Stephen Bates, a newly-elected gay lawmaker in Australia, gave his first official speech to Parliament in Canberra yesterday. He had to work hard to hold back the tears.
In May, Bates, 29, stood and won in federal elections in Brisbane. He’s a member of the Greens.
Bates’ campaign made headlines for using Grindr to push humorous ads to local gay men, encouraging them to help him come out “top” in the election.
Bates defeated Liberal-National Party incumbent Trevor Evans with 53.5 percent of the vote.
This week, he made his first official speech as an MP. It proved an emotional moment for the former Apple store worker. Besides talking about climate change and mental health, he spoke of his own struggles to come out.
He said he knew he was gay as a teenager but “did everything in (his) power to hide it.”
“I told myself I would force myself to get married to a woman, have kids and live in the suburbs,” he said.
“Because that is what you did, that is what you had to do, that is what was expected of me.”
You can watch below from the 7.15 mark.
Stephen Bates: “I spent years hiding myself”
Bates became emotional as he recalled the love and support of his family.
“I was lucky enough to have a very supportive …” he said, struggling to hold back a tear before continuing. “… To have a very supportive family to come out to.
“But I spent years hiding myself because I could not see anyone in my world who was openly gay.
He takes a moment to compose himself, telling his fellow MPs, “This is so much harder than I thought it would be.”
He continued, “I made a promise to myself once I came out that if I ever found myself in a public role, that I would be open and proud of who I am.
“That I would be that person that I never saw growing up, because if I can help even one person out there then my life will have been worth it.”
He then spoke of how mentioning his partner, Scott, in his campaign materials had prompted a letter from a mom. She said that her 14-year-old son had read his leaflet and asked to donate his pocket money to Bates’ campaign.
“When she asked him ‘why?’ he said he had read the letter and wanted me to win. Because if you cannot see it you cannot be it.
“It is not enough to wave a rainbow flag when it is politically convenient. Our community deserves tangible legislation that protects us from discrimination and empowers us to be who we are,” he said.
Bates wore a rainbow-winged Ibis on his lapel. The birds are a common sight in Brisbane.
After his speech, he received a standing ovation from other lawmakers and a hug from Greens leader Adam Bandt.
In case you missed it: Greens MP Stephen Bates has made an emotional maiden speech during which he shared his challenges around coming out. He highlighted the importance of LGBTIQ+ representation.
— SBS News (@SBSNews) July 28, 2022
An honour to have given my first speech to the House of Representatives today.
We need action on climate, housing affordability, mental health, and economic equality.
It is a privilege to be the Member for Brisbane. pic.twitter.com/n7iLtTYlRz
— Stephen Bates (@stephenbatesmp) July 27, 2022