Parents in Ontario frequently tell Kathleen Wynne that having an openly-gay political leader in the province makes life safer for their homosexual children, the premier said Wednesday.
"People come up to me all the time and say 'I'm so glad you're there because my daughter can see that she can be anything, she can do anything,'" Wynne said after participating in an anti-bullying rally at an east-end high school.
"But there also are people who come up to me often and say 'you've made a difference in my son's life or my daughter's life. They're gay and they see your presence there as an important signal that our society is changing."'
Wynne said she's not a gay activist, but she does have "added responsibilities" as an openly-gay premier to try to make society more tolerant and inclusive.
"I never pretended to be a gay activist, that's not who I was, but the fact is that being a lesbian, being in this office, allows people to look at this office in a different way," she said.
Speaking at the anti-bullying Pink Shirt Day event at the high school, Wynne said she's frequently approached by fathers who say having an "out" premier helps make things better, and safer, for their gay children.
"It'll be at a business lunch or an event and often it's a man, a father, who'll come up and just say quietly to me: 'my son is really, really, really happy that you're there, it's making a difference in his life,"' she said. "And what that says to me is that it's a very emotional thing for that dad that his son has said to him just having an out premier makes the world safer for him."
Wynne told the students about her own experience in high school in the 1960s, saying no one would come out then as gay, and in many cases would not tell their parents about their sexuality.
"One of my best friends died at the age of 37, just before I came out, and he was not out for one day that he was in school," she said. "He didn't come out until university and he didn't tell his parents until he found out he was sick, so his parents found out he was sick and he was gay at the same time."
Wynne said she wants a world where people feel safe and secure in their sexuality and can be loved for who they are regardless of their sexual orientation or gender.
Wynne rarely raises the issue of her homosexuality, but has spoken about it three times in the past week, condemning Indiana's religious freedom law, voting against so-called conversion therapy and at the anti-bullying rally.
"It's not every other week that I talk about my sexuality ... but it's part of who I am," Wynne told reporters. "I recognize that it's important for me to be clear that I see that I have a responsibility, because of who I am, to do everything I can to make our society safer and more inclusive."