Queen of the ball

UQ Faculty of Medicine Student Coordinator Paige Wilcox is used to multitasking – she’s an author, actress and activist who juggles her work at UQ with a demanding role as the Queensland Director of Out for Australia. At the recent 2018 Queen’s Ball Awards, Paige found herself juggling duties again, as she both hosted the awards and was named the Trans Activist of the Year.

How did you come to be involved in The Queen’s Ball?

Well the short answer is that I was approached by Brisbane Pride about being a host this year, and I said yes! Seriously though, in more detail, my visibility as a role model within the queer community has been steadily increasing in the past few years. Having written extensively on events related to my past gender transition, I’m often called upon to speak publicly about how it has affected different aspects of my life. Although it can be quite painful at times, I persist with ensuring entertaining heartfelt speeches both to empower LGBTIQ youth, as well as to train allies to be more understanding and compassionate. I’m also known for designing and hand-sewing my own elaborate ball gowns. It is through this reputation that I believe I was approached for hosting duties.

How did you prepare for the hosting gig?

One of the first things I did was to read the memoir of my co-host Nevo Zesin, who is a non-binary trans author and activist. We then emailed back and forth a bit to develop rapport, spoke on the radio together, and met in person for a few hours to chat. This was vital for ensuring that what each of us wanted from the gig was compatible. For the occasion I knew I wanted my dress to be somehow political, so the initial idea was black sequins, somehow with rainbow colours showing through to represent the measured way we’re allowed out-of-the-closet in the workplace. I was browsing a shop and saw a pack of 190 rainbow LED lights, and instantly decided they had to be worked in.

Why are events like this important?

As a community we have been marginalised, discriminated against, and for a long time it was illegal for many of us to just be ourselves and love who we love. We’re also often treated as though who we are is shameful. It’s important not only to acknowledge the hard work of our community in standing up for our rights, but also to be able to hold our heads up unashamed and tell the world that who we are is in fact wonderful. It’s a beautiful celebration of persistence and triumph over adversity.

Images: Paige and co-host Nevo Zesin.

A new award was introduced this year to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTIQ communities – what’s it about, and why was it created?

I can’t speak for the committee that made the decision, but I can give a few of my own thoughts. Sometimes it’s not the hardest working or most deserving people who get nominated, rather it can be the visible people who the general public find more agreeable. Many Australians find it confronting to acknowledge how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been treated, which in turn makes reconciliation more difficult. Introducing the First Nations Leadership and Engagement Award is an important step in the right direction, not only to recognise hardship they’ve faced, but also the tireless efforts to improve the situation of those who are suffering.

You won Trans Activitist of the Year – was this a surprise? Why do you think you won?

Yes, it was a complete surprise, and not just because I personally look up to several other nominees. See, the award was announced when I had a little break from hosting duties, so I was taking advantage of not having to pay attention, and eating… let’s just say quickly. As far as why I won, growing up, I never had a role model to prove that I could ever be successful. A few years ago I decided to be the person I needed back then, and it’s required substantial ongoing sacrifices. Young LGBTIQ people often tell me that I am that person to them, that person that says they can be open about who they are, and still be successful. I think that’s a big part of it, I guess.

What’s the next goal for you?

Well I’m working on my fifth memoir at the moment, which has a healthcare focus. Aside from giving more insight into the medical struggles directly and indirectly related to trans identities, the hope is that medical professionals who are in a position to improve the situation will feel compelled to do so after reading it. We’ve come a long way since trans healthcare had to operate somewhat underground, but I’m still astounded at how difficult it can be for trans people to get quality primary care.

Images: Aboriginal elder Aunty Dawn Daylight received the new First Nations Leadership and Engagement Award.

Paige with the Belle of the Ball winner.

Paige and Nevo with drag queens Candy Surprise and Miss Synthetique.

Read more about Paige’s journey in a previous blog post, or keep up with Paige by visiting her blog, her Linked-In, following her on twitter, or reading her books, available here.

Official photographs courtesy of Brisbane Pride.