TORONTO, Ontario, Canada — The suicide of 15-year-old Jamie Hubley last month — the Ottawa teenager who had suffered from being bullied — has renewed a fierce and politically charged debate in Canadian society: Do public figures, as role models for youth, have a responsibility to out themselves?
More so, do teens struggling with their sexual orientation really want politicians as role models? Who would be of more significance to a struggling LGBTQ teen — an openly gay Member of Parliament or Lady Gaga?
For one politician at least, Toronto MPP Glen Murray, there’s no reason why gay politicians should feel the need to remain closeted in 2011.
Murray is a Liberal member of the Ontario legislature for Toronto Centre and is a former mayor of the city of Winnipeg. In fact, he was the first openly gay mayor of a large North American city. Murray, who began his political career in 1989, has always been very open about his sexual orientation, however, some argue he’s the exception, not the rule.
“Growing up as gay, I heard every ugly homophobic thing you can think of,” he said. “I will stand up against every Tory that tries to take our rights away because that’s all they ever do.”
Murray prides himself on being that exception and believes that he is indeed a role model for teens.
Prior to his entering politics, Murray was active in human rights and community healthcare issues. Murray helped run a successful campaign to include sexual orientation in the Manitoba Human Rights Code.
He also helped to establish Winnipeg’s Village Clinic, the first integrated community based prevention, care, and treatment centre for HIV/AIDS in Canada. Later on as the Clinic’s Director of Prevention and Outreach programs, he tasked the volunteers and staff to be more street involved to assist homeless people at high risk for HIV infection.
Murray was also a founding member of the Canadian AIDS Society working with the World Health Organization that led to implementation of an international strategy for community-based HIV prevention initiatives.