Labor MP Stephen Jones has delivered a powerful speech revealing how the suicide of his gay nephew has shaped his views.
Labor MP Stephen Jones has delivered a powerful speech revealing how the suicide of his gay nephew and his own high-heel wearing son had shaped his views on why the government’s proposed religious discrimination laws are harmful.
Under the changes the Prime Minister Scott Morrison is proposing it would be illegal to expel gay students from school.
However, schools would be able to expel a transgender student on the grounds that banning such expulsions might challenge the ethos of religious single-sex schools.
Mr Jones revealed that while he supported religious freedom, he feared for the impact on his loved ones including his own 14 year-old son.
“He wears heels that give me vertigo and has more handbags than his sister,” he said.
“He has more courage than any boy I have met. He swims against the tide.
“I know that the love and protection that he enjoys with his mother, with his friends and family is very different to the reception he may receive in the world outside.
“Could this be the day when we get a call telling us that something has happened? That he has been attacked just for being who he is?”
Mr Jones said that the recent death of his gay nephew had reminded him that sometimes even a family’s love is not enough to protect gay, lesbian and trans people if the wold around them is judgmental and hostile.
“He was uncertain about his gender and struggled with his mental health. Now he is gone,” Mr Jones told parliament.
“Clearly the love and acceptance of his family and friends was not enough.”
Mr Jones said the Prime Minister should take a walk in the “heels” of others.
“I’d ask the Prime Minister and every other member in this place to put themselves in the shoes of the parents or the heels of their kids as they step out in public,’’ he said.
“Being an Aussie is much more than punting on the Melbourne Cup and shouting ‘Go Saints’ or ‘Go Sharkies’.
“It’s a bloody diverse place, it’s black, it’s white, it’s brown, it prays in a church, in a mosque, it prays in a shrine, in a synagogue, in a hall, or on a surfboard just behind the breaks.
“It’s men, it’s women, it’s straight, it’s gay, it’s trans, it’s intersex – it’s our whole bloody lot.
“We are the Australia of Storm Boy, of Breaker Morant, of Puberty Blues and yes, of Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
“It’s not easy crafting a national story that includes all of us, but that’s our damned job and the national story must have a place for all of us and all of our kids – how we imagine them but more importantly how they are.”
The Prime Minister is facing rebellion in his own ranks over the changes with Liberal MP Bridget Archer describing the allowance of the expulsion of trans students cruel.
“After so much progress how did we get back to a place where we ignore the harm we place on children when we tell them they are ‘other’, ‘less than’ and do not deserve rights and protections afforded to others – I fear it may risk lives,” Ms Archer said.