Why Mayor Rob Ford should make an effort with Toronto’s gay community
Earlier this week Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford, announced that he would not be attending gay pride parade for the second consecutive year. The reason was the same that he gave last year: he would rather spend the weekend up north at the cottage with his family.
Ford has not been a fan of the gay community, so it doesn’t come as much of a loss or surprise to anyone, gay or straight. However, since becoming mayor two years ago he has done little to build the trust of gay Torontonians. It’s obvious to everyone that he’s slightly homophobic. Ford is a simple person, I have at times referred to him as a simpleton, and he has a narrow, black and white view of the world. The only people he supports in the city of Toronto are sports enthusiasts and casino goers like himself.
But as mayor it is his job to support all communities within the city that he has been elected to govern. Detractors will say that he doesn’t have the gay vote, so why bother ingratiating himself to a group that already doesn’t like him. The problem with this logic is that there is a reason why gays dislike Ford. He has made many anti-gay remarks in his career at city council and has responded with back-handed, or apathetic apologies.
Even in Canada where gay people have equal rights, they are still often marginalized and treated like second-class citizens. The fact that there was even a debate to provide equal rights to our community by allowing us to marry the people we love, is something that straight people have never experienced. Individuals like Ford do not know how it feels to be unable to walk comfortably in public, holding their partner’s hand, without the possibility of physical violence. For gay people, that is a real fear.
It’s clear that Ford is uncomfortable around gay people; his face becomes stricken with panic, as though he’s being held captive and can’t wait to escape to more familiar company. What a sensible person would do in such a situation is embrace the fact that they have a problem and seek methods to correct it. Ford should make an effort to understand people who are different from him, because after all, Toronto is a diverse city. Rather than avoiding gay people, he should try to understand them.
Unfortunately his tenure as mayor has been a failure. He has trouble understanding his colleagues differing views, he can’t moderate a discussion or reach consensus with council and has trouble fulfilling campaign promises. He has few allies and the ones that he did have, have abandoned him. His immature behaviour towards anyone who disagrees with him is alarming. His closest ally is his brother, who at times appears like he is the one running the city.
If I were in a similar situation I would stop blaming others and ask myself how I’m contributing to all this conflict.
Of course it would be nice if Rob Ford attempted to reach out to the gay community. It’s an honourable thing to do. There is a bitterness, I’m not going to lie, but there is good reason for that, and Ford should take responsibility for the severed relationship that he created by verbalizing his ignorant comments, and then refusing to apologize for making them. Gay people have long memories, but they are also forgiving. Is it so much to ask that Ford behave like an adult, and ensure that he build trust, rather than consistently dismantling it?
Personally I don’t hate Rob Ford. I dislike his childish outlook on life, and his refusal to take accountability for his actions. I believe that he’s not an intelligent person, and that he shouldn’t be running Canada’s largest city, much like Sarah Palin should never have been so close to running the greatest super power on the planet. He clearly cannot do the job, not because his policies are terrible, even though they are, but because he can’t build bridges or reconcile fractured relationships with his colleagues who have demonstrated sound judgment, and competency in their positions. He’s a loose cannon, much like the school yard bully. He lets his ignorance get the better of him, and spews his mouth off when he should be listening.
So he won’t be attending gay pride again. I pity him. It must be a small world he’s closed himself in.