The world wel­comes gay lead­ers

Sackville Tribune - - OP-ED - Ger­ard Veld­hoven Re­fo­cus Ger­ard Veld­hoven is a for­mer area res­i­dent and long­time gay rights ac­tivist.

Some­times we growl and show our dis­con­tent with how our world is not in­clu­sive.

In the case of politi­cians, the out­cry for show­ing more sup­port has been loud and con­stant. There are those coun­tries where one’s sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or one’s true gen­der iden­tity and ex­pres­sion are se­verely frowned upon and that is not about to change or even con­tem­plated.

In Canada, 50 per cent of Justin Trudeau’s cabi­net in Ot­tawa are women and that in it­self is a huge in­di­ca­tion of in­clu­siv­ity not pre­vi­ously ex­pe­ri­enced. Openly gay mem­bers of Par­lia­ment are Scott Bri­son, Randy Bois­son­nault, Rob Oliphant, Sea­mus O’re­gan, Sheri Ben­son and Ran­dall Gar­ri­son.

The Bri­tish Par­lia­ment boasts 32 LGBTQ MPS, more than any­where in the world. In the Nether­lands and Swe­den 10 gay par­lia­men­tar­i­ans oc­cupy seats in govern­ment re­spec­tively.

Changes are ob­vi­ous and nec­es­sary in or­der to give the LGBTQ com­mu­nity a voice around the globe. Re­cently, the G20 coun­tries met in Italy with lead­ers ac­com­pa­nied by their re­spec­tive “first ladies.” For many around the world the eyes were upon the “first gen­tle­man,” the hus­band of Lux­em­bourg’s prime min­is­ter, Xavier Bet­tel. To be sure, not all present were com­fort­able with this won­der­ful dis­play of di­ver­sity and ac­cep­tance by that coun­try’s cit­i­zens.

Gau­thier Deste­nay looked very com­fort­able in the pres­ence of the wives of other world lead­ers. The for­mer Bel­gian Prime Min­is­ter, Elio Di Rupo, and Ice­land’s for­mer prime min­is­ter, Jo­hanna Sig­uroar­d­ot­tir, were the first openly gay lead­ers in the world. By the time this col­umn is printed, Ire­land will have sworn in its new prime min­is­ter. Prime Min­is­ter Leo Varad­kar, 38, is the youngest and the first openly gay per­son to head the Ir­ish govern­ment.

These heads of gov­ern­ments are mak­ing his­tory and es­tab­lish that one’s sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­tity have lit­tle or no bear­ing on how vot­ers think and de­cide on the best per­son to lead their coun­tries. This is great news and our LGBTQ com­mu­ni­ties through­out the world will see these de­vel­op­ments as pos­i­tive ad­vance­ments.

Will we ex­pe­ri­ence an in­flux of LGBTQ lead­ers and are we ready to vote in a per­son who iden­ti­fies as LGBTQ? It ap­pears so, but we must re­mem­ber that in these cases we are deal­ing with the West, not in the rest of the world. The vot­ers have spo­ken in many coun­tries and we may take from the re­sults that with mem­bers of Par­lia­ment and re­cent heads of govern­ment iden­tify as LGBTQ, our vi­sion of equal­ity is at work.

The fu­ture looks de­cid­edly brighter and more in­clu­sive. How­ever, as I pointed to be­fore in my col­umn, the rest of the world lags sadly be­hind as in­clu­sive na­tions and in­deed pun­ishes those who make at­tempts at fight­ing for equal­ity.

In Rus­sia, where the vast ma­jor­ity of cit­i­zens reject gays as de­viants, the fu­ture looks dim at best. This is also the case in most other coun­tries in the Eastern hemi­sphere where beat­ings, killings and prison terms are com­mon for LGBTQ cit­i­zens and that in­cludes at­tacks be­ing com­mit­ted by the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion.

Yet, in our at­tempts to unify, we do see pos­i­tive ad­vances with pride and hope for the fu­ture. Our LGBTQ lead­ers in gov­ern­ments give us that hope. It’s up to the vot­ers to make that hap­pen.

Com­ments and in­for­ma­tion: lgbt­con­nec­tion­sgv@gmail.com. Email: sdo­herty@sackvil­letri­bunepost.com Fax: 506-536-4024

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