Jim Watson 'overwhelmed' by messages of support

IT TOOK Watson almost 40 years to exit the closet – and he did so in the most public way possible.

At the weekend, in a piece written for the  Ottawa Citizen, Watson said:

I’m gay. 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.’

Jim Watson pictured at Ottawa Pride in 2013. Image via Facebook

Watson said that as he looked look back over the years, there were some telltale signs that he wasn’t straight.

As a grade 7 student, I remember some older boys on my school bus always taunting me and calling me ‘’Jim Fairy.’’ And growing up, I was always much more attracted to male TV and movie stars, such as Rob Lowe and Brad Pitt, rather than Julia Roberts or Sharon Stone.

He added that, unlike today, back when he was a teenager in the 1970s there were virtually no resources to seek for guidance or help, or just to talk. There were no LGBTQ clubs or gay-straight alliances.

Most residents of Ottawa reading this will find it hard to believe. But growing up, I was very shy and a bit of a loner, and very socially awkward. Even if I thought or knew that I was gay back then, making it known publicly would have been pretty daunting and lonely for a teenager in a new school.

Watson was elected to Ottawa City Council when he was 30, and for most of his public life, his sexuality was not an issue.

As I look back over my life, and in hindsight, not coming out sooner was a big mistake on my part.
Most of my friends through the years got married and had kids, and they travelled down a separate road filled with family, soccer practices and their careers.

Most of my friends who are gay are quite open about it, and many are in wonderful relationships or, in several cases, married.

That leaves someone like me, who, while closeted, doesn’t fit either of these groups.

Over the years, I told only two (gay) friends that I was gay, although I suspect most of my family and friends just assumed I was, but respected my privacy and never broached the subject.

Over the last few years, I’ve struggled often about whether or not to come out.

Appropriate for the occasion. Participants at Benidorm Pride 2018. Photo: Barry Duke.

He ended his piece by saying:

Finally, let me conclude with two events that helped convince me to write this message.

During the 2014 Olympic Games in Russia, stories emerged about the fear gay athletes and spectators felt due to the homophobic attitude of the Russian government. I tweeted that in solidarity with the LGBTQ community, and our athletes in particular, I would fly the Rainbow flag at City Hall for the duration of the Games.

I received thousands of supportive tweets, but one tweet and my response went viral.

One person wrote and said: ʺThis is a stupid waste of time. You’ve lost my vote.’’

I replied: ‘’If you have that point of view, I really don’t want your vote.’’

The second incident was two years ago when I was walking through Confederation Park after lunch and a middle-aged man approached me and said: ‘’I hope you’re not going in that fag parade,’’ meaning the upcoming Pride Parade.

I told him: ‘’I’m looking forward to marching in the Pride Parade, and I plan on doing so again, so why don’t you join me?’’

He was left speechless and quickly walked away.

I’m proud of my track record on LGBTQ issues, from voting in favour of a motion on same-sex marriage to being the first Ottawa mayor to march in the Pride Parade during my first term.

But 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.

My reluctance has not allowed me to live my life as full of love and adventure as my gay friends who were bolder and braver than I ever was.

So there it is, my coming out story, 40 years in the making.

Watson later took to Twitter to say that he was “overwhelmed” by the “kind and thoughtful messages” he received since the piece went live.

Thank you for making this day so meaningful and memorable.