A newly elected gay politician in Australia has moved many with a heartfelt speech about what it means to him to be representing his country as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
Stephen Bates, a member of Australia's Green Party, was recently elected to represent Brisbane in the country's capital of Canberra.
In his first speech as a Member of Parliament, Bates spoke of his struggles earlier in life as a gay man and what his victory means to him and other LGBTQ+ people. See his comments below.
Bates said that he knew he was gay early in life but did everything he could to hide it. He told Parliament:
“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.”
He added that while his family has always been supportive of him, the absence of any LGBTQ+ role models in his life kept him from feeling safe to come out. As he struggled to speak through tears, he went on to say:
"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.”
Bates underlined the importance of representation by sharing a letter he received from a mother of a teenager who saw Bates' campaign materials and wanted to donate to his campaign, "because if you cannot see it, you cannot be it."
The speech inspired a standing ovation from many of Bates' new colleagues in Parliament and an outpouring of support on Twitter.
On his campaign website, Bates said his decision to run was also inspired by having lived in the United States for a time, where he "experienced the consequences of a government that legislates people into poverty" and met a woman crying over whether to pay her rent or pay for her insulin.