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 be 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 obviously 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 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 identifying 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.
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Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.