Discrimination, unemployment and endless scoffing did not deter Mimi Wong from pursuing her dream: making Hong Kong a fair city for transsexual people.
That is why, when she heard about a court case in which a transsexual woman was barred from marrying her boyfriend, she decided to make a musical telling the story with transsexual friends.
Dream of the Mermaid, which will be performed next month at the Yuen Long Theatre, tells the story of a girl who was transformed into a mermaid, but could not marry her animal lover because of the law of the "animal kingdom", along with a parallel story in which a gay author tries to write the mermaid's tale.
The musical could be the first drama production involving so many transsexual people. Wong, 58, who underwent a sex-change operation three years ago, is the producer. The songwriter, playwright and two performers have also gone through some sex change procedures.
Wong decided to start her Dark Angel Production Team and make the musical when she learned of the case of a 36-year-old woman, identified only as W, who lost a judicial review and an appeal last year, and is now taking the case to the city's top court.
W was born a male, underwent surgery to become female and had her identity card changed to reflect her gender. But the Registrar of Marriages insisted only a person's gender at birth counts for the purposes of marriage, and that a union between people of the same biological sex cannot be celebrated.
Wong, who has previously been involved in two films, said the case had worried many transsexuals. She forked out HK$400,000 from her savings to put on the show.
"I hope the musical can stir up more discussions in the city."
She first teamed up with friends to make the musical, but many have since left the production for various reasons. She then recruited performers from other drama groups and some members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Wong, 58, was laid off from her IT job at a bank in 2009, when she was awaiting her sex-change operation. She complained to the Equal Opportunities Commission, and the case has since been settled. "Internet users kept laughing at me at that time, saying I shouldn't have undergone the surgery at such an age," she said. "I wasn't particularly upset. I have a high emotional intelligence. If I cared about people's comments that much, I would have jumped to my death already."
Wong has not found a new job since the operation. "I really want to get back to work. But it's hard to find a job at this age."
Ah Yip, a 25-year-old who is in the process of transforming her female body into a male one, will take on a small role in the musical. The laboratory assistant said she liked the use of a mermaid as a metaphor.
"It's like there's something you really want to get, or a person that you really want to be. But then you could not get that, or you could not be that person."
She said she felt she was different from other children as early as in kindergarten. "When we went to the bathroom together, I would be embarrassed. I didn't like to be looked at."
She said she wanted the city to be a better place for transsexual people to live in.
"Hong Kong should be more advanced in this aspect, given that it's so developed in other fields. Why can't gay or transsexual people get married?"