Tatum Wilson, Ontario Liberal Party candidate and panellist for the group’s inaugural event, sees the value of the group in offering a “perspective that is brought from a history of marginalization.” He adds that queer leaders can add diversity to the political scene and serve as role models for society at large.
ProudPolitics is opening up what its supporters hope will be one big, gay political incubator, protecting queer little eggs until they hatch into full-fledged political birds.
The group, itself only recently broken out of its shell, is an Ontario-based outfit looking to get more openly gay politicians into the democratic sphere. Rather than advocating and agitating for policy changes, ProudPolitics figures that getting out homosexuals into public office can foster the cause — more acceptance, more good policy and more positive role models for youth struggling with their sexual orientation.
Arthur Kong is the group’s executive director. He says the approach has several prongs — encouraging queer candidates, making sure they have the resources needed, fighting homophobia in the political sphere and prodding sitting politicians who are in the closet to come out. “We believe the fight is here,” Kong tells Xtra.
The group launched their effort in April with a Proud to Lead party featuring a keynote speech by MPP Glen Murray and a panel of queer politicians from each of the province’s three main parties.
Kong notes that the group is seeking to tackle the issue in both a multi- and non-partisan way, arguing that, at present, queer resources are really available only within the parties and not for independents or those who are just wading into the political pond.
The event takes its name from the group’s flagship program, a leadership training program that seeks to build up prospective gay candidates. Its sister programs aim to train and foster queer spokespeople and encourage representation on public boards and commissions. Beyond that, there’s a plan to create a diverse political network and make the organization a hub for queer outreach and political involvement.
The group is also hoping to enter the Canadian social-media political scene, breaking into the discourse, directly challenging perceived homophobia. For example, Kong points to the “whisper campaign” about how Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s sexuality was somehow a hindrance during her leadership bid.
While the group’s message is steeped in fertile soil — most Canadians are nonchalant about the idea of a gay prime minister — Canada has yet to face a prominent trans person seeking public office.
Kong says the group, which is still getting on its feet, is looking to do everything from a “coming-out toolkit” to, one day, offering organization and financial support (all under Elections Canada financing laws, of course). “I don’t think we’re quite there yet,” he says. “That’s the long-term goal.”
The group has received support from all parties, federally and in Ontario. They received a letter of support from Wynne, the country’s first out leader.