Cobalt elects only second known transgender mayor in Canada

COBALT - Cobalt made some new history with the election of a transgender person to the position of mayor.

"Cobalt has been unbelievably accepting to not only myself but my entire family as well," said mayor-elect Mita Gibson.

Gibson is also only the second known transgender person in Canadian history to be elected mayor. Julie Lemieux of Très-Saint-Rédempteur, Quebec, was elected to lead the municipal council there in 2017 and was re-elected in 2021.

Gibson and her wife Jennifer Pereira have two young sons, Léoden and Thain.

"Every openly trans person has unique challenges, in my opinion. For myself, the biggest thing I would say would be pronouns upon first meeting me. I am rather tall, an athletic person, and present myself, for the most part, in an outdoor practical style of attire, which goes against the typical norm for what society dictates as feminine. That makes it hard for people to be accurate with pronouns in the beginning," said Gibson in a telephone interview.

"Another small challenge is my voice (which sounds masculine), and I'm okay with that. It's part of who I am and just goes to show there is a huge spectrum with the representation of trans people."

Being a transgender person in a high profile public position like mayor, Gibson said, "I think it's very important to have every kind of representation across society, especially for our youth. I do like the idea of being a positive role model for kids."

She added that she feels "a strong urgency to show my kids and any youth to go out there, help people if you can, take care of the world around you, and be more empathetic."

ACTIVE LIVING

Gibson has already been active in the community, particularly with the creation of a community skating rink in the winter and most recently spearheading a Halloween activity for children in cooperation with the Cobalt Fire Department, attracting 150 children.

Physical activity and mental health are often linked closely, she said, and she expressed strong concern about negative impacts on mental health from the advance of technology.

"It's very apparent to me that the more society has made things easier, especially with the implementation of technology, the greater the challenge is to stay happy in life. We see childhood anxiety at historical highs. We're currently living in a time where young children are addicted to technology, sometimes as young as two years old."

That needs to change, she said, and starts in the household. But, she added, "I believe municipal politics does have a role in addressing this mental health crisis, as I am a firm believer in the sentiment that it takes a village to raise a child."

"As a mother of two very healthy and active boys, I really feel that leading by example is the best way to accomplish this." She encourages people to get out more, and play video games less.

"The amazing side effect of having a strong body is often having a strong mind."

She summarized her philosophy of the importance of an outdoor life with less dependence on technology.

"Humans have been on this planet for 100,000 years living symbiotically with nature, and in the last 20 years we've been thrown to the mercy of technology and we really need to bounce back and regain some kind of balance."

People should not lose connection with nature, she said. Being in touch with nature "breeds empathy, determination and turns off the complacency of the gift of life itself."

She said she is ready to bring her philosophy to her new role as mayor.

To learn more about Gibson's journey, go to her blog at http://mitastranslife.blogspot.com.

Darlene Wroe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker