LGBTIQ rights advocates have urged Prime Minister Scott Morrison to meet with transgender and gender diverse Australians after he wrote a harmful tweet condemning support for trans students in schools.
Morrison was responding to a news story by the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday which said “gender whisperer” teachers were being taught by experts “to spot potential transgender students in the classroom — with experts claiming the move has contributed to a 236 per cent surge in the number of kids wanting to change sex in the past three years.”
He tweeted in response, “We do not need ‘gender whisperers’ in our schools. Let kids be kids.”
We do not need ‘gender whisperers’ in our schools. Let kids be kids. https://t.co/POzM26PXU5
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) September 4, 2018
But counsellor and gender specialist Dr Elizabeth Riley, who was quoted in the Telegraph article, said she had never trained teachers on “how to spot” a trans student.
Dr Riley told SBS News she had only worked with New South Wales schools after a child had come out as transgender.
“Let kids be kids? That’s exactly what we are doing… and a lot of that is letting children be themselves,” she said.
“I talk to them [schools] about gender identity, what is gender and how gender is just one way in which we see each other.”
The New South Wales-based Gender Centre, who were also quoted, clarified on Wednesday they do provide training in schools, but again only after schools had contacted them for advice on supporting existing trans students.
“The training that the Gender Centre then offers to staff, is on how to accommodate the needs of existing transgender or gender diverse students within their specific schools,” Vice President Kimmi Everson said.
“The Gender Centre does not work with any school without the involvement of parents. The Gender Centre does not train school staff to identify transgender children. We do however frequently clarify that not every child who expresses gender variances is transgender.
“We promote the idea that without their families transgender children are incredibly vulnerable. We know from long experience that within the safety of family, transgender children and young people thrive.”
Prime Minister @ScottMorrisonMP has slammed supports for gender diverse kids in schools describing it as “gender whispering”. We are appalled at his lack of knowledge or compassion. His comments harm the young people this affects. We strongly condemn the views he has expressed. https://t.co/Um9Teu7Ryn
— Transcend (@transcend2012) September 5, 2018
just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome said Morrison’s tweet was harmful and the group had written to the Prime Minister on the issue.
“We have asked Mr Morrison to meet and talk with transgender and gender diverse Australians so he can better understand the terrible impact of prejudice and ignorance,” he said.
Croome said mental health organisation Beyond Blue has recommended the kind of teacher awareness Mr Morrison was criticising.
“Australia’s most respected mental health group, Beyond Blue, has found that most transgender and gender diverse young people experience abuse because of who they are, leading in turn to higher levels of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts,” he said.
“If Mr Morrison is going ‘to be on the side of Australia’ he must open his heart to those Australians who are the most vulnerable to hate and fear.
“Australians do not want their Prime Minister imitating Donald Trump by sniping against minorities on Twitter. It is weak, irresponsible and not the Australian way.”
I attended a single sex religious school and became Australia’s premiere rollerskating transexual.
— Jordan Raskopoulos (@JordanRasko) September 4, 2018
And there you have it: our prime minister is now targeting vulnerable kids—and the good teachers who support them—in this tedious and hateful culture war.
Kids can’t be whispered into being transgender, PM. https://t.co/UpQf5pW6Lh
— Benjamin Law (@mrbenjaminlaw) September 4, 2018
The “let kids be kids” mantra appears to be “let kids be what we demand them to be, no matter how unhappy it makes them.”
— Josh Taylor (@joshgnosis) September 4, 2018
1 in 2 transgender kids who aren’t supported by their schools and families attempt suicide. https://t.co/atB1G7ZaiZ
— Sally Rugg 🏳️🌈 (@sallyrugg) September 4, 2018
Jesus Christ @ScottMorrisonMP you do realise kids who are happy and comfortable in themselves is a much better alternative than kids who are miserable and will likely attempt suicide at some point? Fucks sake mate, how long again until we can vote this prick out?
— Hannah Mouncey 🤾♀️ (@HannahMouncey) September 4, 2018
Greens Senator Janet Rice blasted Morrison for the comment and said the new Prime Minister had done “so much damage in such a short time.”
“Scott Morrison’s barely settled into the job, yet he’s made every effort to demonise young LGBTIQ people,” she said.
“On Monday he refused to condemn dangerous LGBTIQ conversion ‘therapy’ and the ideology that drives it, saying it wasn’t an issue for him.
“This morning he posted on social media that a program to help teachers identify trans and gender diverse kids is gender whispering, saying ‘let kids be kids’.
“The [Telegraph] article quoted an unqualified ‘gender expert’ with links to the Australian Christian Lobby who has been a candidate for Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party.
“I’ve got news for the Prime Minister – some kids are trans. Some kids are gay, lesbian, bisexual. Some kids are questioning their gender or sexuality.”
Senator Rice said trans youth must be supported by their families, communities, schools and their representatives in parliament.
“He said to Australians last week that the Liberal party is ‘on your side’. He clearly forgot to mention that only applies if you’re heterosexual and cisgender,” she said.
“It’s pretty clear the Prime Minister doesn’t give a rat’s about young LGBTIQ people.
“LGBTIQ young people experience worse mental health outcomes than heterosexual young people, and it’s because of behaviour like this from our so-called leaders. It’s totally unacceptable and harmful.”
Just.equal has also asked Morrison to meet with survivors of harmful “gay conversion” therapy, which the Prime Minister declared this week was “not an issue” for him.
“Anything that inflicts unnecessary and preventable harm on everyday Australians should be of concern to the Prime Minister,” Croome said.
If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Lifeline on 13 11 14, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.