Mayor Jim Watson officially comes out as gay
Announcement comes in Ottawa Citizen column day before Capital Pride kicks off
Just a day before Pride celebrations in Ottawa officially kick off, Ottawa's Mayor Jim Watson has come out as an openly gay man.
Watson said on Saturday it was time to share his secret with the city after 40 years of worrying about how his constituents, friends and family would react.
"I've been thinking about it for 40 years … I've known I was gay since I was a teenager," he said. "I feel comfortable with the decision and I'm glad I did it. But it took me a long time to get there."
He broke the news in a column in the Ottawa Citizen early Saturday morning.
"[The response has] been overwhelming. I had to recharge my phone twice today just to keep up with the tweets and the emails and the phone calls. People have been very very kind," he said.
'The right thing to do'
He said his experiences at the Ottawa Pride celebrations over the years have varied. He said he remembers one confrontation a few years ago, with a man at Confederation Park.
"I was walking back from lunch to City Hall and this guy came up and said 'I hope you're not going in the fag parade,'" Watson said.
"Then the last couple of years along the parade route … I've had some people say, 'When are you coming out of the closet?' I pretended not to hear and waved with the music."
He said he chose to come out because it was "the right thing to do," but wishes he'd told everyone sooner.
Watch: Jim Watson explains making this decision
"My hope is … hopefully it will make it easier for some young people who are having doubts about whether they should say anything," he said.
"My message is [for them] is: Don't be afraid to come out, don't feel rushed, but don't take 40 years either."
"There's nothing really to be ashamed of."
Watson said he's the only openly gay mayor of a city in Ontario, and the first in Ottawa.
He said the reaction to his announcement has been mostly positive.
Davy Sabourin, the chair of Capital Pride, said it took a lot of courage for Watson to come out.
"We were extremely happy and proud of Mayor Watson, and it's for sure something that will send a good message out in the community that you can be a politician in 2019 and be your true self."
Ottawa Coun. Catherine McKenney said she was happy for Watson.
"Being out, being who you are, makes you just a happier person," McKenney said.
Ottawa MPP Joel Harden praised Watson for becoming a role model for younger members of the LGBTQ community.
"I think youth who are afraid to be themselves publicly, with their friends, they have another role model to look up to today and I think that's really significant," he said.
Other politicians and locals showed their support on Twitter.
I couldn't be happier for you, <a href="https://twitter.com/JimWatsonOttawa?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JimWatsonOttawa</a>! Politics matters but so does being true to yourself. Very proud of your courage to come out to the world today. 🌈<br><br>Looking forward to proudly marching with you in <a href="https://twitter.com/FierteCapPride?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@FierteCapPride</a>. And wishing you much love and happiness! ❤️ <a href="https://t.co/YgLJyx37C4">https://t.co/YgLJyx37C4</a>—@cathmckenna
An inspiring article for many, glad you chose to take this step <a href="https://twitter.com/JimWatsonOttawa?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JimWatsonOttawa</a> <a href="https://t.co/RBwlUyYpBz">https://t.co/RBwlUyYpBz</a>—@ShawnMenard1
Congratulations, Jim! This must feel great - enjoy the well-wishes from so many of your constituents, and happy Pride!—@JLeiper
Taking this step is never easy but always worth it. <a href="https://twitter.com/JimWatsonOttawa?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JimWatsonOttawa</a>, this will change your life for the better and positively impact countless others. Well done. <a href="https://t.co/zDTM8mbLKS">https://t.co/zDTM8mbLKS</a>—@AlexMunter_
With files from Kimberley Molina