I was born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1988. My family is Afrikaans. My dad was a mechanic in the army and my brother, Stephen, is two years older than me. We moved to a small town outside Johannesburg, called Stilfontein, when I was two. It was a very white town and when apartheid ended, in 1994, I remember the first day a black kid walked into the classroom. When I was eight, Stephen and I got in-line roller skates – just one pair that we shared. I was 12 years old and about to be made head girl when we moved back to Cape Town. My mum’s whole family is in Cape Town – her two brothers, sister and parents – and we spent time with our six cousins. But high school was weird for me. I was the new kid in class, I didn’t have the Cape Town accent, and I was closeted. To distract myself from high school, I played a lot of sport – cricket , field hockey, tennis – sport meant you could connect with friends and do your own thing. Coming out I was born into the Church. We went to the Old Apostolic Church five days a week and twice on Sundays. Women were expected to wear hats, stockings and dresses and men had to be in suits. Women were seen as lesser than men and my mum had a lifelong struggle with the Church. When I was 14, we would knock on people’s doors and say, “Have you heard of Jesus Christ? Can I come in?” When (Australian environmentalist) Steve Irwin died in 2006, my mum and I bawled our eyes out; it was a momentous day for me. He and primatologist Dian Fossey were the reason I went to study conservation ecology at Stellenbosch University in 2007. In my first year at university, I met Dirk at a Bible camp. We dated for a month and then he came out, but we stayed friends and now he’s my bestie. At the end of my fourth year, I came out . I had a boyfriend at the time, so it was awkward. It was a tumultuous time figuring out what my friends and family were feeling about it and all the whispers, but I felt I could breathe. My parents were shocked. Both my mum’s brothers are gay, and my older uncle is unhappy with his life and there’s a lot of homophobia, so my mum thought I’d be miserable for the rest of my life. I went to see a family therapist with my parents, and it took them a month or two to get it. The Church said they’d accept me, but I could never get married there. It made my parents question their faith and my mum left the Church and later my dad did, too. Park life After I graduated, I wanted to get away from everything for a while. Dirk was teaching English in South Korea , so I joined him over there. My accent was very thick, so I wasn’t great as an English teacher. I was there a year and then went back to South Africa and got my Level One Field Guide certificate at Kruger National Park and got a job as a field guide in Limpopo. For a year and a half, I stayed in a big, old farmhouse in the bush with 25 volunteers and five workers who oversaw us. Everything was off the grid – we had generator power for three hours a day and even dug the septic tank. Some days we didn’t have water because the elephants had dug up the water pipes. It was a great experience, but then it became a job and I wanted a change. I went back to Cape Town to get my PGCE teaching qualification from Stellenbosch University, and it was while I was there that I watched the movie Whip It (2009), with Elliot Page, and fell in love with roller derby. I thought about joining one of the leagues, but they were too far away. Tinder date Dirk moved to Hong Kong and in November 2015, I moved out and shared a flat with him on Kimberley Road, in Tsim Sha Tsui. After three weeks in Hong Kong, I met Laura on Tinder. She’s from Indiana (in the American Midwest) and is loud, which is one of the things I don’t like about Americans , but I love about her. We went to a coffee shop – even though I hate coffee – and talked about things we had in common, and she took me to a bookshop. It was a cool first date, and six months later she moved in with Dirk and me. My first job in Hong Kong was at a kindergarten, and I commuted to Yuen Long. But I didn’t enjoy being in the city, it made my anxiety worse. I wanted to go to a place where there were fewer people and I could see the sky, so the three of us moved to Lamma (a sleepy island southwest of Hong Kong Island) and my quality of life got better. Dirk moved in with a friend from Stellenbosch and Laura and I got our own place and a cat called Ruby. I started working at a test prep centre in Hung Hom, teaching SAT, ACT, chemistry and biology. Roller derby Although I’d bought my first pair of roller skates in 2016, I was too scared and nervous to join a team. In 2017, I finally plucked up the courage to go to a roller derby in Victoria Park (In Causeway Bay) and it was at my first practice that I met Snooky [Wong]. I joined the six-week course where you learn how to skate, and the bug just bit me. I felt immediately accepted – I’d found my people. It’s a great sport for teamwork and the community is cool. Snooky was between jobs and trying to figure out her life and we joked about opening a shop or a space to sell laces. In 2018, I said to her, “If you want to do it, I’m in.” Her mum had a shop space in Causeway Bay – so rent wasn’t an issue – and we set up Madame Quad. It’s Asia’s first and only skate shop dedicated to quad roller skates and roller derby. We started making Excel sheets of products and sending them to people, and it slowly started to take off, and the demand for classes increased. We teach at the skate rink in Victoria Park, the waterfront in Wan Chai and in Kennedy Town. Our business boomed during the pandemic because everyone wanted to get outside and it’s a good social distancing activity. Now there are more skaters around. There’s also a “No roller skating” sign in Wan Chai. When we saw that we said, “Ha! They’ve noticed us.” Madame Quad Snooky and I have been brainstorming what Madame Quad can become. Does it have to be a shop? Could it just be an entity? We’ve been thinking about travelling to places in Asia that aren’t as fortunate as us in roller skating, and doing weekend or week-long workshops and giving back a little. I got most of my tattoos in Hong Kong – from Blackout, in Sheung Wan – but my dad has more, he’s now covered in tattoos. He only had a very small one when he was in the Church, but since my brother and I came out – Stephen is now married to a dude – my dad started getting lots of tattoos. Maybe he wanted to distract from us by covering himself in tattoos. Instead of people looking at us, they’ll look at him. Laura and I got married in 2018. She recently left to go back to the United States. I’m hoping to get my green card in a few months and then I’ll go and join her.