The year was 1980, and I was 13 years old and my girlfriend and I were in Toronto spending the weekend with her Mom’s bestfriend and his partner. Our mom’s had arranged it, I guess because they wanted us to open our eyes to the world, to open doors, and not limit ourselves, also, and more importantly I know for my mom, to think and dream outside the box of our village.
I grew up in SouthWestern Ontario outside a mid-size city, in a village that runs along both sides of the Thames River situated a couple hours west of Toronto down the 401. It is in that area my mom’s family lived for well over 150 years, and it is where they went to school, to church, and where they died. One of the homesteads these ancestors lived is still in our family, and the roots that heritage has given me are rare and solidified within.
My fondest memories are mornings with grandma who lived next door in the homestead, listening to Peter Gzowski on the CBC radio.
Sleeping over at grandmas was a treat my younger sister and I fought over, and it was to her we all turned, for she was the Matriarch of our family.
What’s the saying about you can take the girl from the country but you can’t take the country from the girl? That definitely is some of it, or rather explains some of the why I am who I am.
So my world growing up was full of sage elders and voices on the CBC, intellectual discourse, grandma was intelligent, wise and all about decency, how one spoke, not about how you dressed, but instead all about who you are, who you are inside.
Yet, that one weekend when I was 13 changed something inside me, you know? It opened up this door, it created these memories, gifts really, about what love really is, what it looks like, and that two men being together seemed normal. They would often come to Dodge for a visit, and many a weekend was spent listening to the laughter and fun going on downstairs as we all were tucked away upstairs, supposed to be sleeping, but seriously.
However, sometime in my early teens HIV came along, and Bruce was one of the first men in Canada to die of the ravages of AIDs. Bruce was, well he was every single stereotypical gay male vision you may have, and I do mean every single one – there was absolutely no question what his sexual orientation was, I mean, he flaunted his gayness with joyful abandon.
And so maybe it is some of that, those experiences and this long road towards liberation, of the rest of the world still catching up with what I knew at 13. Maybe that is why I am so inspired by Pete Buttigieg.
Yet, I also see intellect, decency and wise counsel. I see a man who is not ruled by his difficulties, but rather inspired by them. Out of the vast array of individuals who have thrown their hat into the ring so far, out of the number willing to take on that troll who resides in that house of white down yonder, Mayor Pete for me stands out.
My first instinct to be honest when I saw him, is that Washington would eat him up and spit him out.
Yet, the more I hear him speak, the more interviews, the more speeches, the more I see someone with a certain strength of character quite rare in politics today.
Plus he ticks all those boxes I know Americans are attracted to, from military service to his faith, I see a person that provides a bridge to cross over to the other side.
Well, and the biggest stand out, the one trait that truly makes him unique on any political stage is that he actually answers questions straightforward and with conviction and thought, which today is like hens teeth rare.
He talks about the things that matter, such as local leadership, and the need to walk away from the politics of the past currently being pedaled as some sort of mythological utopia.
He is a man who brings tears of hope to many weary eyes, eyes now accustom to cruelty and corruption, and words tweeted and spoken out loud with chilling reminiscence of a time and place many had thought were in the past, racism illuminated by tiki torches, a politics of fear and loathing, with little hope anywhere to be seen.
Early days yet, but his words of hope, his policies of freedom, security and democracy are timely and important. We are in a time between, the blank page between chapters, of a new generation of leadership, and to the reality of living in a moment that compels us each to act.
So yes, I see him a little like a David to the Goliath of not just a man, but a whole system in Washington of deceit, manipulation and greed that has gone on unchecked for too long, where policy and change have been sidelined by agendas, vendettas and paid endorsements from corporate entities and the wealthy few who line their pockets with the blood, sweat and tears of the many.
And it is refreshing, it is heartwarming, that his sexual orientation is while important, by far not the most important aspect of who he is. Rather, it is inspiring, and with more than just a glimmer of hope he speaks from the heart of his own experience, and his marriage to the love of his life as a partnership that gives him strength.