Law academics at University of Queensland’s TC Beirne School of Law have rallied around the trans student community after a Professor at the university compared transgender people to overweight people at a religious conference in Sydney.
At the ‘Freedom for Faith’ event in Sydney last week, Professor Patrick Parkinson, the head of the university’s law school, presented a paper on gender discrimination and religion. Parkinson also chairs on the board for the organisation, which is a Christian legal ‘think-tank’, according to 10 Daily.
The paper, entitled “Is Gender Identity Discrimination a Religious Freedom Issue?”, consisted of Parkinson’s arguments for religious schools being able to ignore students ‘new’ gender identity during or following transitioning. Effectively discriminating against said students about an issue that has absolutely nothing to do with their formal education.
“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,” Parkinson said.
Parkinson likened the acceptance of a student’s preferred pronouns and gender identification to affirming an “overweight” image to a teenager suffering from an eating disorder.
“[A] crisis of conscience may arise from a genuine belief that it is not in the best interests of the child or young person to affirm his or her transgender identification, any more than it would be in the best interests of an adolescent girl with an eating disorder to affirm her body image as overweight,” Parkinson said in the paper.
Throughout his speech, Parkinson also argued that he wanted more clarification of the religious discrimination act that was released last month. You know, that fucked piece of legislation that effectively means that doctors can refuse to treat LGBTQI+ patients on the grounds of religion. Yeah, that one.
Remember, you can still voice your opinion on that bill, so go do that now if you haven’t already.
“Sex, or what it means to be male or female, needs to be defined in terms of reproductive function while gender identity can be defined in terms of subjective belief,” he said.
‘‘Such clarification in the law would go a long way to resolving the dilemmas now being created by laws which base changes to gender identity on nothing more than self-declaration,” Parkinson added.
Although the Dean cares more about his right to religious freedom than the right that students have to an education without fear of discrimination or hate speech, many of his colleagues have come out in support of the LGBTQI+ community.
So far, at least 37 faculty members from the TC Beirne School of Law have offered their support to the trans and wider LGBTQI+ community within the school in an open letter.
I will do whatever I can to support #LGBTIAQ+ members of the @UQLaw and wider #UQ community. I am privileged to work with colleagues who share this commitment to diversity and inclusion pic.twitter.com/Eg2od3Sph8
— Rain Liivoja (@RainLiivoja) September 17, 2019
“As staff committed to diversity and inclusion, we want to affirm our support to transgender and gender diverse students. We will use their preferred names and personal pronouns. We are here to listen,” the letter read.
The University of Queensland Law Society has also come out with a statement in support of the trans community within the school, condemning Parkinson’s comments that “are not reflective of the inclusive culture” of the school.
While the open letter from staff didn’t directly reference Parkinson’s comments, the signatories mentioned their dedication to “creating an educational environment where everyone is welcome.”
Following the open letter, Parkinson told the Guardian that he supported the statement made by his colleagues and has “a very strong commitment to diversity and inclusion within the law school.”
“It does not matter in the slightest what someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity is either for the study or practice of law. As law school staff, we are unanimous in that view, and it is the clear policy of the university.”
I’m not entirely sure how you can be committed to inclusivity and diversity while also blatantly choosing not to support trans students preferred pronouns and gender identification.
Remember folks, your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.