Jim Watson, Ottawa’s Mayor, has always been a staunch supporter of the LGBTQ+ community. From voting in favour of same-sex marriage to marching for the first time in the Pride Parade with PM Justin Trudeau. Mayor Watson has always been proud of his track record supporting the LGBTQ+ community.
This Saturday, the unexpected happened. Mayor Watson came out as gay through a written announcement in his Op-Ed in Ottawa Citizen. The announcement was released a day before the city’s Capital Pride week starts. After 40 years, the 58-year-old came out, writing that not coming out sooner was a “mistake”. However, it was “better late than never.” He wrote that he struggled for a long time about being open about his sexuality. But was also worried about the reaction of his family, friends, and colleagues.
— Jim Watson (@JimWatsonOttawa) August 17, 2019
In his op-ed titled “I’m opening the closet door”, he started-of by writing “I’m gay. There – I said it; or rather, wrote it.” Watson says that his inspiration for writing the op-ed came after the 2014 Olympic Games in Russia. It was during the Olympics when Mayor Watson raised the pride flag at city hall. It was a way of showing solidarity with athletes from the LGBTQ+ community who feared the Russian govt. view on homosexuality.
Related Topics: Recent happenings in Russia – LGBT edition
He was also convinced about his decision to come out after he was told by a man, 2 years ago, not to attend the Ottawa Pride Parade, calling it a “fag parade.”
Recalling his childhood
When in the 7th grade, Watson wrote, few older boys on his school bus always taunted him, calling him “Jim Fairy”. He added, that making friends became a tough challenge. Since he had to change 4 high schools in a span of 5 years owing to his father’s work transfers. During this time, he cannot remember meeting any openly gay student. He wrote,
“Unlike today, back when I was a teenager in the 1970s there were virtually no resources to seek for guidance or help, or just to talk.”
– As reported by the Ottawa Citizen.
He recalled that he was always “more attracted to male TV and movie stars, such as Rob Lowe and Brad Pitt, rather than Julia Roberts or Sharon Stone”. As a closeted teenager in the1970s, it was near to impossible to meet anyone else from the LGBTQ+ community. This made him “very shy and a bit of a loner, and very socially awkward”.
During his college days, Watson’s recalls how the environment at his university, Careleton, was a lot more liberal. However, he still held himself back from coming out. After he graduated, politics became his focus. His love life, on the other hand, became secondary.
“Don’t feel rushed, but don’t take 40 years either.”
Ottawa’s Mayor Watson was elected into the city’s council when he was 30 in 1991. He is a former city councillor, provincial cabinet minister and Liberal MPP. Today, he is serving his third consecutive term as Ottawa’s Mayor, after being re-elected last year, in October. During his entire political career, Watson has never felt that his sexuality was an issue. However, there was an incidence when, during an all-candidates meeting in 2003, a known homophobic activist questions Watson about his sexuality. He was running for Ontario’s legislature at that time, noted Watson.
Before this letter, Watson didn’t tell anyone about his sexuality except two of his (gay) friends. The reason to open the closeted door after 40 years is to encourage others to not make the mistake he has. His advice,
“Don’t feel pressured or rushed to come out, but don’t wait 40 years either. [He continued] My reluctance has not allowed me to live my life as full of love and adventure as my gay friends who were bolder and braver than I ever was.”
While he wrestled with the decision of coming out publicly. He saw certain openly LGBTQ officials in the political world, as positive role models. Such as former city councillor Stéphane Émard-Chabot, former Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne, and Canadian federal politician Libby Davies.
Mayor Watson’s letter receives heartwarming support:
Mayor Watson receives outpouring support for his announcement. Many politicians have taken to social media writing messages to Watson as a show of support. Prime minister Justin Trudeau tweeted,
Brave words that I’m sure will inspire Ottawans – and all Canadians – to feel free to be themselves. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Jim. https://t.co/sr6v86XFzc
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) August 17, 2019
Mayor of Edmonton, Donald L. Iveson tweeted,
Thanks for modeling real courage, Mayor Watson! Canada’s big city mayors have always been proud to serve alongside you, but today we have one more big reason. 🇨🇦🏳️🌈 https://t.co/EDMr5aIG28
— Don Iveson (@doniveson) August 17, 2019
Liber MP Rob Oliphant, an openly gay politician, also tweeted writing “I am so proud to call Jim Watson a friend. Always gracious, strong and kind”. Davy Sabourin, Chairperson of Capital Pride, said that they are happy and proud of the Mayor. He continued that Watson has set a positive message in the community that anyone “can be a politician in 2019 and be your true self”. Joel Harde, Ottawa’s MPP, praised Watson for becoming a role model for younger members of the LGBTQ community. He said,
“I think youth who are afraid to be themselves publicly, with their friends, they have another role model to look up to today and I think that’s really significant.”
-As reported by CBC
Thank you @JimWatsonOttawa for your searing and heartfelt message in today’s Ottawa Citizen. I particularly enjoyed reading about your recent interaction w a homophobic resident, and how you handled it with grace. Love is love. #Ottawa #ottnews https://t.co/LxB8OKoP63
— Joel Harden (@JoelHardenONDP) August 17, 2019
These are just some of the huge number of well-wishers who have showered Mayor Watson with praises and support. Mayor Watson became overwhelmed and is thankful for all the messages. Yesterday he tweeted,
I have been overwhelmed with so many kind and thoughtful messages over the past 12 hours. I want to apologize if I haven’t gotten back to you. I am reading all your messages and I thank you for making this day so meaningful and memorable
— Jim Watson (@JimWatsonOttawa) August 18, 2019
Source Credit: CBC, CNN, Gay Nation, Global News, Huffington Post, Ottawa Citizen, Pink News, The Globe and Mail.