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Where Rick’s Rant is wrong

October 2011
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By now, many of you have probably seen Rick Mercer’s rant from last Tuesday evening. It dealt with how bullying led a gay Ottawa teen to commit suicide and has gone viral, being shared on a variety of social media sites and seen around the world. As of today, it has been viewed almost one-quarter million times on YouTube alone.

While I certainly agree with his message generally, I disagree with one of his key points. Rick calls for all gay people in public life to come out to provide a role model to gay teens. I’m not sure that’s actually the message we need to put forward. Why should the only good role model for a gay teen be a gay public figure? Maybe, a tolerant, straight person who is a decent human being would be a better role model than a crooked, gay politician who isn’t stunning example of humanity. I don’t think a gay role model is any more necessary for gay teens that a male role model would better for a male student. In fact, this kind of restrictive, exclusionary thinking may have been what got us in the sorry state we’re in now.

Let’s be honest here. If, for example, John Baird is gay and he did come out of the closet, how many gay students are likely to say, “He’s gay, so it must be alright?” I don’t think he’d provide the most comforting example. 

Maybe, he should have ended his rant with the following message. People in public life should starting being a bit on the tolerant side. Maybe politicians should exercise a bit of restraint during Question Period. Maybe professional athletes should concentrate on being as good off the field as they think they are on the field. And maybe, those of us not in the public eye… you know, the vast majority of us… should just treat everyone properly and try to be a person that anyone would want to emulate. It might not hurt, you know…

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