The University of Melbourne said they have counselled one of their academics over a ‘transphobic’ post on social media on Transgender Day of Visibility.

Trigger Warning: This story has details of a transphobic post, which might be distressing to some readers. For 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

Faculty of Arts Associate professor Holly Lawford-Smith on March 31, had posted a photo of a trans pride flag painted on the premises of the University in a Facebook group. The post said, “every entrance to unimelb today” and was accompanied by vomit emojis.

Australian drag performer Pauline Pantsdown was the first to call out the post. “Amazed that The University of Melbourne is fine with an Assoc. Prof posting vomit emojis about the existence of some students. Her research focused on climate ethics when hired; in 2018 became radicalised into anti-transgender activism & took over a feminism course. Zero priority for student safety.” 

No Place For Disrespectful Comments

The University responded to the post saying that Lawford-Smith’s post ‘runs counter to the views and the values of the University of Melbourne. The author has been counselled and has subsequently edited the post to remove the offensive content.”

“We are firm in our commitment to celebrating Transgender Day of Visibility, and to ensuring that all staff and students are welcome members of our University community. While we recognise individuals will hold different opinions on matters of sex and gender identity, how those opinions are expressed is important,” the University said. 

“There is no place for disrespectful comments or behaviour towards individuals or particular groups on University of Melbourne campuses or in the broader community,” they added. 

Students Had Protested Against Transphobic Website

University of Melbourne students protest transphobia in March 2021. Image supplied.

This is not the first time that Lawford-Smith has been called out for her attacks on the transgender and gender diverse community. Last year in March, students and other staff at the University protested against a website set up by Lawford-Smith that called on cis women to detail their “negative experiences” especially with trans women. The website mostly consisted of anonymous posts by women who claimed they feel “violated” by trans people.

“The actions of this staff member contribute to an atmosphere of transphobia on campus and in wider society. By deliberately framing trans women as a threat to cis women, the website established by this staff member demonstrates poor research ethics, contrary to the research ethos of the university. It deliberately pushes a harmful ideology not supported by scholarship or ethical research practice,” an open letter addressed to the university had said. 

The letter also pointed out that Lawford-Smith was running a winter course titled “Feminism” at the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, despite the fact that her expertise was not in gender-related studies.


If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.




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