Stephen Bates: Brisbane MP breaks down in powerful first speech about growing up gay

Powerful moment gay politician, 29, who went from Apple store worker on the minimum wage to $200k MP after innovative Grindr campaign breaks down in his first speech to Parliament over his struggle to come out

  • The newly-elected member for Brisbane broke down as he made his first speech
  • In the address, Stephen Bates talked of the two things that shaped his politics
  • The touching speech received a standing ovation and set Mr Bates’ agenda 
  • ‘I made a promise…that I would be that person that I never saw growing up’

A newly-elected federal MP gave an emotional insight into his struggle to come out as gay in his first speech to Parliament, revealing how he spent years trying to hide who he really was. 

Stephen Bates, MP for Brisbane, teared up on Tuesday as he vowed to serve his new electorate, as one of a handful of new Greens MPs elected to the House of Representatives at the election in May. 

In a speech where he called for action on climate change, mental health and economic equality, Mr Bates said he had been shaped by two pivotal moments in his life, those being slogging through minimum wage jobs and figuring out his sexual identity.

Mr Bates, 29, said he knew he was gay as a teenager but ‘did everything in (his) power to hide it’. 

The newly-elected Greens member for Brisbane, Stephen Bates (pictured right, with Larissa Waters left) spoke of the two things that shaped his politics and who he is, his sexual identity and career in minimum wage work

The newly-elected Greens member for Brisbane, Stephen Bates (pictured right, with Larissa Waters left) spoke of the two things that shaped his politics and who he is, his sexual identity and career in minimum wage work

‘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.’

He then choked up, struggling to contain his emotions.

‘I was lucky enough to have a very supportive – sorry,’ he said, wiping at his eye, ‘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 – this is so much harder than I thought it would be.’

Mr Bates took to his maiden speech with a rainbow-winged Ibis attached to his lapel (pictured) as he vowed to look after the interests of Brisbane, the young, and the queer community

Mr Bates took to his maiden speech with a rainbow-winged Ibis attached to his lapel (pictured) as he vowed to look after the interests of Brisbane, the young, and the queer community

Mr Bates said he knew he was gay when he was a teenager but 'did everything in (his) power to hide it', and would make sure he was openly gay if he made it to public office for other young people

 Mr Bates said he knew he was gay when he was a teenager but ‘did everything in (his) power to hide it’, and would make sure he was openly gay if he made it to public office for other young people

‘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.’

Mr Bates then talked of an email he received during his campaign from a mother whose 14-year-old son had wanted to donate his pocket money to Mr Bates’s campaign after reading the MP’s partner’s name – Scott – in a flyer. 

‘Her 14-year-old son just 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. Because if you cannot see it you cannot be it.’

Mr Bates (pictured right) said in fighting for gay rights 'It is not enough to wave a rainbow flag when it is politically convenient, our community deserves tangible legislation that protects us from discrimination'

Mr Bates (pictured right) said in fighting for gay rights ‘It is not enough to wave a rainbow flag when it is politically convenient, our community deserves tangible legislation that protects us from discrimination’

‘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,’ Mr Bates said.

Mr Bates also talked about the importance he placed on mental healthcare and promoting the voices of young people in parliament.

‘This election has shown that people in this country are done with the status quo.’

Mr Bates is the first Greens member ever elected for the seat of Brisbane.

The MP made a subtle nod to his home city – where Ibises are prevalent – and his sexuality with a rainbow-winged Ibis adorning his lapel. 

Greens leader Adam Bandt hugged Mr Bates, who received a standing ovation from the crossbench at the end of the speech. 

Independent MP Zoe Daniels then also embraced the teared-up MP. 

Social media was filled with plaudits for the newly-minted pollie.

‘Bravo to our youngest Fed MP Stephen Bates. He said “he knew he was gay but did everything to hide it” Your maiden speech would have reached out to many — well done and all the best,’ one wrote.

‘Bless your heart, Stephen Bates,’ wrote another.

‘Stephen Bates is my new MP. His predecessor Trevor Evans is also openly gay. Stephen’s speech was very raw and beautiful,’ said another post.

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