The mayor of Ottawa, Ontario, came out at age 58.
Liberal Party Mayor Jim Watson came out as gay in a letter published in the Ottawa Citizen.
“I’m gay,” the letter opens. “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.'”
He said that there were signs that he wasn’t straight since he was in school, but he didn’t have the knowledge to put those signs together and understand his identity.
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“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.”
It wasn’t until he was in college that he understood that he was gay, but he was shy and afraid to come out. For the next four decades of his life, though, his work were “all-consuming,” so he just put that part of himself on the backburner.
Work “consumed me, whether I take on a job, political or on-political, I put my heart and soul into it,” Watson told CTV News in an interview.
“I didn’t have much of a life.”
He said that, as a lifelong bachelor, he was only asked once about his sexuality in politics.
“I was running for the provincial legislature in 2003 and a known homophobic activist stood up and asked me if I was gay,” Watson wrote in the letter. “There were jeers and shouts, and before I could answer, my [New Democratic Party] opponent snapped at the questioner and told them that anyone’s sexual preference had nothing to do with being a good [Member of Provincial Parliament].”
“To this day, I’m not sure how I would have answered that question.”
He said that he isn’t ashamed of his record on LGBTQ issues, though. He voted in favor of marriage equality and was the first mayor of Ottawa to march in Pride. He also got rainbow crosswalks installed in the city.
But Watson wrote that he regrets not coming out sooner.
“Most of my friends who are gay are quite open about it, and many are in wonderful relationships or, in several cases, married,” he wrote.
“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.