If, like me, you're not much of a political junkie, then it may be news to you that Canada just elected a new Prime Minister, liberal Justin Trudeau. (Handsome, eh?) After months of political uproar regarding the previous PM's policies on privacy and racial diversity, the country took action at the polls and totally changed the face of its government, electing a majority liberal institution. If you're reading this, there's a good chance you favor at least some liberal policies and can be equally impressed by a nearly 70% voter turnout that completely changed the face of a ruling body -- democracy at its finest.
This, however, is not a political piece. This is a piece about the future of America, specifically its LGBTQ population. I referenced the Canadian election because it is topically relevant, but also a greater proxy for the Canadian moral compass and the ease with which it rights itself. Granted, it is logistically much less complicated for a nation of 35 million people, more than a third of which live in urban centers, to reach consensus on political issues. But this is also the same country that legalized same-sex marriage a full decade ago, much to the chagrin of these disappointed tweeters.
While living in Toronto for a year, I founded ComingOut.Space with the help of a few friends and have since thought a lot about not just the coming out, but the staying out experience. I have met many people from across the full LGBTQ spectrum whose thoughts on gay/queer culture are just as varied as they are. As a result of all this reflection on my time in Canada, the LGBTQ community as a whole, and because I know you probably just skipped all those messy words above anyway, I've created a short list, in no particular order, of a few things Canada gets oh-so-right that America should have a good think "aboot." Come on U.S.A., do better.
1) We're part of the LGBTQ community. Not the G+Everybody Else community.
I specifically remember one night early in my time in Toronto at a bar when I was very much in the way of a butch lesbian. Beer in hand, she looked me in the eye and I knew I needed to scoot myself, my black skinny jeans, and my vodka to the side as she passed. Though funny to me, the real reason this is memorable is that it is extremely uncommon for the different letters of the LGBTQ acronym to be caught socializing together in the U.S. This is a problem. True, we all have very different tastes, but at the end of the day we share a common experience that binds us together and makes us strong. We should embrace that.
2) "It's not racist if..." Who cares? It's mean. Stop.
We all have preferences in the physical appearance of our potential partners. Like your men tall, a little lanky and bespectacled? How about a curvy woman with a red lip? That's fine. More power to you and may the odds be ever in your favor. But if you're in the habit of excluding entire races of people based on their inherited phenotype, stop advertising it. Racist or not, it is cruel to belittle those you do not find attractive. Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in the world and the lives of everyone there are richer for it.
3) Bisexuality is not a phase.
When I came out in college, I originally told a few friends that I thought I was bi. For me, it was a way to mitigate risk. If I still liked girls, even a little bit, I wasn't gay. Part of me is sorry I did that, because I misused a legitimate identity. Another part of me, however, makes no apologies. Sexuality is well-understood by many academics to be a dynamic trait. Some people are straight until they're not. Some people are a little bit of both for their whole lives. If someone tells you they are bisexual, it does not mean they, like I once did, are hiding their true self temporarily. We need to learn to stop characterizing others based on the way we see the world and just let others live. Because Toronto is such a diverse, well-incorporated society, this is a non-issue for most people there.
4) Fitness and vanity are not the same thing.
For any of my friends reading this, I'll let you retrieve your eyes before I continue. I'm sure they just rolled out. Full disclosure here, as proven by my Instragram, that I know myself to be both fit and vain.
Anyone who has ever posted a selfie of themselves at the gym, a yoga studio, or running in a park cannot dispute his or her vanity. Selfies and fitness are a worldwide phenomenon, but no one seems to do it as well as the Americans. Gay men, in particular, are guilty of this. We grow up with the same body issues as everyone else and, fueled by our hunger to prove our worth to the world, seek to not only attain an Adonis physique, but show it to everyone whose attention we can snag even for a moment. For many reasons, this is much less common in Canada and I feel that, eventually, Americans will realize that the empty attention we receive in likes and retweets is much less valuable than genuine attention from close friends who couldn't care less how many abs wehave or how much we bench press. Fitness is important for a long, happy life. Vanity is not.
To read the coming out stories of others and to share your own, visit us at www.ComingOut.Space.