soo said in the Sydney Morning Herald.
“Someone elevated to the highest civilian honour in Australia should not only have reached the pinnacle of achievements in their field of endeavour – tennis or otherwise – but should also be considered a role model by the rest of the Australian community.
“I do not believe someone who has made derogatory and hurtful comments about the LGBTIQ+ community publicly would be regarded as such a role model.”
While Margaret Court may once have been a positive role model, nowadays the most successful grand slam champion in tennis history is sadly better known for her extreme anti-LGBT+ views.
As a Pentecostal pastor she has been outspoken in her homophobic hatred, calling homosexuality an “abominable sexual practice”, likening gay people to Hitler, claiming lesbian tennis players “recruit” younger athletes and suggesting that transgender children are “of the devil”.
Soo condemned the Council for the Order of Australia for “rewarding” Court for these derogatory views, and for implying that such comments are not only acceptable, but honourable.
“Whether or not that was the intention, the actions … give the impression that, at the very least, they condone the sorts of remarks she has been making,” she told SBS News.
“If the honour awards people like Margaret Court, it is sending a message to the community that is OK to make hateful, derogatory comments about disadvantaged segments of the community,” Dr Soo said.
“And I felt that if I actually retained my award, I would be condoning that system.”
Australian Labour MP Linda Burney said Soo’s decision to hand back her award was “absolutely understandable”, describing her as a “profoundly impressive Australian”.
She is among several prominent politicians to criticise Court’s latest honour, including the Victorian premier Daniel Andrews, who questioned why anyone was giving her “disgraceful, bigoted views any oxygen”.
When prime minister Scott Morrison refused to comment on the issue, opposition leader Anthony Albanese argued: “She’s already an Officer of the Order of Australia. I think it’s clear for everyone to see that making her a Companion of the Order of Australia has nothing to do with tennis.”