Students revolt after lecturer signs up for ‘unscientific and dangerous’ gay conversion therapy forum
Students are revolting at an Australian university after a lecturer signed up to be a panellist at a “unscientific and dangerous” gay conversion therapy forum.
Dr Caroline Norma is a lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at the technology and design-focused RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.
She has signed up to be a panellist for an online forum on a potential conversion therapy ban in the state of Victoria, organised by the homophobic, transphobic and anti-abortion group Australian Christian Lobby (ACL).
According to ACL: “This online forum will explore the major concerns around the proposed ban, and the actions we can take in the meantime.”
ACL has relentlessly campaigned again LGBT+ rights.
In a 2014 Facebook post, the group said that “legalising same-sex marriage will have major consequences, as we have observed overseas, for the moral education of children and for freedom of thought, conscience and religion”.
Arguing against LGBT-inclusive sex education programmes in schools, the group said: “If sexual minorities are marginalised by heteronormativity, it can equally be said that heterosexuality is marginalised by the ‘homonormativity’ or ‘transnormativity’ promoted by queer theory.”
Martyn Iles, the group’s director who raised funds for disgraced homophobic rugby player Israel Folau, recently wrote on the proposed conversion therapy ban in Victoria: “The real objective with all of this is a thought-policing exercise.
“Aggressive proponents of these laws take issue with certain fundamentals of the Christian faith.
“To name a few: sin, judgment, righteousness, conversion, sanctification, holiness, sexual morality.
“They believe that the existence of these ideas is oppression…We, who believe in the death of the self which is corrupted by sin, and the pursuit of Christ in His transcendent goodness, and the converting power of God which makes it possible, were always going to be the biggest and most offensive enemy in such a worldview.”
According to Pedestrian, on the lecturer’s appearance on the pro-conversion therapy panel, the RMIT University Student Union’s Queer Department said in a statement: “This online event poses a very serious risk to the well-being of the LGBTQIA+ students and staff across Victoria.
“RMIT carries huge a responsibility for the well-being and safety of everyone across campus, especially staff and students that identity as LGBTQIA+, queer or questioning.
“RMIT should also hold accountable the actions of students and staff that are representing the university.
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“The participation of Dr Caroline Norma in this panel as a representative of RMIT University directly contradicts the RMIT’s Diverse Genders, Sexes, and Sexualities Action Plan.”
On RMIT StalkerSpace, an unofficial group to discuss student life, students have been expressing their outrage over Norma’s place on the panel.
One student wrote: “I’m taking a science degree at a scientific institution, having lecturers peddling mysticism devalues the scientific integrity of the degree I’m paying for.”
Another said: “It makes me embarrassed to be part of the same school as someone who believes that, and if they were a lecturer or tutor or even associated around me I would definitely feel quite unsafe.”
Any attempt at changing an LGBT+ person’s gender identity or sexual orientation can have a devastating impact on their mental health.
A UK survey conducted last year found that one in five people who had been through conversion therapy later attempted suicide.