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Madonna King: Unwelcome import sows division in complex debate

British activist Kellie-Jay Keen said Pesutto's apology is 'an amazing step' for Australian women

British activist Kellie-Jay Keen said Pesutto's apology is 'an amazing step' for Australian women Photo: AAP

Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, also known as Posie Parker, and Senator Lidia Thorpe might appear to have nothing in common.

But their attention-seeking, hold-no-prisoners’ approach, and their blatant disregard for others overshadows the advocacy they adopt to win supporters.

Thorpe is entitled to feel upset, even outraged, at Keen’s views. We all should be. But Thursday’s stunt by Thorpe showed – just like Keen – that she has little regard for anyone else, or a bigger picture, in her pursuit of personal publicity.

And in the process, she has perhaps even made Keen look like a victim, and lent support to the bigoted views of those who attack anyone who questions their own gender.

That’s enough on Thorpe, because this column shouldn’t be about her show-off antics. Its rightful focus is the blinkered, fanatical and illiberal views of someone who has arrived on our shores, to spread hate.

And Keen is doing it with remarkable success.

Is this the nation we want? A country where 30 men, from the Nationalist Socialist Network, march down a street in Melbourne performing the Nazi salute?

A nation where rallies are held to incite hatred and division and to attack specific law-abiding minorities?

A nation where some teenagers and young adults are attacked because they are struggling, particularly in the aftermath of COVID, to find themselves, and are genuinely questioning their gender?

I’m not sure whether Keen should even have been welcomed into our country; a nation where we are working so hard to build unity and to provide a voice for those who are too often muted.

And certainly, New Zealand’s decision to allow her to cross the ocean next week and spread the hatred that sits alongside her message is disappointing.

Of course, freedom of speech should be cherished. But so should how it is articulated, and the impact of the words used to convey a message.

Lidia Thorpe forced to the ground by police

The issue of transgender is difficult. As a result of books I’ve authored about teenagers, I’m frequently asked to talk to school parent communities. And this issue is raised almost every single time.

Perhaps there is a contagion around it. Psychologists also believe that teens, particularly girls, want to provide the space for their friends to make up their own minds. And only a tiny proportion of those seeking to find their identity will become transgender – but it’s a necessary journey also for some.

That’s the view of almost everyone who is educated in this area: Counsellors and psychologists, senior educators and those adults who remember, with honesty, some of their own teen struggles.

Some of our teens are proudly transgender. Some are secretly transgender. And many simply don’t know.

But our job, as adults, surely is to provide a forum where the issue is discussed respectfully, and where children and young adults feel safe.

Keen and her global rallies trample all over that. Her views are ignorant and bigoted and incite emotions that simply make it harder for those struggling to put their hand up.

She is an extremist. A show-off. And like Thorpe, her public advocacy shows little empathy for others. Notoriety wins out over any message.

It’s sad. It spreads hate. It ignores a small proportion of our young population who really need to be heard.

And if we can’t agree on that, I would be incredulous that we could join as a nation and make history with an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

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