Steve Stefanopoulos, the openly gay Mayor of the City of Stonnington and a two-time Councillor is looking for a third win this October in the local council elections. As Australia’s first and only same-sex married mayor, Stefanopoulos, who has lived in the inner South-east municipality all his life, has had racist, homophophobic and abusive comments lobbed at him by trolls.
“You have to have a very tough skin to be able to do this,” Stefanopoulos tells Star Observer. “Running for the local council isn’t an easy task. It is tough because you get the naysayers, the critics who just want to hammer you down.”
Stefanopoulos was elected Mayor for the first time in 2017 and was re-elected in 2018 and 2019.
“I’ve had racist and homophobic comments made against me. I have been called incompetent, a fool, poofter, a fucking wog to my face, by email and messages left on voicemail and even threatened to be run down,” says Stefanopoulos. The attacks on his race and sexuality have done little to dim his enthusiasm or his drive to push for a strategic long term vision and plan for his community.
Stefanopoulos has been outspoken about LGBTQI issues at the council. In 2017 he moved for the council to affirm its support for same sex marriages during the national marriage equality vote. In 2019, he hosted Night Of Pride, a mayoral charity fundraiser and raised over $65,000 that went to the Victorian Pride Centre. Despite receiving flak for raising funds for a facility coming up in neighbouring St Kilda, Stefanopoulos stood by his choice.
“Stonnington has one of the highest numbers of same sex couple households in Victoria and they will benefit from the Pride Centre, so will young LGBTQI, who can avail themselves of services from organisations that will be housed in the facility, including Switchboard, Minus18, and the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives,” he points out.
Stefanopoulos’ advice for other LGBTQI candidates who are standing for council elections is to have a great support network of family and friends. “You need to be able to stand up for what you believe in and say, ‘look, I am here to do something good,” he adds.