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Longtime Ottawa mayor comes out as gay, saying 'better late than never'
Jim Watson, who has served as mayor of Ottawa, Canada, since 2010, came out as gay on Saturday, writing in the Ottawa Citizen that the disclosure came "better late than never."
In the column, Watson describes his experiences in school being bullied and a vague perception of being attracted to male movie stars, but writes that his own shyness and a lack of support structures such as gay-straight alliances kept him from seeking guidance or examining his sexuality.
Such infrastructure was far more readily available during Watson's college years, he writes, adding, however, that he remained reluctant to come out, and post-graduation devoted his energy to his career, particularly after entering politics and winning a seat on the Ottawa City Council at 30.
Watson also describes an incident in which a local anti-gay activist publicly asked him if he was gay during Watson's campaign for a provincial legislature seat in 2003, and despite intervention from his allies when the question was asked, writes that he still wonders what would have happened if he had replied in the affirmative.
Watson calls his failure to come out earlier "a big mistake on my part," noting that most of his gay friends have been open about it for years and, in many cases, are publicly in relationships or married.
He adds that coverage of the 2014 Olympic Games in Russia, when gay athletes were apprehensive about the prospect of persecution, marked a major turning point for him, particularly after he tweeted that the rainbow flag would fly over City Hall during the games in solidarity with Canada's LGBTQ Olympians.
"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," Watson wrote.
"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," he added.