Edmonton Centre MP Randy Boissonnault will come full circle next week from "deeply closeted student" to "proud and out" LGBTQ advocate at Oxford University in England.
Boissonnault, a former Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, is one of three lecturers invited as part of the Oxford University Corpus Christi College 500th anniversary celebrations.
Attending Oxford in the 1990s, Boissonnault studied philosophy, politics and economics. But his student life was affected by his secretive personal life.
"I wasn't sure who I was yet," said Boissonnault during an interview at his Edmonton Centre Liberal constituency office.
Now the prime minister's special advisor on LGBTQ issues, Boissonnault recalled staying away from his college on Thursday afternoons, when he knew LGBTQ students would gather.
"When I was there and deeply closeted," said Boissonnault, "it was too close to my heart."
But now with a captive audience of 300 aspiring young leaders and decision-makers, Boissonneault is ready to be heard.
'Old self meeting the new self'
"For my now proud and out self, to go back and give a speech on LGBTQ rights to my college is like the old self meeting the new self," said Boissonnault.
Boissonnault said he intends to use Alberta and Canada as examples of open and caring societies.
"I'm going to invite them to share that privilege and make sure they create spaces where everybody can belong," he said.
Boissonnault's message won't end at the Oxford gates.
He's also been invited by French President Emmanuel Macron to meet his own recently appointed advisor on LGBTQ issues. He'll then meet with a United Nations special advisor and 35 non-governmental organizations devoted to LGBTQ issues.
"People are realizing that diversity makes you stronger," said Boissonnault.
"The more diverse our city is, the more diverse our country is, the more economic links we make to the rest of the world."
Boissonnault said Canada has made significant strides on LGBTQ issues "but there's still a whole bunch of work we need to do here."