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“I’m gay.” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson Comes Out of the Closet
(Blogmensgo, gay blog of August 21, 2019) Jim Watson revealed his homosexuality in a moving article in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper on August 17, 2019, the day before Capital Pride, the official Gay Pride in the Canadian capital. After Bertrand Delanoë in Paris and Klaus Wowereit in Berlin, the mayor of Ottawa is now the third mayor of a large western capital to make his homosexuality public during his term of office. Jim Watson has been Mayor of Ottawa since December 2010. Prior to that, he was City Councilor from 1991 to 1997 and Mayor of Ottawa from 1997 to 2000, before the city area was significantly expanded.
Jim Watson, here with a lamb during an event. (jimwatsonottawa.ca)
Jim Watson revealed his homosexuality two weeks after his 58th birthday and after almost three decades in politics. “Looking back, it was a big mistake not to come out earlier,” he admits in an open letter to his fellow citizens. Even if coming out in the 1970s would have been more or less suicidal for a rather shy, lonely teenager, he admits.
He already knew as a teenager that he was gay, but neither in high school, nor in college, nor during his professional life did he manage to come out. Jim Watson tells an anecdote from 2003, when a homophobic interviewer asked him during a debate whether he was gay. His campaign opponent (Marlene Rivier) inadvertently saved him because she said this kind of question did not fit into the campaign.
Jim Watson has revealed his homosexuality over the years only to two gay friends, but not to his family or other friends who he thinks may have suspected it anyway. He then needed several more years of inner struggle before he could finally make his secret public.
Two homophobic incidents then made him come out because they made him realize that he would be more useful to society after standing by his homosexuality. In 2014, Watson was outraged by the homophobic atmosphere at the Olympic Games in Russia and therefore had a rainbow flag hoisted on the gable of the city hall. And in 2017, when a man of about his age advised him not to march with the Ottawa Gay Pride, he replied that he had already done so and would continue to do so.
Jim Watson’s speech before the hoisting of the rainbow flag on August 19, 2019 received a great response.
The official Parade 2019 is scheduled for 25 August, and there is no doubt that Jim Watson deserves a very special place there – in the march, but also for himself and his voters.
On August 19, 2019, Jim Watson officially hoisted the rainbow flag at Ottawa Gay Pride. His Facebook page explains the importance of this event:
Today‘s annual Capital Pride • Fierté dans la Capitale flag raising event was particularly special and important to me.
The mayor of Ottawa closes his open letter with an advice to all the gays who are still hiding:
Don’t feel pressured or rushed to come out, but don’t wait 40 years either.
The Mayor of Ottawa cited the political courage of Svend Robinson, who had already come out in the 1980s, as one of his sources of inspiration. The former deputy, who has since retired from politics, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed Jim Watson’s initiative.
Here, Mayor Jim Watson marching at the Ottawa Capital Pride in 2018. He appears at 2:21, with his rainbow chain and accompanied by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
By the way, on the very same day (August 19, 2019) that Jim Watson hoisted the rainbow flag, unknown persons sprayed homophobic graffiti in the capital city. This shows that there is still much to do even after such an important coming-out. That’s a good thing, because Jim Watson was elected to do just that – among other reasons.