Mayor of one of Canada’s biggest cities Ottawa has revealed he’s been living in the closet as a gay man for 40 years.
Jim Watson, 58, revealed the truth in a column published in the Ottawa Citizen on Saturday where he wrote that it was a “mistake” not coming out sooner.
As with anyone coming out, Watson wrote that he was worried about how his family, friends and colleagues would react and he struggled coming to terms with his sexuality during his childhood.
Watson started his piece with two words “I’m gay”.
“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.”, Watson opened in the piece in the Ottawa Citizen.
“As I look back over the years, there were some telltale signs that I wasn’t straight.
“As a grade 7 student, I remember some older boys on my school bus always taunting me and calling me ‘’Jim Fairy.’’ And growing up, I was always much more attracted to male TV and movie stars, such as Rob Lowe and Brad Pitt, rather than Julia Roberts or Sharon Stone.
“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. No LGBTQ clubs or gay-straight alliances.”
Watson said he was inspired to write the column after he raised the pride flag at city hall during the 2014 Olympic Games in Russia to show solidarity with LGBTQ athletes who feared the Russian government’s views on homosexuality.
He was also convinced to come out of the closet after he was approached by a man in a park two years ago who told him he shouldn’t go to the Ottawa Pride Parade, calling it the “fag parade.”
Many political leaders have written Watson messages of support on social media, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who tweeted that the mayor was brave for sharing his story.
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
“As I look back over my life, and in hindsight, not coming out sooner was a big mistake on my part,” Watson continued.
“Most of my friends through the years got married and had kids, and they travelled down a separate road filled with family, soccer practices and their careers.
“Over the years, I told only two (gay) friends that I was gay, although I suspect most of my family and friends just assumed I was, but respected my privacy and never broached the subject.
“Over the last few years, I’ve struggled often about whether or not to come out.”
In the column, Watson writes that his reluctance to come out about his sexuality deprived him of living a life “full of love and adventure” that his openly gay friends got to experience.
“But if I can be so bold as to offer one bit of advice to those still in the closet: Don’t feel pressured or rushed to come out, but don’t wait 40 years either,” writes Watson.
Since the article was published Watson said he was touched by the response he’s been getting.
“I’ve received so many nice comments from parents who are sharing their stories with their kids” said Mayor Watson.
“I don’t profess to be a great expert in this field, but if my words have helped a young person feel comfortable with that decision, then that’s great.”