26 June 2020

Our stories: Pride 2020 - Sarina Cheung

I had a bit of a struggle thinking of what to write for my Pride story. Growing up, I was always given the impression that being a member of the LGBTQ+ community was not something to be proud of. The first lesbian character that I could remember being portrayed on television was a serial killer in a crime drama television series.

Apart from love orientation, it was also never easy to be comfortable with who you are. Despite Hong Kong being heavily influenced by Western culture, there were still certain ideals of how a lady should be in the Chinese community, that we had to mold ourselves into. There was the usual – baby girls should wear pink and play with barbies while baby boys should be in blue with a toy car. I have always been an active child and it annoyed me when the long hair which my mother made me wear got into my way as I climbed trees and played basketball with my cousins. I was told at the young age of 13 that girls should not wear their hair ‘too short’ and that playing netball is more lady-like than playing basketball. This caused confusion for me as a teenager – if I like to wear shorts and play sports, does that mean I want to be a boy?

My uncle asked me to wear a dress for my first job interview, stating that it would give the interviewer a ‘better impression’. My first question then was ‘so it doesn’t matter if this is not who I am, but a ‘better’ impression?’ I didn’t wear a dress to that interview, but I tried to dress as femininely as I could. Although I got the job at last, it was not easy to be unconventional in a very conservative environment. That was the reason why I decided to dress the way I normally would to my job interview a few years later. I decided that if I showed them who I am and they still wanted to hire me, then they would appreciate me for who I truly am. I was lucky enough to meet the first mentor in my life, who took me in not because of the way I dressed, but because of what she saw in me as a person. Some years later, I found out she had had her fair share of problems because she hired someone ‘looking like that’. During promotion meetings, my supervisor would have to defend me from comments such as ‘she doesn’t look like a relationship manger’ or ‘why can’t she wear heels like other female RMs’. It wasn’t until many years later that the situation finally improved, when the bank started introducing Diversity and Inclusion initiatives.

Gender stereotypes are prevalent in Hong Kong, there are a lot of roles to fulfil and images to comply with for both male and female. It has been a long journey for me to realise that my love for wearing pants is not because I want to be male in gender, it’s simply because I rock a three piece suit! With Diversity and Inclusion being an essential part of corporate culture now, we are slowly moving in the right direction. It might still be a good while before Hong Kong society can truly be accepting and inclusive. What matters most is for us to be accepting of ourselves, and love ourselves for who we are.

Be Proud. Be you. Love yourself for being you.

Category: Article