3 min

The gay Conservative

Gary Mitchell says we'll see more gay conservatives in politics

A VERY DIFFERENT KIND OF GAY POLITICIAN: Gary Mitchell is comfortable in a new party made up largely of former Reform/Alliance supporters, politicians well-known for their anti-gay rights beliefs. Credit: Xtra West files

“I have a need to be involved and help bring about positive changes.” Conservative Party candidate Gary Mitchell’s aspirations are reflected in the lyrics of his first music CD: Big Change Coming, which came out in the 1990s. The Vancouver Centre candidate was 31 when he made the pop/rock CD. He writes and performs music. He’s a singer. The music inspires him; it’s one of his passions-politics is another.

When the Progressive Conservative and Alliance Parties merged “I saw an opportunity to get involved at the beginning of a new party and to help shape the future,” says Mitchell. “It takes time to change things but it will happen. There are thousands and thousands of gay conservatives in this country.”

Mitchell says he is willing to work with a leader whose views don’t necessarily agree with his, “because of his willingness to be open to discussion and debate-because things get done from the inside. I’m only one person but when I take something on, I don’t let it go. Look what Svend accomplished.

“I’m non-partisan when I talk about democracy. I’m willing to work with anyone who wants to get the job done-because I’ve learned that if we start with a spirit of co-operation and respect for others’ views, then we can work to solving problems.” Mitchell says he is willing to listen, discuss and work beyond political boundaries. “It’s crucial,” he believes. “Any good leader has to be willing and able to be led.”

He hopes the current election will result in a Conservative majority government with the NDP as the official opposition “so we can bring more power, accountability, integrity and cooperation with all levels of government, communities and other willing political participants.”

Mitchell admits he doesn’t fully understand the bawdyhouse laws “but if the state has no place in the bedroom and, for some of those men, [the bathhouse] is their bedroom, what do the laws exist for?” He pledges to work on updating those laws and says he is willing to look at the existing legislation and listen to ideas about reforming the prostitution laws, as well.

Mitchell says he listened to bookstore co-owner Jim Deva before the campaign started, seeking his wisdom on the censorship issue. The fact that books are allowed to go to straight bookstores and are stopped by border Customs officers from going to Little Sister’s Bookstore is an issue for Mitchell. “That’s wrong because freedom of speech has to be equal for all. While I might not be interested in the material, it doesn’t mean others don’t have the right to view it. Excluding child porn,” he qualifies.

Debate is healthy, he says but the Liberals haven’t been willing to discuss same-sex marriage. Gays and lesbians have had to deal with those issues through the courts under the Liberal government, he points out. Same-sex marriage is an issue of human rights and equality, says Mitchell. Now 37, the single, out gay man vows to collaborate. “I’m willing to recognize good ideas come from other parties sometimes.”

And to that end, the aspiring rock star admits he’s a bit of a Libby Davies groupie, expressing his admiration for Libby after hearing her speak at a Gay & Lesbian Business Association luncheon. “She said, ‘there are those of us who wear the identity of being gay on our sleeve and are gay in our identification-and there are those of us for whom being gay is just part of our identity and we need to learn to respect each other before we can demand respect from the rest of the community.'”

Mitchell’s been under fire for representing the Conservative party as a gay man and he rejects the criticism. “You are entitled to be gay and have your own beliefs. That’s your right-to be gay and Jewish, or gay and Conservative, gay and Catholic, or gay and Communist.” He believes people should “just be gay,” whoever they are, so there are visible role models.

Mitchell says he is publicly out because of the high youth suicide rate. “Some youth have had it easy coming out but there are still many who still find it difficult to deal with.” He came come out to himself at 22 and to his family at 26. “I think it’s important to have role models. Suicide is a big problem for gay youth.”

As a teen he dreamed of being a politician “but when I realized I was gay, it was off the table.” He had no role model to validate his choice of career, or even validate himself. “That was before Svend came out,” he remembers. Still not ready to come out right away after Robinson did, he recalls, “I admired him and respected him.”

Robinson’s announcement in the House of Commons that day, decades ago, provided Mitchell a glimmer of hope for a future in politics. A very different kind of politics than Robinson’s.