A Nova Scotia politician came out publicly as gay after someone threatened to out him.
Cecil Clarke, in his second term as mayor of Cape Breton Regional Municipality, is expected to announce that he's running for the leadership of the provincial Progressive Conservative Party. But this week, Clarke said he received a warning from someone "wanting to possibly shame" him, suggesting that his private life would become public if he entered the race.
“I’m not going to go forward and announce my intentions about the Progressive Conservative party leadership race having people think that they’re going to shame me or hold something over me or make it negative, that in this day and age being gay is somehow a bad thing," Clarke said in an interview with CBC's Mainstreet Cape Breton radio program.
Clarke, who sat in the provincial legislature for a decade before becoming mayor, said he has dealt with whispers and attacks about his sexuality in previous races. Until this week, however, he had never addressed them head-on.
“I’m a public person with a very private life," he said.
But after receiving the threatening message, he said he decided to take back control and show that there is nothing wrong with being gay.
“I’m in a committed relationship. I love the person I’m with. That man is very special to me," he said. "I’m not prepared to go on my future journey alone, and I’m not going to do it ashamed or afraid or not proud of who I am as a person.”
Clarke also revealed that he had been sexually abused as a child, and that this week's events brought back those painful memories.
"I thought I'd recovered very well from that and that I had the love of a family that was there for me and a community that supported me. This week, all of that hurt and pain came barrelling back," he said.
Clarke has seen an outpouring of support following his interview.
"I wish you all the happiness in the world."
Other politicians are praising Clarke "for handling this issue with candour and class."
And LGBT rights advocates from across Canada are applauding his bravery.
Clarke said he considers himself on the progressive wing of the Progressive Conservative Party in Nova Scotia. He is expected to announce his leadership bid on Saturday.
The previous PC leader, Jamie Baillie, was forced to resign by the party following an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against him.
Ishmael N. Daro is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto. PGP fingerprint: 5A1D 9099 3497 DA4B
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