Friends of young right-wing leader Wilson Gavin have shared their memories of the late University of Queensland Liberal National Club president, with a fellow student politician saying the conservative activist was “a very decent and kind person” who “had his struggles and made mistakes”.
Gavin made headlines on Sunday for leading a protest against a drag queen storytelling event at Brisbane Square Library.
The protest garnered a significant backlash from LGBTQIA+ advocates and politicians alike, who denied Gavin’s accusations the council-sanctioned event was inappropriate for children.
Gavin died on Sunday morning. It is understood he took his own life.
Taking to Twitter yesterday evening, fellow University of Queensland senator Drew Pavlou said despite “social media storms and headlines,” his friend was “at his core a very decent and kind person that cared for others.
“I had the great privilege of seeing that side of him in life. He was hilarious, a complete riot to be around.”
It was a “tragedy” that Gavin, an openly gay man, “ultimately succumbed to his suffering and pain,” Pavlou said.
“Today is a reminder of all we must do to affirm to young marginalized Australians the intrinsic worth and value of their lives”.
He made some horrible mistakes, but the Wilson Gavin I knew and loved was the daredevil that out of love for the cause of Taiwanese democracy scaled the heights of UQ, broke into the roof, and hoisted a Taiwanese flag to annoy the CCP. Rest in peace you crazy magnificent bastard pic.twitter.com/ELzNsYS0oQ— Drew Pavlou (@DrewPavlou) January 13, 2020
Conservative blogger Dave Pellowe, who interviewed Gavin in 2017 regarding his opposition to the legalisation of same-sex marriage, remembered him as “a hero who refused to be bullied into silence by the angry mob or to fear the personal cost of living out his convictions.”
The Australian Monarchist League, of which Gavin was a member, said the late Queensland branch leader “will always be admired for how he stood by his values and beliefs. Anyone in today’s world who has the courage to stand by their convictions must be applauded.”
“He leaves behind large shoes to fill,” the organisation added.
In a statement, Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said he was “deeply saddened” by the news, adding “Let’s all do our best to ensure something positive comes from this tragedy.”
Rainbow Families Queensland, which organised the drag storytelling event, addressed the complexity of how Gavin’s sexuality intersected with his beliefs.
“We are deeply saddened by this news and extend our sympathies to his family,” the organisation said on Facebook.
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.
Separately, the drag performers targeted by Sunday’s demonstration have expressed their grief at Gavin’s death. The Facebook page for queen Diamond Good-Rim said their “thoughts and deep condolences are with his family and friends at this tragic time.”
Johnny Valkyrie, who performs as Queeny, yesterday said their “heart is breaking for the family, friends and community affected by the passing of Wilson Gavin.”
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