That’s how Ottaway mayor Jim Watson started an essay for the Ottawa Citizen published today. “There — I said it; or rather wrote it. Those two words took me almost four decades to utter, but as they say, ‘Better late than never.’”
In the heartfelt essay, the 58-year-old recounts his own journey to not only realizing his sexuality but also how that may or may not have affected his life. Starting with 7th grade “Jim Fairy” taunts, and early attractions to Rob Lowe and Brad Pitt (a man with taste we see) to homophobic incident as a politician.
“I was elected to Ottawa City council when I was 30, and for most of my public life, my sexuality was not an issue,” he wrote. “It came up just once at an all-candidates meeting.”
“I was running for the provincial legislature in 2003 and a known homophobic activist stood up and asked me if I was gay. There were jeers and shouts, and before I could answer, my NDP opponent snapped at the questioner and told them that anyone’s sexual preference had nothing to do with being a good MPP.”
“To this day, I’m not sure how I would have answered that question, but I am grateful to the NDP’s Marlene Rivier for her gutsy intervention.”
He goes on to call not coming out sooner a “big mistake on my part.”
Watson says that prior to the letter he only had come out to two gay friends and had been struggling with whether to come out publicly for years. Things that made him reconsider included how his family and friends might take the news as well as his constituents. But, he pointed to two events that tipped the scales for him.
The 2014 Olympic Games were held in Russia, and Watson tweeted that in solidarity with LGBTQ+ athletes who might be fearful of their time in the country, Ottawa would fly the Pride flag at City Hall. Someone responded “This is a stupid waste of time. You’ve lost my vote.” To which Watson said “If you have that point of view, I really don’t want your vote.” The response went viral, showing an overwhelming support for the message.
Similarly, when someone approached him saying “I hope you’re not going to march in that fag parade,” referring to the Pride Parade. To which he said “I’m looking forward to marching in the Pride Parade, and I plan on doing so again, so why don’t you join me?” before walking away.
He finishes the letter with advice for those who might be in a similar headspace as he was, unsure about coming out. “ Don’t feel pressured or rushed to come out,” he wrote. “but don’t wait 40 years either.”
Welcome to the family Mayor Jim Watson.