“It gets better” – the reassuring message for gay teens that has passed through the lips of everyone from Glee star Chris Colfer to Conservative cabinet minister John Baird – just doesn’t cut it.
That’s what CBC funnyman Rick Mercer has said in his latest signature rant, which has gone viral since it was posted online yesterday. The rant, a big departure from the absurd, light-hearted approach he usually takes to issues, was inspired by the recent suicide of 15-year-old Jamie Hubley from Ottawa, a boy who was bullied by classmates for being gay.
Mr. Mercer says simply telling young people that the bullying will eventually end when they reach adulthood isn’t enough – they need things to be easier when they’re getting through the tough years of junior high or high school.
He ends his rant by calling on gay public figures to be more open about their sexual orientation and serve as role models to gay youth.
“If you're gay and you're in public life, I'm sorry, you don't have to run around with a Pride flag and bore everyone, but you can't be invisible, not any more,” he said.
Though the message was powerful, Mr. Mercer caught flak from some viewers for not ending his rant with a declaration about his own sexual orientation (he’s been openly gay for much of his career).
This morning, on CBC’s The Current, he was much more upfront about being gay with host Anna Maria Tremonti.
While he says he knew he was gay in high school, he didn’t tell anyone and never endured any bullying. He didn’t come out until his 20s. “The idea of kids out in high school is so foreign to me,” he said.
If you’re a public figure, being out of the closet goes beyond telling your family, friends and colleagues, he said. For the sake of gay teens but perhaps even more importantly their close-minded bullies, it’s important to know there are plenty of successful adults out there who are gay.
“It would be nice if there were more role models so people could say, ‘What about Rick Mercer? He’s gay. He went to this school.’ ‘What about Sergeant so-and-so?’”
But do soldiers, media personalities, politicians, judges and all others in the public sphere have a responsibility to be “out” to people they don’t even know?
Or are they entitled to keeping their private life – which has nothing to do with their job – private?
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