UQ academics back transgender students after dean’s comments

university of queensland forgan smith building tc bierne school of law
Photo: Kgbo/Wikimedia Commons

Academics at the University of Queensland’s law school have pledged support for transgender and gender diverse students after comments from the head of the school.

Professor Patrick Parkinson is dean of UQ’s TC Beirne School of Law. He recently told a religious freedom conference faith schools should be allowed to reject a student’s gender identity after they transition.

Parkinson claimed principals may have a “crisis of conscience” if they “genuinely believe” it isn’t in the student’s best interests to affirm their gender identity.

He compared the situation to affirming the “overweight” body image of an “adolescent girl with an eating disorder.”

Parkinson made the comments in a paper at the conference by Christian legal think thank Freedom for Faith, of which he is a chair, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

He said current religious exemptions allowing faith schools to discriminate against students on the basis of their gender identity should remain. Non-faith schools should also get legal exemptions on gender identity, he said.

Professor Parkinson said “many of the ideas strongly promulgated by… the transgender movement” are based upon “unscientific beliefs”.

“It is one thing to ask me to respect your beliefs. It is another to ask me to act towards you as if I share your beliefs about you,” he said.

UQ academics ‘want to affirm their support’ of transgender students

Now 37 law school staff have signed an open letter stating their commitment to diversity within the faculty.

“TC Beirne school of law is home to a large number of staff who continually strive to foster an inclusive community for all students, including LGBTIAQ+ students,” the letter reads.

“We want to affirm our support to transgender and gender diverse students.

“We’ll use their preferred names and personal pronouns. We’re here to listen.

“We welcome suggestions on how we can continue to cultivate an open and welcoming environment within the Law School.”

In a statement to The Guardian, Professor Parkinson said he also supported the open letter and he had “a very strong commitment to diversity and inclusion” within the law school.

“It doesn’t matter in the slightest what someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity is either for the study or practice of law,” he said.

“As law school staff, we are unanimous in that view, and it is the clear policy of the university.

“You can be assured I have a very strong commitment to diversity and inclusion within the law school, as do all my colleagues.

“That includes students and staff who are LGBTQIA+ (as are members of my own family).”

‘These statements don’t reflect transgender people’s experiences’

Equality Australia’s Anna Brown said “all schools’ first priority should be the wellbeing of the kids in their care.”

“[This includes] transgender children and our laws should help schools do that,” Ms Brown said.

“Principals should take advice from doctors on the way these cases should be handled, not deciding for themselves whether a child’s experience of gender dysphoria is legitimate or not.”

The University of Queensland Law Society also acknowledged concerns from students and staff around Dr Parkinson’s comments.

“The UQLS rejects the sentiment expressed and recognises that these statements do not reflect the lived experiences of transgender people, as well as those transitioning or who identify as gender fluid or non-binary.

“These sentiments are not reflective of the inclusive culture fostered amongst law students.

“It is part of our objectives to help break down barriers faced by law students and members of the legal profession of all sexualities and those who are gender diverse.

“We hope to create an environment where everyone feels welcome.”

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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