Saturday, August 30, 2008

Open Forum: Are We Ready for a Gay Leader?

Around the world there have been major advances for minorities and people subject to discrimination. From England, to Israel, Pakistan and beyond we have seen women Prime Ministers and leaders. In the United States we had John F. Kennedy become the first Catholic president. Currently in the United States the democratic party has nominated the first African-American to be a presidential contender. The republican party has also nominated Sarah Palin a female governor of Alaska to be the Vice Presidential selection.

Now in France under the socialist party Bertrard Delanoe an openly gay man is running for Prime Minister. We have seen transgender politicians in Italy's cabinet, gay men and women within the U.S. congress, and state houses, and LGBT people throughout the world holding significant positions of power.

So I pose the question... Within your respective country, and most readers here are from the U.S. so (please specify) do you think your country is ready for a gay prime minister/president?


mave said...

I think the main potential problem with an openly glbt candidate for leadership is that it could become a distraction from their true qualities if they didn't downplay it in some ways. for example, if a woman runs for a leadership position and makes a lot of the fact she's a woman rather than simply running and bringing all her qualities and achievements to the forefront, she won't get far. the same is true with anyone who is different from the traditional norm in any way.

the other issue is being able to appear as a candidate who the masses can identify with. since there would be some tendency for the masses to feel a bit alienated by the difference in sexuality (because despite the widespread acceptance of glbt people, there is still a lot of segregation between cultures and lifestyles), ideally that candidate would be married and have a family. in some countries that would be enough to give the voters some sympathy for/interest in the candidate - even if the family has 2 moms or 2 dads.

if there were to emerge a gay or lesbian candidate who was strong-willed, had a lot of charisma and personality, and some great ideas about where they want to take their party - who was married with children and who had a strong communications program that involved making sure their sexuality didn't obscure their qualities and ideas in the press, etc. then yes - a gay or lesbian person could definitely get elected to prime minister in my country (canada). that's partly because of the attitude of canadians, and partly because of how our electoral system works (we have a parliamentary system where we vote for members of parliament and the parties they belong to, rather than prime ministerial candidates).

you may have noticed I left out bisexual/pansexual people - that's because bisexual/pansexual people would be viewed publicly based on who they are married to (if same sex, then gay or lesbian, if opposite, straight). I also left transgendered out, and that is because I don't think our country (or any country that I can think of except one or two smaller european countries) is ready for a transgendered leader. there is still a lot fo stigma attached to it, sadly. I don't think a transgendered candidate would get treated terribly in the media here, but they wouldn't get elected.

Queers United said...

mave - thanks for weighing in, I tend to agree with you that it would need to be someone who assimilated, downplayed their sexuality and had a family and looked like anyone else except their partner is of the same-sex. You are in Canada which I think is much more open minded to a gay leader, here in the U.S. I don't think we are ready. Gays have a small headstart against atheists but gays and atheists are the bottom 2. 10% of Americans still refuse to vote for a Catholic president. We have a long way to go to teach tolerance within this country.

Unknown said...

I think you are right about smaller countries. Living in Australia I would say it is not likely that a glbt prime minister or even a state premier would be glbt candidate. It may happen but it is going to take a bit more time.

However as a New Zealand citizen I think it is only a matter of time before a glbt prime minister is elected. I think this reflects the smaller size of the country and also the huge step forward which occurred in the 90s. A transgender prime minister isn't out of the question either given the level of support Georgina Beyer received as Mayor of Carterton and then as a Member of Parliament for a rural electorate.

Given that New Zealand has already had all top positions filled by women, has strong Maori, Polynesian and growing Asian presence in parliament, and has a number of high profile glbt Members of the current parliament I think it is only a matter of time.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's the Canadian in me (content and apathetic to a fault) but I honestly don't know that we have never yet had a queer prime minister in one form or another. I'm far from uneducated, but the fact that I can only name about 6 or 7 prime ministers (to say nothing of their individual sexual or gender identity) in all of Canada's history (while being able to name several times that many American presidents) speaks to the wishy-washiness of politics here, at least among Gen Y folks like myself. I have to say that, in Canada, a gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, transgender/transsexual, two-spirited, maybe even pansexual person could be out and still get elected as prime minister. He she or ze would just need enough charisma to get people to care - that's what all our other leaders lack. Is the person smart, charismatic, responsible, trustworthy, and good? I think that person would get elected in a heartbeat, especially considering the competition. Beyond that, I think that most people in Canada wouldn't care what goes on in the bedroom. Young people don't care about politics in Canada anymore. Show me a charismatic queer, and maybe I'll show up to vote for once.


Queers United said...

Calvin I should clarify and say, I am sure many countries have had LGBT leaders, the question should be are we ready for an OUT leader.

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