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University Dean Compares Transgender Youth To Overweight People

Dozens of law academics from a Queensland university have publicly showed their support for transgender students after the head of their department argued against accepting a child's wish to transition.

Professor Patrick Parkinson, head of the University of Queensland's TC Beirne School of Law, last week delivered a paper to a religious conference in Sydney where he compared transgender people to overweight people.

The organisation, 'Freedom for Faith', is a Christian legal thinktank which he also chairs.

Presenting the paper, 'Is Gender Identity Discrimination a Religious Freedom Issue?,' Parkinson argued religious schools should be free to not accept the "new" gender identity of a child who wishes to transition.

He said affirming a child's request to "change gender identification" at school amounted to affirming an "overweight" image of a teenage girl with an eating disorder.

Photo: Getty

“[A] crisis of conscience may arise from a genuine belief that it is not in the best interests of the child or young person to affirm his or her transgender identification, any more than it would be in the best interests of an adolescent girl with an eating disorder to affirm her body image as overweight,” Parkinson said.

The Christian academic also argued for "clarification" of the terms of legislation to prevent discrimination on the basis of religion, that was released by the federal government last month.

The  Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter has asked the Australian Law Reform Commission to review the draft 'Religious Discrimination Bill', which will be presented to federal parliament in October.

READ MORE: Religious Freedom Review Unlocks Horrible Memories For Former Students 

In his presentation, Parkinson argued the legislation should be clarified to ensure religious schools can offer their services on the basis of biological sex rather than gender identity.

“Sex, or what it means to be male or female, needs to be defined in terms of reproductive function while gender identity can be defined in terms of subjective belief,” he said.

‘‘Such clarification in the law would go a long way to resolving the dilemmas now being created by laws which base changes to gender identity on nothing more than self-declaration.”

Following the Dean's comments, at least 37 staff from the TC Beirne School of Law have signed an open letter offering their support to the transgender and gender diverse students.

"TC Beirne School of Law is home to a large number of staff who continually strive to foster an inclusive community for all students, including LGBTIAQ+ students," the letter, posted on Twitter by several staff members, reads.

Some of the co-signatories are also members of the UQ Alley Network -- a group of staff who work to create a welcoming and inclusive space for LGBTIAQ+ students at the university.

"As staff committed to diversity and inclusion, we want to affirm our support to transgender and gender diverse students," it said.

"We will use their preferred names and personal pronouns. We are here to listen."

The public statement does not specifically refer to Parkinson's comments, instead committing to continually cultivating an "open and welcoming environment" for the LGBTIAQ+ community within the Law School.

The University of Queensland Law Society also released a statement rejecting the sentiment expressed by Parkinson, saying his comments "are not reflective of the inclusive culture fostered among law students".

“We acknowledge the concerns raised by students and staff regarding the comments,” the society said.

“The [law society] rejects the sentiment expressed and recognises that these statements do not reflect the lived experiences of transgender people, as well as those transitioning or who identify as gender fluid or non-binary.”

A University spokesperson told 10 daily while academic freedom and the freedom of individuals to express their views is a "tenet" of UQ, "these views do not always represent the University's position".

"One of UQ’s key values is to create and promote a diverse and inclusive community, and an environment in which our people feel empowered and supported," the spokesperson said in a statement.

Parkinson was also contacted, who after speaking with Guardian Australia, said he has no further comment.

Contact the author ebrancatisano@networkten.com.au