One of the heads of the Australian Christian Lobby has come under fire from the child of a same-sex couple for his unwillingness to accept the legitimacy of her circumstances and that of other LGBTI community members.
On ABC’s Q&A program on Monday night, audience member Georgia Weymouth-Large expressed concern about the harm her same-sex parented family might experience during a fierce debate over gay marriage.
When managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby Lyle Shelton appeared to link the Stolen Generation tragedies to children adopted by same-sex couples, Ms Weymouth-Large and many in the audience took exception to the comments.
“What you are saying right now is quite offensive to me and to my family,” she said. “My parents are here. They are watching this.”
Mr Shelton’s initial comment was: “We did take indigenous children and babies from their mothers and give them to loving families but the error we apologised for was for taking them from their biological mother and father.
“Through assisted reproductive technology, we are taking the child from their biological father or their mother and giving them to someone else,” he said.
Same-sex parent and former president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Kerryn Phelps, joined the questioner in denouncing Mr Shelton’s comments.
“I am married in the US, it is not recognised in Australia yet, I have three children, it is none of your business how they came about, frankly,” Dr Phelps said.
Earlier, Mr Shelton and one of the writers of the controversial Safe Schools LGBTI anti-bullying program — which caused a storm of controversy in parliament this week — went head-to-head on the panel discussion show, debating the aims and outcomes of the program.
Responding to a question from a mother who pulled her child out of a school teaching the Safe Schools program, Mr Shelton spoke of his opposition to the scheme, which encourages children to empathise with transgender students.
“This is taking kids on a trajectory that may cause them to want to take radical action such as gender reassignment surgery,” Mr Shelton said.
“I’m very concerned that we are encouraging young people to do things to their bodies … this encourages practices to kids’ bodies like chest binding for young girls to compress their breast tissue, penis tucking.”
High school teacher and one of the Safe School writers, Christopher Bush, appeared furious at the view put forward by Mr Shelton.
“Ignoring the existence of transgender or gay kids is not going to solve the problem. We can dispute theories from many years ago but the reality is these kids exist in our schools today and we need to help them,” Mr Bush said.
Former speaker of the House of Representatives Anna Burke and outgoing Liberal MP Bruce Billson both backed the implementation of the Safe Schools program, which is currently under review.
“We trust teachers to navigate the tasks,” Mr Billson said.
“We worked with the people who wrote the Australian curriculum to ensure that was mapped to year 7 and 8 accurately. We have done that.”
Ms Burke said: “Unless we allow our children to know that there are people out there that identify differently and unless we knock out the prejudices, then the other children are going to feel exposed.”
Watch Mr Shelton speak on LGBTI families below:
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) February 29, 2016
‘How do I help my trans son?’
Same-sex marriage and the issues facing LGBTI families overwhelmingly dominated discussion on the night.
Another mother, coming from a very different perspective than the first, then got her say.
Belinda James spoke about her seven-year-old son who was currently going through a gender transition.
She worried that there were not enough measures in place to help her child through that development and asked the panel what she should do to aid her son.
Mr Shelton seemed to suggest avoiding a change.
“The studies show if no intervention is taken 80 per cent of young people by puberty stick with the gender, their biological gender,” he answered.
He then went on to quote research which claimed that people who go through with gender changes are more likely to commit suicide in the time after the change.
Both his answers attracted jeers from the audience.
Ms Burke explained how the Safe Schools program was an attempt to answer Ms James’ concerns.
“That’s literally why this program was introduced so that there was something out there that people could use because most of teachers were saying, ‘We don’t know how to deal with this’.