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Janet calling on Scott Morrison to stop his attacks on LGBTIQ young people

Speeches in Parliament
Janet Rice 11 Sep 2018

It's taken only a few weeks for the new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, to show not once, not twice, but repeatedly that he doesn't care about the wellbeing or welfare of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex Australians. Since becoming Prime Minister, Scott Morrison has stated that he wants to govern for all Australians. He's told us that he's on our side. But, sadly, that doesn't seem to include LGBTIQ Australians. There have been several opportunities for the Prime Minister to stand in solidarity with LGBTIQ people, but instead he has supported the attacks on our communities and on LGBTIQ people, particularly young people.

Let's start with his reaction to an article that was in The Daily Telegraph. It was a fearmongering article about a program that exists to support young trans and gender-diverse kids. But, typically of the Tele, it ignored the facts in favour of click bait. It was, frankly, a load of hogwash. The article quoted an unqualified so-called 'gender expert' with links to the Australian Christian Lobby who had been an office-bearer of Fred Nile's Christian Democratic Party. This so-called expert was happy enough to label support for trans kids as 'dangerous' but failed to mention the existing guidelines that outline appropriate care for trans kids. These guidelines are extensive and they outline that all treatment provided has to be in the best interests—and is in the best interests—of the child. It's proportional. It's administered with consent and ongoing support. This treatment is given to a tiny proportion of children, all of whom are trans and gender-diverse, and this support for trans kids often saves lives.

This unqualified 'expert' who was quoted in The Daily Telegraph insinuated that providing support to transgender kids is harmful and dangerous. But the reality is that not providing support is very harmful and very dangerous.

This article was widely condemned, as it should have been, yet our newly appointed Prime Minister decided to share the article on Facebook with the words:

We do not need 'gender whisperers' in our schools. Let kids be kids.


Firstly, memo to the Prime Minister: some kids are trans, some kids are gay, lesbian and bisexual and some kids are questioning their gender identity or their sexuality, and these kids need to be allowed to be the kids they are and they need to be supported by their families, communities, schools and representatives in parliament. Secondly, does anyone really believe that kids can be 'whispered' into changing their gender? I've met lots of trans kids and lots of trans adults who were once trans kids and, indeed, we had a delegation of trans kids and their families in the parliament two years ago, hosted by the Parliamentary Friendship Group for LGBTIQ Australians, and every parliamentarian who met them was incredibly impressed by them. Being trans is not something that a child takes on lightly. It's not a choice. It's who they are. Unlike most people who are born cisgender, where their gender identity matches their biology, that's not the case for trans kids. Most of them struggle with this because our society struggles with it. They need love and acceptance. They need support to help them to be proud of who they are, to help them love themselves for who they are.

In contrast, imagine being a young trans kid or gender-diverse kid and seeing your Prime Minister talk about you in that way? LGBTIQ young people experience worse mental health outcomes than heterosexual and cisgender young people and it's because of behaviour like this from our so-called leaders. I wonder if the Prime Minister knows some of the statistics about LGBTIQ people—that 16 per cent of LGBTIQ young people aged 16 to 27 have attempted suicide in the last 12 months or that almost one in two trans young people have attempted suicide in their lifetime. Compare that to the 2.4 per cent of young people in the general population who have. I'd like the Prime Minister to think about that—that young trans kids are 20 times more likely to attempt suicide. The Prime Minister's language and attacks on LGBTIQ people are totally unacceptable and harmful. A Prime Minister should serve for all of us, not just those of us who are cisgender or heterosexual.

This is just one of the examples of the attacks against LGBTIQ Australians that are being supported by the Prime Minister. Scott Morrison has barely settled into the job, yet he's made every effort to demonise LGBTIQ people. He has done so much damage in such a short time. Last week, he refused to condemn dangerous LGBTIQ conversion attempts and the ideology that drives them, saying it wasn't an issue for him. I'm so pleased that this Senate has just passed a motion condemning those attempts and calling upon this government to work with the states and territories to ban sexual orientation and gender identity conversion efforts. He said this wasn't an issue for him after survivors of conversion attempts and sexual orientation change efforts sent an open letter to the Prime Minister and the opposition leader, Bill Shorten, calling for a multipartisan crackdown on these dangerous, harmful practices.

It's important to note that attempts to change gender identity and sexual orientation are widely condemned. In 2015, there was a report from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights which included so-called conversion therapy in its list of practices categorised as torture and ill treatment—yet the Prime Minister says it's not a matter for him.


The UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International and a number of religious and community leaders have called for the criminalisation of these practices, so for the Prime Minister to dismiss this as an issue that's not for him is an absolute disregard of duty. The survivors' statement that was presented to the Prime Minister draws attention to the fact that these practices are still occurring here today in Australia. It points out that the conversion movement extends further than formalised so-called therapeutic practices, with gender and sexual orientation change efforts pervading an unknown proportion of religious organisations, faith based organisations, schools and the counselling industry. This statement calls for Australian elected reps to work actively towards curtailing the movement by pursuing strategies that seek to identify and counteract its influence through a combination of legislation, regulation, investment and community education. That's what our Prime Minister needs to embrace if he is going to support LGBTIQ young people and people in general, rather than decrying them.

The statement that was presented to him outlined the awful impacts that these practices have on survivors, and I quote where it says that survivors of the ex-gay, ex-trans conversion therapy movement and sexual orientation change efforts:

… have endured and survived a system which dehumanised and shamed them, despite their sense of deep devotion and connection to their faith community

I've had the privilege of meeting some of these survivors. Their stories are harrowing, but it's important that they're heard.

All LGBTIQ people should be able to practice faith without pressure to change or to suppress their gender identity or their sexual orientation. There's so much that can be done—that should be done—to ensure that LGBTIQ people are all equal, safe, supported and thriving, and if the PM needs some ideas about where to start, he can just give me a call. All Australians need to feel that the Prime Minister of this country has their back.

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