Opinion: LGBTQ candidates offer empathy for voters

With less than a month to the civic election, I hope we’re all zeroing in on who deserves our vote come election day Nov. 15. Though we often hear that Vancouverites vote based on party affiliation, no party is running a complete slate, so even if you want to throw all your votes at your favourite mega-party, you still have votes to spare.

Might I suggest you cast some for the 10-plus LGBTQ candidates?

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Sexual identity doesn’t matter more than other aspects of a candidate’s profile like their work experience or community involvement, but being part of a minority correlates with having experienced adversity.

I want to know candidates have experienced some kind of difficulty in their lives. In the midst of immense wealth, Vancouver is a city that is hard to live in, and many of our residents are struggling. The best political representation would include a cross-section of the types of adversity our residents face, so we know our leaders have empathy and a personal stake in making the city more livable, and just.

In my search, I found 10 “out” LGBTQ candidates and one not quite out of the closet. That’s almost 10 percent of the 119 candidates running. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve missed some; it wasn’t as easy to confirm LGBTQ candidates as I imagined.

Of all the candidate profiles I reviewed, only one explicitly names a candidate as openly gay: Tim Stevenson, Vision Vancouver city councillor who was the first gay cabinet minister to be elected.

Surprisingly, even Vancouver Park Board incumbent Trevor Loke from Stevenson’s party doesn’t overtly claim membership in the LGBTQ community. Coree Tull, who is running for park board with Vision, is the co-founder of the Double Rainbow Dodgeball league and co-chair of Out in Sports. I’d call that clear.

In the independent and direct category, Jamie Lee Hamilton, seeking a seat on park board, notes her own status as the first transsexual to stand for public office in Canada. In 1996, the same year Stevenson won his federal seat, Hamilton ran for city council.

Past VSB trustee Jane Bouey, running this time with Public Education Project, also identifies as queer.

Mischa Oak, Green Party candidate for Vancouver School Board, uses a rainbow coloured font to spell “proud” on his website and includes advocacy for LGBTQ students in his list of priorities, pretty good clues.

Proud Politics, a national non-partisan support organization profiles out politicians on its website in hopes of encouraging more LGBTQ candidates. The B.C. directory is spotty, but I understand several candidates have submitted their profiles and are waiting for them to be posted.

When candidate profiles failed me, I contacted party officials. This is how I discovered the NPA has two gay candidates. Rob McDowell is running with the NPA for city council. He told me that as a gay man, he’s experienced little discrimination.

In the alphabet soup of queer identities, “I’m probably the least vulnerable as a ‘G’,” McDowell said.  

A recent incident at the Fountainhead Pub, when a gay patron told him and NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe they were not wanted in the well-known gay hangout, gave McDowell a taste of a new kind of hostility he might face if he’s successfully voted into public life.  

The NPA website itself doesn’t mention any of their candidates are LGBTQ. I searched the site for terms like “LGBTQ,” “lesbian” and “queer.” It wasn’t until I tried “gay” that any results were returned. It must be some sort of glitch in the web coding because even though five candidate profiles came up, none of the candidates identify as LGBTQ and the two candidates that do, Stephane Mouttet, a park board candidate, and McDowell, were not in the results.

My call to COPE’s campaign office was answered by several enthusiastic hopefuls including Imtiaz Popat, running for park board and Heidi Nagtegaal, on COPE’s school board slate.

I also heard from a candidate not yet out to their family who wasn’t sure they wanted to be included in this article. I advised the newbie that though a newspaper article would be an exciting way to come out to one’s family, I’ll leave them out of the piece.

I know I said I want my politicians to have experienced some adversity, but all of us, especially politicians, need to pick our battles wisely.

trishkellyc@gmail.com

twitter.com/trishkellyc

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