LGBTIQ+ advocates have called for discussion about a drag storytime protest to remain respectful, following the death of one of the protest leaders.
University of Queensland Liberal National club president Wilson Gavin died by suicide on Monday morning a day after he was filmed confronting a drag queen who had been reading books to children at a Brisbane library.
The video of the group chanting “drag queens are not for kids” quickly went viral and attracted sharp criticism on social media, much of it directed at Mr Gavin.
Rainbow Families Qld, which organised the drag storytime event, urged anyone distressed by debate about the protest to reach out for help.
“Wilson Gavin was known publicly to be an out, gay man. LGBTQ+ people are at a high risk of suicide and this is why we strongly advocate for the Safe Schools program, drag storytime, and other LGBTQ+ events, so that members of our community grow up strong and proud of who they are,” the statement read.
“Stay safe everyone.”
Queensland LNP politician Mark Robinson said he was deeply saddened by the 21-year-old’s death.
“Wilson and his friends took a principled stand to protect children from inappropriate sexualisation and gender-fluid ideology. For that he was treated terribly,” Mr Robinson tweeted.
Mr Robinson said he was a patron of the UQ Liberal National club, despite other LNP members distancing themselves from the club which had been formally disendorsed by the party last year.
Mr Gavin’s death has prompted many social media users to delete posts attacking the University of Queensland student.
Queensland MP George Christensen went one step further, announcing he was quitting Twitter because it was “broken”.
“Suicide happens when Twitter keyboard warriors pile on an individual for a political protest,” Mr Christensen said in his last tweet.
A UQ spokesperson said the past two days had been very distressing for some staff and students.
“Mutual respect and diversity are core values of the university, and we hope that everyone shows consideration for those affected during the difficult days ahead.”
Friends of Mr Gavin have paid tribute to the young conservative student.
Drew Pavlou described him as a “very decent and kind person that cared for others”.
“Today is a reminder of all we must do to affirm to young marginalised Australians the intrinsic worth and value of their lives. You are loved and you are enough, please know this,” he said on Facebook.
Satyajeet Marar who said he got to know Mr Gavin when they were both in the Australian Monarchist League, said he was an “intelligent, witty, articulate and outspoken young man”.
“Even when the two of us argued, as we did over the many things we disagreed on, he never once resorted to personal insult or vitriol.”
LGBTIQ+ Australians seeking support with mental health can contact QLife on 1800 184 527 or visit https://qlife.org.au/
Readers seeking support can also contact Lifeline crisis support on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged 5 to 25). More information is available at Beyond Blue.org.au and lifeline.org.au.