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Is this anti-bullying petition Australia’s version of the Pepsi ad?

Is this anti-bullying petition Australia’s version of the Pepsi ad?

Troye Sivan in the video promoting a Change.org petition to the Australian Prime Minister. Photo: YouTube

An Australian journalist has drawn the ire of the country’s LGBTI community. Ben Grubb sent a celebrity endorsed letter and petition to the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull asking for an anti-bullying and anti-violence program to be introduced into schools.

Grubb enlisted a list of Australian celebrities – including; Troye Sivan, his mum Laurelle Mellet and Guy Pearce – to co-sign the letter. Grubb has also started a Change.org petition. At the time of writing the petition had 3282 supporters.

‘We understand and accept that programs implemented in recent history, such as Safe Schools, have become highly politicised and controversial,’ the letter reads.

‘We wish not for controversy but for a program with a goal that everyone can agree on: an end to bullying and domestic violence in Australia.

‘Make no mistake of our request: we do not seek a program that seeks approval of the way certain members of our society live. We seek only mutual respect and tolerance.’

Safe Schools was a nationally rolled out school program designed to help educate teachers and students about their LGBTI peers. Following criticism from conservative media outlets and lobby groups about Safe Schools, the federal government did not renew its funding. Safe Schools will continue with state and territory funding in Victoria, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.

Celebs jump ship

Despite Grubb’s seemingly good intentions many in Australia’s LGBTI community are not happy and some celebrities have withdrawn their support.

Comedian and radio presenter, Em Rusciano said she was told her public support was for specifically Safe Schools. And she also had never seen the accompanying letter.

Broadcast journalist Tracey Spicer has also allegedly backed away from the drama.

Kate Doak, a journalist and former Safe Schools Coalition National Steering Committee Federal Appointee said the letter showed ‘a gross misunderstanding of how the Safe Schools program has operated’.

‘By agreeing that the Safe Schools Coalition Australia program has become ‘political and controversial’, the signatories have effectively stated that… anti-Safe Schools forces were right in saying that having transgender and intersex related material within the program was a step too far,’ said

‘The signatories of this proposal must clarify why they view transgender and intersex people as being controversial.’

‘As the federal appointee to the program for both New South Wales and rural trans youth, I can say with utmost certainty that medical professionals and education experts were heavily involved in the program.’

‘Some Kendall Jenner bullshit’

A number of advocates argued that simply asking for tolerance was not the aim of promoting equality for LGBTI people.

Jacob Thomas is a Queens Young Leader recipient and international LGBTI advocate. They said the letter seemed like ‘an underwhelming and passive attempt to not make straight and cis people too uncomfortable with our existence’.

‘The idea that we as the LGBTQIA+ community are more palatable as tolerable, and should accept this, disappoints me,’ Thomas told Gay Star News.

‘This initiative, as it stands, may be helpful to some members of the community. This is more likely – not definitely, but more likely – to be toward those who can ‘pass’ by the standards of straight cis expectations of gender and sexuality.

‘Hate doesn’t magically stop coming at us because someone is more likely to endure our existence, rather than show us love and compassion.’

‘Even those who came before us, who gave their lives so we could have the respective privileges we have today, wanted more than just tolerance. We have, and will always should, fight for acceptance.’

Response to the backlash

When approached by Gay Star News for an interview, Grubb declined to comment and referred us to a response piece he published on Medium.

‘Further, I completely respect, whenever a letter is written, that not everyone is going to agree with its approach and that some will be unhappy about not being consulted,’ he wrote.

‘In relation to the letter and its wording, it is my personal belief that tolerance is the first step to acceptance. We all, of course, want acceptance and approval (I would hope) of LGBTI people.

‘After the confidential consultation with the Canberra decision-maker on what the government would potentially fund, the approach undertaken was agreed upon by a select few signatories. The agreed upon letter was then sent to other co-signers for their signatures.’

But Doak said Grubb needed to come clean on who the ‘key decision maker’ was.

‘I also encourage Mr Grubb to clarify whether or not the other signatories were aware of his political endeavours and his preference to offer a ‘compromise’ on behalf of LGBTI people,’ she said.

Laurelle Mellet also addressed the criticism online: ‘Thank you for all your feedback and comments and we are certainly taking it all onboard’.

‘It’s wonderful that we are all so passionate and concerned about such a vital matter that is so critically important to us all,’ she wrote.

‘We will continue to push for safe environments in schools and other areas. We look forward to your input and support as we move forward in the hope that things will change for the better.’