My parents thought I was gay.
In Seventies-era Calgary, this was a rather big deal. I had been writing pro-gay editorials in my school papers, I had been listening continuously to the Tom Robinson Band’s British hit (‘Sing If You’re Glad to be Gay’), I visited the Parkside Continental more than once, I wore black all the time, and most my friends at Bishop Carroll High School were gay, closeted or otherwise. We were the art-music-poetry-punk rock crowd, and a gayer bunch could not be found in Calgary, in those days.
Things got a bit queer, as it were, when my parents heard the first single by my band, the Hot Nasties. On the lead tune, ‘Invasion of the Tribbles,’ I hollered that I wanted to “make sweet passionate love” to someone named “Johnny.” That little bit of lyricism got the eyebrows popping around our archly-conservative Lake Bonavista neighbourhood, let me tell you.
So – to make a long story short – my parents thought I was gay. We grew up in a pretty gay-positive household, because my Dad was an immunologist, and one of the first physicians in Canada to deal with what would come to be known as AIDS and HIV. Their concern, if I can call it that, was that I would get outed, and therefore beaten up in Calgary, which – in those days – happened a lot.
I wasn’t gay, but rumours persisted throughout high school and university that I was. Back then, it was a big deal.
Nowadays, apparently, it is no longer such a big deal. Case in point: Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
During the Ontario Liberal leadership campaign, plenty of folks – and not just red-necked mouth-breathers – wondered if Wynne’s sexual orientation would hurt her when the election rolled around. The “issue” never showed up in any public opinion polling, because no reputable pollster ever asked about it, to my knowledge. But folks in all three of Ontario’s main political parties quietly reflected on how a married gay Premier would play in, say, Bancroft.
To the credit of Wynne’s opponents – NDP leader Andrea Horwath, and soon-to-resign PC leader Tim Hudak – no mention was made of Wynne’s sexuality, implicitly or explicitly. It did not factor in the election in the way that jobs did, or some other issue. It didn’t come up.
Wynne won a majority, capturing five more seats than the 54 needed. She did so because Hudak’s vote collapsed, and because – take note, homophobes – she is a rather nice person. People liked her more than they liked the alternatives.
Wynne didn’t win because of some super-brilliant move by her strategists, or due to some extraordinary unprecedented event. She – the first openly-gay Ontario political leader – won because of HER. Her, the gay person. Voters thought about it, probably, and they ended up not caring.
The best response to her victory came from veteran journalist Kevin Newman. I loved what he wrote on Twitter: “Ontario has elected a woman who is openly gay. And it didn’t matter. I love my country. (Not a partisan endorsement. A human one).”
Whether you voted for Kathleen Wynne or not, whether you live in Ontario or not, how amazing it is that she won.
There are many more miles to go, of course. But – so far, so good.