The East Gippsland town of Bairnsdale.

Community residents in the East Gippsland town of Bairnsdale have hit out at a local newspaper for publishing an editorial vilifying the LGBTI community, likening “trans-genderism” to child abuse.

The group Diversity East Gippsland was established in response to the editorial in the Bairnsdale Advertiser on Monday, July 8 titled “Our part in child abuse,” which stated that “trans-genderism” is “a subtle form of abuse that inflicts no physical wounds but attacks the minds of children”.

It blames “political correctness” for transgender issues not being included in public inquiries into child abuse.

“We have enquiries [sic] into priestly pedophiles and criminal gangs of pornographers…But sometimes a community can miss the wood of particular campaigns for the trees of pervading political correctness,” the editorial states.

The editorial goes on to condemn young boys wearing dresses and advertising depicting boys playing with dolls as examples of “gender neutrality”.

“Trans-genderism is the enemy of healthy childhood development,” the editorial goes on to claim.

“Some parents will welcome the innovation [“gender neutrality”]. Some will not. But what adults do or think hardly matters compared with the abuse of children it implies.”

The editorial follows another vitriolic piece published in February titled “A society of equals,” which called same-sex marriage “the spearhead of a broad front of manipulation that is straining the fabric of society”.

The same edition of the Bairnsdale Advertiser included an article on newcomers to the town Dr Ka Chun Tse and his partner David Elliott, who went on to establish Diversity East Gippsland.

Elliott believes the initial editorial and his identification as gay in the same edition sparked months of horrific abuse for the couple.

“Our house we’ve been building has been egged inside and out. I’ve been attacked with someone pinning me down and yelling ‘I’m gonna fucking kill you’. It’s been quite traumatic since the last episode,” Elliott told the Star Observer.

“Fortunately there are supportive people in the community and the majority are supportive, but what the editorial does is expose you to extremists. Extremists exist everywhere, but in the country they know where you live — it’s not too hard to find out.”

The Star Observer contacted the Bairnsdale Advertiser and spoke to editor Luke Robinson, who refused to comment on either the editorial or the claims made by Diversity East Gippsland. The Star Observer also attempted to contact the owner of the Bairnsdale Advertiser‘s parent company East Gippsland Newspapers Robert Donald Yeates, but was told he is out of the country for two weeks.

Despite this silence from the newspaper on the serious impact of these events Elliott hopes something positive will come out of it.

“We’ve formed the group Diversity East Gippsland in response, and we’ve been working with council on a diversity program, so there’s been some positives that have come out of it,” said Elliott.

“It’s really odd because this area is quite progressive. The Anglican Bishop John McIntyre supports marriage equality and changing the Equal Opportunity Act to remove religious exemptions for discrimination, the Uniting Church has a number of LGBTI youth programs, so actually in a number of respects the paper is completely out of step with the community.”

Elliott also said they have received support from local State MP Tim Bull and from local councillors who have asked what they can do to help.

“We don’t really want to be activists in our town but we were sort of forced to be,” Elliott said.

Elliott urged people to sign a petition to stop further editorials by the Bairnsdale Advertiser vilifying the LGBTI community, and encouraged concerned community members to contact the newspaper directly to voice their concerns.

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