A university student in Australia has committed suicide after receiving backlash over his protesting a drag queen reading event for young children supported by a local library.
Wilson Gavin, a self-described “gay conservative” who actively campaigned against same-sex marriage, took his own life Monday morning after footage of the protest went viral on social media. The protest sparked harsh comments on social media and a rebuke from figures in the Liberal National Party.
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The outspoken 21-year-old, who was president of the University of Queensland’s Liberal National Club (UQLNC), was part of a protest group that confronted those involved in a ‘Drag Queen Story Time‘ event at a Brisbane library on Friday. Gavin chanted, “Drag queens are not for kids” in a video that spread widely on social media.
In a post on the now-deleted Facebook page, club members explained their motivations behind the protest.
“Today the UQLNC took a stand to defend LNP values against a corrosive gender ideology,” the post said. “After a ratepayer-funded Drag Queen Story Hour finished this Sunday, we decided to make a public demonstration against the Brisbane City Council endorsing it.
“We stayed outside the room in which it was being held—waited until the event was over to make our point—did not respond to the insults which were hurled at us, and left when directed by security.”
The event, where drag queens lead children and their families in song, dance, reading, and craft classes, was hosted by Brisbane City Council in partnership with LGBTQIA advocacy group Rainbow Families Queensland.
Before news of the suicide broke, the club’s Facebook page was overrun with comments from people condemning the protest, and the video on social media of Gavin and others caught the attention of federal MPs and pop stars who also condemned the protest.
Queensland’s Liberal National Party distanced itself from the actions of the protesters, saying that the behavior did not represent party values and that the university club had been disaffiliated last month.
After reports of Gavin’s suicide, Queensland Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said in a press conference on Monday that the party would not be commenting at this time out of respect for the family.
“In relation to the unconfirmed reports relating to a young man, out of respect for the family, I won’t be making any comments on this matter,” she said. “I think today is a day to think about a bit of compassion and respect for people.”
Rainbow Families Queensland released a statement saying, “Rainbow Families Queensland were informed earlier today that the leader of yesterday’s drag Storytime protest took his own life this morning.
“We are deeply saddened by this news and extend our sympathies to his family.”
One of the drag queens at the event told the ABC they were “deeply saddened from the news.”
“I’d really like to give my condolences and sympathy to the family and friends,” Diamond Good-Rim said. “The support that I have received today on social media has been phenomenal, and I thank everyone for their support and kind words.”
A spokesperson for UQ said that it was providing support to students and staff impacted by the tragic events.
“The university understands that the events of the past two days are very distressing for many people,” the spokesperson said.
“Mutual respect and diversity are core values of the university, and we hope that everyone shows consideration for those affected during the difficult days ahead.”
Fellow UQ student and friend Drew Pavlou posted on social media that Gavin “was at his core a very decent and kind person that cared for others.”
“He had his struggles and made mistakes, and it is a tragedy for us all that he ultimately succumbed to his suffering and pain.
“Today is a reminder of all we must do to affirm to young marginalized Australians the intrinsic worth and value of their lives.”
The Australian Associated Press contributed to this report.