He said he’d made the choice to come out after 40 years because “better late than never.”
Watson was met with an outpouring of support on social media, including messages from Toronto Mayor John Tory and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Brave words that I’m sure will inspire Ottawans – and all Canadians – to feel free to be themselves. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Jim. https://t.co/sr6v86XFzc— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) August 17, 2019
Jim Watson has spent his life helping others and he is doing that again today. I am proud to call him my friend. Ottawa is lucky to have him! https://t.co/Wd5pjKFnGR— John Tory (@JohnTory) August 17, 2019
This must have taken a ton of courage from my friend @JimWatson. Thinking of him this weekend as well as all those who still live with the fear and stigma associated with just being who they are. #LoveIsLovehttps://t.co/q73X6xVkoS— Steven Del Duca (@StevenDelDuca) August 17, 2019
Thanks for modeling real courage, Mayor Watson! Canada’s big city mayors have always been proud to serve alongside you, but today we have one more big reason. 🇨🇦🏳️🌈 https://t.co/EDMr5aIG28— Don Iveson (@doniveson) August 17, 2019
Politicians from across the spectrum sent the mayor well-wishes.
Mayor Jim, everyone’s journey is their own. I have watched, admired and worked with you since I was a Parliamentary Guide in Ottawa in the summer of 1991. You are an inspiring leader and a friend. Thanks for sharing your story. #lgbtq2#pride— Randy Boissonnault 🏳️🌈 (@R_Boissonnault) August 17, 2019
A heartfelt thank you @JimWatsonOttawa for sharing your story with us & trusting us with your truth. It takes incredible courage.— Rachel Notley (@RachelNotley) August 17, 2019
To anyone who may not yet be ready to come out: you are loved. We are here for you, whenever you’re ready. #cdnpoli#PRIDEhttps://t.co/pr65NISL7D
Having known you for the last 30 years, count me as a friend who assumed, but respected your privacy. This must have been a hard article to write, but I am so glad you decided to see how life can be fuller on the other side of the closet door. Much love. https://t.co/s2sw09FN1G— Elizabeth May (@ElizabethMay) August 17, 2019
Thank you @JimWatsonOttawa for your searing and heartfelt message in today’s Ottawa Citizen. I particularly enjoyed reading about your recent interaction w a homophobic resident, and how you handled it with grace. Love is love. #Ottawa#ottnewshttps://t.co/LxB8OKoP63— Joel Harden (@JoelHardenONDP) August 17, 2019
Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, who is also gay, also congratulated the mayor for coming out, as did other members of the LGBTQ community, including Ottawa city councillor Catherine McKenney.
I am so proud to call Jim Watson a friend. Always gracious, strong and kind. And now just a wee bit more interesting. Hooray!!!! After 40 years, he's opened the closet door. @JimWatsonOttawa your city will love you even more now! https://t.co/h3RgThR7l5— Rob Oliphant (@Rob_Oliphant) August 17, 2019
Welcome to our family, Mayor. I'm proud to have you among us, and now as a leader and example (even tho I don't always agree with your political decisions, we can work on that tho 🤣).— Mike Gibbs 🏳️🌈 (@Mikeggibbs) August 17, 2019
We also respect the same LGBTQ2 out politicians. Tip: add @JanisIrwin to your list.
May Mr. Watson’s announcement help others come to terms with their sexuality. It’s never easy. I am proud of who I am. During my 11 years on Tillsonburg Town Council, my sexuality was a “problem” for some. That’s on them. The encouragement & love from others was overwhelming.— Mark Renaud ✈️🏳️🌈🇨🇦 (@markrenaud) August 17, 2019
The column is still getting a lot of love.
Proud of you! It takes a lot courage to fight internal fears. A label doesn’t define who you are as a person. We love you either way! Your strength and confidence will inspire a lot of others which is a great sign of a true leader! #youarefree ❤️— Nicholle Anderson (@xonichollexo) August 17, 2019
Congratulations, Jim! This must feel great - enjoy the well-wishes from so many of your constituents, and happy Pride!— Jeff Leiper (@JLeiper) August 17, 2019
In his column, Watson said he was inspired to come out when he put up a pride flag at city hall in solidarity with LGBTQ athletes during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia. One person told him the move had made Watson lose his vote, and he fired back, “If you have that point of view, I really don’t want your vote.”
Watch: Justin Trudeau makes history by raising pride flag on Parliament Hill in 2016. Story continues below.
A second incident that influenced him was a man telling him not to go to the city’s Pride parade two years ago.
“A middle-aged man approached me and said: ‘I hope you’re not going in that fag parade’,” the column reads. “I told him: ‘I’m looking forward to marching in the Pride Parade, and I plan on doing so again, so why don’t you join me?’”
I couldn't be happier for you, @JimWatsonOttawa! Politics matters but so does being true to yourself. Very proud of your courage to come out to the world today. 🌈— Catherine McKenna 🇨🇦 (@cathmckenna) August 17, 2019
Looking forward to proudly marching with you in @FierteCapPride. And wishing you much love and happiness! ❤️ https://t.co/YgLJyx37C4
Even after 40 years, it’s still brave, Jim.— Seamus O'Regan (@SeamusORegan) August 17, 2019
Good for you. https://t.co/Sqs2mfkpVb
Congratulations Mr. Mayor. May your life now be filled with the passion and love we all deserve. https://t.co/jxOgV5XPSY— Ben Mulroney (@BenMulroney) August 17, 2019
The 58-year-old said it was a “mistake” not to have come out sooner, but noted he’d been worried about how his loved ones and colleagues would react and had been focused on his career, and didn’t have the same resources when he was younger that many LGBTQ people have today.
“If I can be so bold as to offer one bit of advice to those still in the closet: Don’t feel pressured or rushed to come out, but don’t wait 40 years either,” Watson wrote. “My reluctance has not allowed me to live my life as full of love and adventure as my gay friends who were bolder and braver than I ever was.”
But Watson says he is grateful for the support.
I have been overwhelmed with so many kind and thoughtful messages over the past 12 hours. I want to apologize if I haven’t gotten back to you. I am reading all your messages and I thank you for making this day so meaningful and memorable— Jim Watson (@JimWatsonOttawa) August 18, 2019