A young gay conservative in Australia has died by suicide, just hours after a video of him protesting a drag queen story hour was widely circulated online.
Wilson Gavin, 21, died Monday morning in Brisbane, BuzzFeed News reports. He and other students from the University of Queensland’s Liberal National Club had disrupted the drag event at Brisbane Square Library Sunday, yelling “Drag queens are not for kids.”
Even though he was gay, Gavin was “vehemently committed to conservative causes such as the monarchy and opposition to same-sex marriage,” The Australian reports. He was active in 2017 the campaign against marriage equality; Australia’s Parliament ended up legalizing same-sex marriage late that year after the public showed support for it in a nonbinding referendum.
“I’m not a homophobe,” Gavin told Sky News in 2017. “I love gay men. You can’t call me a homophobe just because I’m opposed to same-sex marriage.”
After video of the drag queen protest went viral, Gavin and his group received much criticism on social media. The club was once affiliated with the Liberal National Party of Queensland, which despite its name is a center-right party, but party officials last month decided to revoke their endorsement of the student group.
The club had posted on its Facebook page, now taken down, that the drag event was “designed to indoctrinate and sexualise young children.” Drag queen story hours in the U.S. and elsewhere have been subjected to this inaccurate critique. The story hour in Brisbane was approved by the City Council and conducted in partnership with Rainbow Families Queensland.
The Australian, a conservative paper owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., appeared to blame Gavin’s death on the negative remarks about the protest. Its story carried the headline “Drag Queen Protester Wilson Gavin’s Suicide Exposes Horrors of Online Abuse.”
Liberal National activist Luke Barnes, who is gay, condemned the protest as “intolerance in the name of so-called conservative values,” the paper reports. He also said Gavin’s death indicated that “people need to be careful about throwing the word ‘homophobic’ or other insults around so quickly.”
Queer progressive leader Sally Rugg, meanwhile, tweeted a message of compassion for all.
If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide, Trans Lifeline can be reached at (877) 565-8860. LGBTQ youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at (866) 488-7386. You can also access chat services at TheTrevorProject.org/Help or text START to 678678. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 can be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.