For months now, the Australian Christian Lobby has been upping the intensity of its campaign against the Safe Schools program.
The voluntary scheme, which has been adopted by around 450 Australian schools, aims to educate children in late primary and high school about homosexuality, trans-sexuality and gender diversity.
Following pressure applied by groups like ACL and the far-right of the Coalition, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a parliamentary enquiry into the program last week, launching us into a mind numbing national debate where a minority of people spout scientific inaccuracies and homophobic vitriol while the rest of us scramble desperately for reason and compassion.
A clash between former AMA president Kerryn Phelps and the ACL’s Lyle Shelton on ABC’s Q&A program last night, was this debate in miniature.
Watch Dr Phelps beautifully articulate why we need the Safe Schools program here:
At one point making a baffling comparison between gay marriage and the stolen generation, Shelton criticised Safe Schools and called for an approach to reduce bullying that didn’t rely on “contested gender ideology”.
He then referred vaguely to “studies that had been done of trans gender reassignment surgery” that allegedly found it resulted in poor mental health outcomes for trans people and criticised the Minus 18 resource promoted by Safe Schools that provides advice to gender diverse teens.
One of the creators of the program, audience member and teacher Christopher Bush, described it as “a lifeline for kids”.
“If Christian kids were six times more likely to commit suicide than their non-Christian peers would you not want a resource in school that reversed that trend, that stopped that happening?”
Watch it here:
After the several minutes of the difficult to watch, ill-informed debate that followed, voice of reason and former AMA president Dr Kerryn Phelps stepped in.
“I just wonder if any of you people have actually met someone who is transgender and actually had a discussion with them” she said.
“It’s not an easy road and the whole idea of the Safe Schools program is to just ease the way for people regardless of where they end up in terms of their gender, for the other people around them to treat them with respect and kindness and compassion and empathy. These are human values. ”
She then explained that an enormous about of counselling and support is provided to people who choose to undergo a medical transition in order to make sure that it is the right option for the individual.
“The role of the Safe Schools program is to respect an individual at whatever particular stage of their development, psychologically and physically where they are at that moment,” she said.
“It’s not up to a Safe Schools program or schools indeed to be teaching anything about outcomes for adult trans-gender individuals.”