Catherine McGregor sacked for Safe Schools criticism
The Australian, September 6, 2016
Prominent transgender advocate Catherine McGregor has been sacked from a high-profile role with human rights group Kaleidoscope Australia for speaking out against the controversial Safe Schools program.
Ms McGregor has revealed that she was removed as a patron of Kaleidoscope, a not-for-profit group that promotes the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, because of her views on the program.
Kaleidoscope, whose inaugural patron was former High Court judge Michael Kirby, is a staunch supporter of Safe Schools. Although designed to prevent homophobic bullying in schools, the program has proved divisive because of the sexualised nature of some resources and its promotion of the contested idea that gender and sexuality are fluid.
While Ms McGregor is not the only member of the LGBTI community to speak out against Safe Schools — federal Liberal MP Tim Wilson has also aired concerns, as has Victorian health advocate Rob Mitchell — she has faced a significant backlash.
Writing for Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph in May, Ms McGregor argued the program had been compromised by radical left-wing politics and was not the most effective way of supporting transgender children. She claimed the program might lead transgender youth down a “blind alley”.
The article prompted Margot Fink, a spokeswoman for the youth network Minus18 and a contributor to the Safe School’s curriculum, to accuse her of throwing Safe Schools “under the bus” to appear “more acceptable or appealing to hard-line conservatives”.
Ms McGregor, who was the world’s highest-ranking transgender military official and an Australian of the Year nominee, told The Australian she was disappointed by the reaction to her comments. It had cost her at least one speaking engagement. A Melbourne charity advised that it no longer wanted her to appear at an LGBTI event because it feared a hostile reaction.
Ms McGregor said she made no apologies for her views but she had decided to step aside from her remaining roles with LGBTI organisations, including The Pinnacle Foundation and Canberra’s SpringOUT Pride Festival.
She also has withdrawn from next year’s prestigious Joan Kirner Social Justice Oration, previously delivered by Waleed Aly and former prime minister Julia Gillard.
“I’ve always been very happy to support various causes within the LGBTI community because I truly believe that, as a transgender woman who has been able to achieve a lot in my career in the military and as a writer and broadcaster, that I can contribute a lot,” Ms McGregor said.
“But it’s quite obvious that my views are more conservative than sections of the LGBTI community are happy to accept. I’ve really just had enough.”
Kaleidoscope president Paula Gerber said Ms McGregor was invited to become a patron late last year, but the board had reconsidered the appointment after becoming aware of her comments on Safe Schools. “While she was free to hold those views, there was an incompatibility with Kaleidoscope’s own public support of the Safe Schools program, which we happen to believe is among the world’s best,” Professor Gerber said. “Cate was surprised by our decision … but she seemed to accept it with good grace.”
Denis Moriarty, organiser of the Joan Kirner Social Justice Oration, said he was saddened by Ms McGregor’s withdrawal. “As a gay person myself and a massive supporter of Safe Schools, I still think we should be proud to debate and listen to all sides,” he said. “Catherine is entitled to her views and sadly the politics of personalities has got in the way.”