Professional homophobe Michael Coren is generally abhorrent and best left ignored, but his recent attack on Rick Mercer's It Gets Better contribution is a timely reminder that what makes the campaign so powerful is its explicit focus on the struggles of gay youth.
On his daily Crossroads Television System show last week, Coren played a clip from the It Gets Better Canada video, which features a number of prominent gay Canadians, including Brad Fraser, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Mark Tewksbury and many others. In the clip, Mercer describes a school pic in which he's staring at another boy in his class: "I can remember, in Grade 3, being gay." To this innocent admission Coren snears: Mercer is "pathetic." How is his crush on a boy any different than any other student in the class, asks a clueless Coren. To the guy who once said gay marriage is "Canada's biggest mistake," the only difference is in our heads:
"We always treat gay people like children; their jokes have to be funny. Why can't we treat everyone in the same way for goodness' sakes."
Later in the show Coren complains that the campaign is just another example that the "love that dare not speak its name will not now shut up."
Coren has a long history of homophobia, but there's something about this campaign that has amplified his typically frantic, anti-gay fever. A glance at the comments under the It Gets Better video on YouTube reveals a common thread that possibly sheds some light on why Coren's focused his It Gets Better wrath on Mercer:
Sims29: I did not know that Rick Mercer was gay.
visionhaze13: oi Rick Mercer is gay? huh i didn't know that, he's probably my favorite gay person then 😀
HomoCyborgZombie: Oh hai Rick Mercer :0 Didn't know~ Awesome :3
xZak777x: Whoa! Rick Mercer is gay!? That's so cool! 😀
Neptunion118: RICK MERCERS GAYYY!!!!!!! OMMMGGGGG
yakamuci: Great video and i am surprised about Rick Mercer
THENISAIDRAWRx: i had absolutely no idea Rick Mercer was gay. Either way this video is fantastic.
boxwhead: wow, I didn't know rick mercer was gay
adrienspawn: RICK MERCER WHAT
awagamgnalaw: holy cow Rick Mercer? that's amazing
iReturnVide0tapes: Rick Mercer is GAY?! Mind = Blown
subinense: I didn't know Rick Mercer was gay !!! I think I was living under a rock (or in Québec) He's my new personal hero
You get the picture.
We sent the Coren clip to Mercer last week.
"This is a perfect example of how it gets better, as I might have once let someone like Coren get to me, but now it doesn't affect me one bit," he responds. "I know the type of homosexual he likes: one in the Conservative party who does what they're supposed to do."
Asked about all those who were shocked to discover he was gay, he replies, "If I did the same thing six months from now it would receive the same reaction. I'd have to run an ad in the paper every week." Though, as a regular participant in the Toronto Pride parade, including this past summer famously perched on a CANFAR truck with Belinda Stronach, he jokes, "What the hell did they think I was doing on the top of the truck?"
Though he's explicit about being gay in the new It Gets Better video in a 2007 anti-bullying Rick Mercer Report rant(that has since been updated with an It Gets Better title) he doesn't mention it. He's since made a point of being clear about it: in a recent interview on the It Gets Better Canada project with George Stroumboulopoulos.
Beyond the CTS airwaves many Canadians have responded positively to Mercer's participation in the video. He's heard from teachers who have played it in their classes and received dozens of emails from kids and adults. "Some of them are heartbreaking," he confesses.