The participation of Naheed Nenshi, the Mayor of Calgary, as grand marshal for his city's Gay Pride celebrations this coming September is a model of the kind of acceptance that Pride events are meant to exemplify.
Many will rush to claim this as another first in the historic mayoralty of Mr. Nenshi, the first Muslim mayor of a major Canadian city. But Mr. Nenshi does not "represent" Muslims any more than any other Muslim does. He does, however, represent Calgarians.
In fact, what's most noteworthy about Mr. Nenshi's participation is another, relatively unheralded first: It will mark the first time, in Calgary, that the mayor has served as Pride's grand marshal. In 1991, when Al Duerr, the mayor at that time, proclaimed Calgary's first Gay Pride week, he faced such a backlash that he rescinded the declaration.
Indeed, it is misleading to suggest that intolerance is exclusive to any one group while having been eradicated or being absent elsewhere. Canada's acceptance of people of different sexual orientations is not yet unconditional, as the obstinate refusal by Rob Ford, the Mayor of Toronto, to appear at any of his city's Gay Pride-related events seems to illustrate and embody.
Mayoralties of any kind are inherently political. Even today, some mayors may think that they can dispense with non-heterosexual constituencies as they put together a winning coalition. But a mayor should also transcend politics, as is shown by the chains of office, the use of the honorific "Her/His Worship," titles and trappings that demonstrate dignity and continuity.
And so it is fitting that all mayors participate in their city's Pride celebrations - and put a public face on the unconditional, but simple, acceptance of identity that gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people seek.
It is an expression of leadership and inclusion that Mr. Nenshi, to his great credit, understands fully.
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