On Sunday evening, a story about a protest in a Queensland library began trending on Twitter.
Footage showing a group of students interrupting a Drag Queen story time event at Brisbane Square Library and angrily chanting ‘Drag Queens are not for kids’, was being shared and condemned widely.
On Monday afternoon it was reported that one of the student politicians involved, Wilson Gavin, had died by suicide.
It is an unmitigated tragedy. There is no angle from which this series of events isn’t unbearably sad.
A statement from UQ. pic.twitter.com/eYiOZxDwLw
— UQ News (@UQ_News) January 13, 2020
Rainbow Families Queensland, who had organised the story time event, released a statement on Monday.
“Rainbow Families Queensland were informed earlier today that the leader of yesterday’s drag Storytime protest took his own life this morning,” the statement said. “We are deeply saddened by this news and extend our sympathies to his family.”
Johnny Valkyrie, whose drag persona is Queeny, and was performing at the event when the protest occurred, said his “heart goes out to the family and friends of the affected. If the family are reading this please know that I support you, and I am here to gather support and I know you are good people”.
Wilson Gavin was gay.
I don't know why he campaigned against SSM. I don't know why he was so angry at a drag queen. I don't know why he took his life.
But I wish he was still here so he could have found us all. We would love him and forgive him. We do love him and forgive him.
— Sally Rugg (@sallyrugg) January 13, 2020
The tragic death of a young man has prompted discussion around the toxicity of online abuse, as well as the importance of acceptance and compassion.
The intersection of all three cannot be ignored.
There is so much that is unknown, so much that can, and ought to be, reflected on and considered, but a few things are certain.
Storming an inclusive event for families on Sunday was not right. Every person there, adult and child, had the right to feel safe and secure. The anger and hatred in the footage felt threatening enough to watch, let alone experience.
Saying that isn’t wrong.
But, as commentator and columnist Van Badham quoted on Twitter, it “does not preclude an instinct of terrible sorrow for his pain”.
The subject of cancel culture and online abuse is relevant, as well as being circuitous in this instance: a physical pile-on triggered an online pile-on. Both were horrendously damaging.
This tragic outcome is a reminder that perhaps the most valuable gift any of us can offer ourselves, and the people around us, is compassion and acceptance.
It is difficult to envisage a situation that would be disadvantaged by taking a moment to seek to understand before being understood. By recognising we might not understand the whole picture. That not everything is as it seems. Not to excuse the inexcusable but to understand it.
If we learn nothing else from this tragedy can it be that there is no alternative to compassion?
To think, that Drag Queen Storytime is designed to combat exactly the societal stigma and sense of personal shame that could drive a young person to such lengths. What a tragedy for all concerned.
— Paul Karp (@Paul_Karp) January 13, 2020
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