The Sentinel hears how Cassy Judy manages to juggle ocean swims, veganism, activism, music and transgender rights projects around a legal career. By vegan editor, Elizabeth Usher.
It’s not often that you hear someone went vegan because it was an easier choice than becoming an equine vet. But Cassy Judy’s whole life is so varied and full that it makes sense she has one of the more unusual “vegan origin” stories I’ve ever come across.
In her own words, “It was probably about eight years ago that I decided to become vegan … I had an accident on my motorbike and it was just a catalyst for me to sort of have a look at everything … I started looking into nutrition a bit more and I’ve always wanted to work with animals, so I thought ‘Well, here’s something I can do to help animals now’ that didn’t involve six years part time at Southern Cross Uni to become a horse vet. So I took the switch, yeah, I took the step.”
That’s not to say there were no initial hiccups! Judy continues: “I probably did it fairly suddenly and drastically, so at the beginning I was like, ‘Far out, vegetables are hard to chew!’ And by comparison the flavour was different, but then after a couple of weeks something just clicked and my taste buds just went, ‘Wow, this is the best food I’ve ever had!’”
These days, she eats fairly simply: “So I just get up, I’ll have some porridge with some fruit and then try and have healthy snacks throughout the day like popcorn and carrots. I eat a lot of wraps actually. [Vegan author and publisher] Kathy Divine got me onto the Fry’s Family, they’ve got these soy and linseed schnitzels which are just delicious. I’ll just chuck in lots of vegetables and have some more vegetables if I’m still hungry.”
This style of eating is fuelling a lot of different activities in Judy’s life. She juggles a legal career alongside being a performing songwriter, wide-ranging activism, and long-distance ocean swims. Judy scoffs forcefully at the preconceptions some people hold around vegan athletes not being able manage serious training: “I think they’re nonsense! I mean there’s so many incredible ‘no meat athletes’ out there – so many great athletes who fuel their performance through plant-based nutrition – so I think the evidence is there and for me I’m fitter and happier and healthier than I’ve ever been … I definitely attribute that to being vegan.”
In addition to wanting to see a kinder world for non-human animals, Judy’s work as a criminal lawyer is centred around being passionate about justice for underprivileged and marginalised people. Around thirteen years ago she was working for the Aboriginal Legal Service in Broken Hill and was struck by the lack of options and resources within the criminal justice system there compared with Sydney, for example not having access to a mental health nurse “to try and divert clients into the mental health stream of the law”. With a wry laugh she says, “At the end of a case, I’ll always say to a client, ‘I honestly hope I don’t see you again!’”
Judy also pours time and energy into activism across several issues, one particular area being transgender rights, with her website proclaiming herself to be “a proud transgender woman”. She steered a 2019 photography project focused on both visibility and celebration: “We got together with ACON and Trans Pride Australia and we did a trans and gender diverse photoshoot and that was very enthusiastically embraced by the community.” Judy describes the resulting photographs as “really beautiful happy images” and says the project showed “as a community we need to be seen”.
Due to Covid-19, the project couldn’t be repeated in the same way in 2020, so Judy decided instead to create a “Trans Girlz Calendar” as a smaller undertaking.
In talking about how the wider community can be allies for the trans community, Judy relates how some of her swimming friends came to cheer for her during a recent public performance at Coogee’s new rainbow walkway, which she describes as a “nice lovely inclusive symbol”.
“The little bits of support that I get along the way is really meaningful to me … especially coming from people in my ocean swimming group who are maybe of a different generation, so issues of gender identity might have come as more of a shock or a challenge to the way more rigid gender identity structures they grew up with.”
Music has given the opportunity to explore these issues as well, such as in Judy’s song ‘Boundary Rider’, with the opening lyrics:
I’ve lived in Canberra, Belgium and Broken Hill.
I’ve straddled both sides of the gender divide.
I know the deal. I know the score.
What am I looking for?
Where do I belong?
I’m a Boundary Rider.
Another of Judy’s songs, ‘We Remember Them’, is a poignant tribute honouring the lives of those trans people lost to violence. Judy performed it in 2019 at Trans Pride Australia’s Trans Day of Remembrance Ceremony and then released it as a single a year later. She says, “The life that I lead now, you know, I’m very lucky I feel to be in a time and a society that it’s getting better. Look, there’s still issues and I still think [there are] improvements to be made but by and large I can live and walk around safely. So it’s worth acknowledging those who’ve come before and there’s still I think too many transgender people who fall to violence every year.”
At the moment, Judy is organising a series of local gigs showcasing female artists called GirlPlay, and she’s exciting about the response so far. “I had about 100 responses. From my perspective there’s a lot more talent out there than what I have capacity to showcase.” She’s also thrilled that the restrictions on dancing have finally lifted, after so many months where “we’ve all been developing our chair dancing skills!” Plus, this was all just in time for her to release the first single from her “Seven Ways” EP, ‘I Miss You’, at the end of March.
As restrictions hopefully continue to disappear, make sure to keep an eye and ear out for Judy around Sydney and well beyond!
Elizabeth Usher is the Sydney Sentinel‘s vegan editor.