Brisbane Greens MP Stephen Bates has become emotional while reflecting on coming out as gay in his maiden speech to federal parliament.
The 47th parliament opened on Tuesday (July 26). The first of its new MPs have started delivering their maiden speeches this week.
Stephen Bates was elected the member for Brisbane in the May federal election. He won the seat from Liberal incumbent Trevor Evans.
Last month, the Greens MP took over as his party’s LGBTIQA+ spokesperson.
‘I made a promise to myself after I came out’
In his maiden speech to parliament on Wednesday, Stephen Bates spoke on wage inequality, housing, healthcare, Brisbane’s arts community and Australia’s “mental health crisis”.
And while reflecting on coming out as gay in his speech, the 29-year-old teared up.
The former retail worker told the parliament, “There have been two pivotal moments for me that have shaped who I am and my politics: my experiences of working poverty-wage jobs, and my coming out as gay.
“Both impacted me deeply and forever changed how I saw the world.”
Bates went on, “I spent my teenage years knowing I was gay and doing everything in my power to hide it.
“I told myself I would force myself to get married to a woman, have kids, and live in the suburbs.
“Because that is what you did. That is what you had to do. That is what was expected of me.
“I was lucky enough to have a very supportive family to come out to.
“But I spent years hiding myself because I couldn’t see anyone in my world that was openly gay.
“I made a promise to myself once I came out. If I ever found myself in a public role, that I would be open and proud of who I am – hence the rainbow gear,” he said, referring to his rainbow “bin chicken” ibis badge on his chest, and rainbow watch strap.
He continued, “That I would be that person that I never saw growing up.
“Because if I can even help one person out there then this life will have all been worth it.”
Stephen Bates recalled an email he’d received during the campaign from a mother in his electorate.
“A letter from me in her mailbox just happened to mention my partner Scott’s name,” he said.
“Her fourteen year old son wanted to donate some of his pocket money to our campaign. When she asked him why, he said he had read the letter and wanted me to win.
“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.”
Stephen Bates joins other new MPs giving maiden speeches
In the wake of the federal election in May, the 47th parliament is the most diverse in Australia’s history.
Among them was Labor MP Sally Sitou who in her maiden speech on Tuesday applauded the diversity of elected MPs as “truly representing” Australia’s multicultural makeup.
Sitou is the daughter of parents of Chinese background who were born and raised in Laos, fleeing during the Vietnam war and taking refuge in Australia.
The MP said increased representation in parliament was progress towards better reflecting the country.
“As I look around our House of Representatives today, it feels like finally it’s starting to live up to its name,” she said.
“A house made up of people who truly reflect and represent their communities.”
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