The author of a celebrity-backed petition that urged the government to implement an anti-bullying initiative to replace Safe Schools has posted an apology and retracted the campaign following widespread criticism.
Former Sydney Morning Herald/The Age Technology Editor Ben Grubb has penned a blog post on Medium, unreservedly apologising to the LGBT+ community for the “depoliticised” program that was co-signed by stars including Troye Sivan, Missy Higgins and Guy Pearce.
“One of the biggest mistakes I made—and it was made by me alone — was in the drafting of the letter, with the word “acceptance” omitted from the framework proposed for teaching, and the letter referring to not seeking seeking “approval” of the way certain members of our society live,” Grubb writes.
“Instead, the words 'tolerance' and 'mutual respect' were used.”
Grubb says he consulted an unnamed Canberra decision maker who suggested the softer wording would appeal to politicians.
“This is a decision I deeply regret and I am truly sorry for," he continues. "I am sorry to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex community, many of whom have told me that by doing this represented the letter pandering to conservative views.”
The original change.org petition—addressed to PM Malcolm Turnbull and Education Minister Simon Birmingham—was also slammed for leaving out any mention of transgender and intersex youth, and praised by the Australian Christian Lobby for the same reason.
“Some of those who identify as transgender or intersex — and their parents — also took issue with the letter referring to gay people being 14 times more at risk of committing suicide while not also referring to transgender or other LGBTI peoples’ statistics," writes Grubb.
“Another statistic, for instance, shows that 40 per cent of those who identify as transgender have attempted suicide.
“Some who identify as transgender also remarked that there were few signatures on the list from those from within the transgender and intersex communities.
“They remarked further that the group of signatories was not diverse enough, highlighting that while there were many LGBTI allies on it, there were not enough from the LGBTI community itself.”
Grubb added that a handful of people did warn him that he was approaching the issue in all the wrong ways but continued to push ahead.
“If I had my time again, I would have done things differently, chosen better words and consulted more widely with the LGBTI community on how the LGBTI youth of Australia can be helped before getting people to sign up.”
Grubb has requested that the petition be removed from the Change.org website.
You can read the full blog post here.