Friday, 17 January 2020

Death of Wilson Gavin

I knew Wilson Gavin. He was an intelligent, engaging young man. I did not agree with many of his political views. He never seemed to me to be particularly troubled. He seemed instead to be one of those who would one day make their mark on the world. Although I did not approve of his protest, I am deeply saddened by his death. To die at the age of 21 is a tragedy- and will cause pain for those who knew and loved him for many years to come.

Wilson Gavin, 21, died on Monday from an apparent suicide. On Sunday, he led a protest by the University of Queensland LNP club at an event when drag queens read children's books to children. The event was held in a Brisbane City Council library, and had been organised by the Council. The Council is run by the LNP. Security were called to the event., as a result of the protest- to evict the protestors. The LNP said that it disassociated itself from the UQ LNP Club last year- and condemned the protest.

I want to make plain that when I found out about the protest from the media on Monday morning, I did not approve of it. The worst part of the protest was not that it was apparently homophobic (as it appeared to be) but that this protest occurred in the presence of children. It must have been truly awful for children to be watching an entertainer read a book - to suddenly see a bunch of strangers yelling and jostling, followed by TV crews. Some of these children may be affected for many years after the event.

There was a storm both in the media and on social media about Sunday's events. Some of the comments about Wilson were disgraceful, along the lines of  "oxygen thief"  and that the world was better off without him. These comments continued after his death, when the authors were well aware that Wilson had died.  To those who suggested that he should die, or similar, remember that Wilson has died- and that he has left behind grieving family members and friends. To those who posted nasty and spiteful comments - remember that your words will likely have been read by his family and friends- and caused them added pain.

In December, my husband Mitchell and our baby daughter Elizabeth were featured in a story in The Australian about our surrogacy journey. Following publication of the story, while we  received many messages of support, we also saw many comments  that were spiteful, nasty and homophobic. They made us feel terribly hurt and despondent. It was as though the authors of those comments forgot the laws of the land about defamation (Yes, Virginia,  the law of defamation applies to social media, too.), their dignity, and whatever respect they might have for others. For a couple of days, it seemed as though all the oxygen had been sucked out of the room.

I was angry about the protest. We should be celebrating our diversity and our unique talents, not condemning them. I am sure that drag queens reading children's books would be very funny and colourful entertainment to children. We should be protecting children, not traumatising them. We should be respecting the law of the land, not ignoring it.

Many years ago, my sister died by suicide. I cannot begin to describe the pain caused by her death. it remains with me now. Luckily for my mother and me, her character was not dragged through the mud immediately after her death. We were given the relative luxury of being able to grieve in private- away from the prying eyes of the media and those on social media, and without having to view many comments that said to the effect that the family member we loved should be condemned.

Wilson Gavin's family have provided a statement:


"To everyone who knew our son and brother and shared their stories of who Wilson Gavin really was – we thank you.

To those who have described Wilson as “a deeply troubled young man”, including so-called family members – with all due respect – you never knew him.
Wilson Gavin died on Monday. He was 21.

To anyone who is or was angry with Wilson – we know he regularly got the “how” wrong and occasionally got the “what” wrong. This made us angry with him too.
To the LGBTIQA+ communities and Rainbow Families Queensland – we love and support you.

To young, politically motivated people of all persuasions – we implore you to seek kind and wise mentors who will guide you, and not use you or wash their hands of you when you no longer serve their purposes.

To those who are now regretting words said or typed in anger that may have contributed to another person’s suffering – we know and share your pain all too well.

To the people impacted by our son’s decision to end his life in the way that he did – words cannot express our sorrow for you.

To the police and emergency services personnel who have treated us with such dignity and compassion, and work with this type of trauma far too often – you have our deepest respect and gratitude.
We loved Wil for his compassion and sense of justice – just some of the many things he got right.
We respected the unwavering strength of his convictions and desire to make the world better.

And we admired Wil’s drive to contribute, so often in ways not many knew about – like serving at a soup kitchen every Saturday or the year he spent teaching kids in Mongolia. He would regularly give the last note in his wallet to a homeless person on the street.

Wil worked tirelessly for causes without personal gain, gratitude, or in some cases, loyalty.

We remember him as a devoted and loving son and brother. We will love him, always and will be forever grateful he was part of our family."
For help or information, call Lifeline 13 11 14; Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800; or Beyond Blue 1300 224 636.