Dear Jason Kenney,
Two years ago today, kd lang asked you rather bluntly on Twitter: “You’re gay, aren’t you?” She wasn’t the only person who wanted to know. I suspect that millions of other Canadians—including plenty of the celebrated singer/songwriter’s fellow Albertans—were curious, too.
One reason for the question was that, on March 28, 2017, you told the Calgary Herald’s editorial board that you thought schools should inform parents when their child joins a gay-straight alliance—advocating, in effect, that kids who join GSAs should be “outed.” Lang’s tweet was retweeted 568 times and got 1,300 “likes”. However, you didn’t reply and—despite the obvious intrigue of an iconic, Grammy & Juno award-winning performer weighing in on such a hot-button issue—mainstream Canadian society for the most part greeted kd’s intervention with the awkward silence one typically accords a drunken relative’s wedding toast.
While Toronto-based lawyer, author and consultant Warren Kinsella found the question perfectly reasonable, and comedian Rick Mercer used sarcastic innuendo to make fun of your various homophobic positions (his calling you “the epitome of old-school masculinity” no doubt prompted bales of ironic laughter from Victoria to St. John’s), others disagreed with kd for posing the question. Some condemned the very practice of “outing,” regarding its outcomes as “nothing more than a revenge fantasy brought to life.”
I understand this objection. As good polite Canadians, most of us regard such personal intrusions as impertinent—our sexual orientation being no one’s business but our own. As a gay man myself, I don’t believe in “outing” another person unless that person, in a position of power or influence, takes actions or adopts public positions that are harmful to the community or population of which they are secretly a member. And herein lies the problem, Jason: your entire political career has been littered with bigoted attacks on LGBTQ+ folk. And, as pop psychology has pointed out for years, there tends to be a thou-doth-protest-too-much aspect surrounding the most virulent of homophobes. So you can’t really blame us for wanting to know why you’ve always had such a bee in your bonnet about our sex lives.
After leaving federal politics, you might have gotten away with your gay-bashing record as a Harper cabinet minister if you had turned over a new leaf in provincial politics and retreated from the anti-queer rhetoric. But instead, as leader of Alberta’s United Conservative Party, you have doubled down on the bigotry by—to cite just a few examples—adopting your 2017 stance against GSAs for the UCP campaign platform, failing to condemn UCP candidates who hold repugnantly homophobic views and, most disturbingly, failing to retract or repudiate a 2000 statement in which you boasted of helping overturn a 1989 San Francisco law that would have extended domestic partnerships to same-sex couples, effectively blocking AIDS patients’ partners from hospital visits.
For public figures like yourself, there comes a point where activist condemnation of your statements—or those of your candidates—is no longer a sufficient response because you’ve already indicated your complete lack of interest in recognizing the harm such statements can cause. Hence this need to probe a little deeper. If you really want to become Alberta’s next premier, Jason, voters have a right to know: what motivates your homophobia? Why do you say the things you do, and what is your objection to LGBTQ+ people?
As for kd’s question, perhaps she could have phrased it differently. I mean, no one likes to be labelled—least of all Miss Chatelaine herself—so let me repose it this way: Are you, Jason Kenney, a devout, pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic who happens to be attracted mainly to men but has chosen to deal with that troublesome conflict by (a) opting for a life of celibacy and (b) proving his loyalty to Rome by resisting, with every fibre of his being, any kind of public policy or legislation that recognizes the human rights of sexual or gender minorities?
If the answer is no, then my apologies: your homophobia is based on ignorance, a fear and loathing of people you simply don’t understand. (But then you’ll have to forgive me for finding such ignorance hard to fathom, given what we know about the Harper administration and its “Velvet Mafia”, and of certain gay Conservatives’ peculiar angst with the queer left and its media for their Harper Derangement Syndrome and apparent lack of gratitude.)
But if the answer is yes, then we have a problem. For if you are truly that kind of Roman Catholic, then religion may have clouded your perspective to an unhealthy degree. As someone raised in the Church, I know the type well: his theology tends toward concerns of power, control, and self-abnegation. It’s hard to maintain such religious fidelity and still regard the outside world with anything but resentment, envy, and self-loathing. For if one has identified one’s own potential for “sin” and committed oneself to a lifetime of sacrifice in order to avoid such “sin”, it must be galling in the extreme to see so many people living openly passionate, happy queer lives—being exactly who they want to be.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think you’re one of those closet cases in danger of being caught in a compromising position with some handsome young intern. Nor do you seem like the kind of hypocrite who tries to maintain a complicated double life, replete with its secret boyfriends and otherwise consenting male sex partners, its pseudonymous Grindr accounts and escort service credit cards. That kind of story eventually sees the light of day, and you’re too smart for that.
You do have a choice here. You can continue pursuing your faith and celibacy, if that is how you wish to live your life. Go with God, as they say. But please: do yourself and so many Albertans a favour and finally stop telling others how to live theirs.