Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Icelandic PM would be world's first openly lesbian leader...

Not counting those world leaders from bygone eras who remained in the closet, it's fair to say that Johanna Sigurdardottir (pictured), appointed today interim Prime Minister of Iceland, is the world's second openly gay leader, and the first openly lesbian national head of government. The first openly gay world leader was Per-Kristian Foss who served as interim Prime Minister in Norway very briefly in 2002.

Iceland's conservative-led government collapsed earlier this week, partly as a result of problems caused by the failure of the country's banks in the credit crisis last fall. Sigurdardottir's appointment is expected to be confirmed within days by the new ruling coalition of the Social Democratic Alliance party and the Left-Green movement. She would lead Iceland until general elections, expected in May. If elected, she'd be the first openly gay world leader elected by the people. However, polls show her party currently trailing the Left-Green Movement.

While being an openly queer leader doesn't seem to be a big deal in most parts of Europe, the pink ceiling remains firmly in place throughout most of North America. We've had openly gay mayors in Canada and the U.S. (one of whom recently has been in a bit of a sex scandal).

But no openly queer leaders have ever won the big prize of governing a province, state or country. In the U.S., New Jersey Governor James McGreevey resigned in 2004 after admitting he cheated on his wife with a gay lover. We've had at least one closet case lead a Canadian province and perhaps more. Canada's only openly gay leader of a political party, Andre Boisclair, led his Parti Quebecois to an historic defeat in 2007 and stepped down soon thereafter.

These failures - coupled with basic politics 101 which dictates that members of the voting public usually want to see themselves in their leaders, plus the tendency of political parties to shun leadership candidates deemed too outside the mainstream or "radical" to get elected - have previously led me to conclude that we're a long way off before we elect a major government leader who is openly gay in North America.

But I don't doubt that one day some extraordinarily charismatic and talented political leader - who also happens to be openly queer - will come along who is capable of winning the hearts and votes of mainstream heterosexuals. One day we'll have our gay Obama. Here's hoping...

1 comment:

Mushroom said...

Matt,

The Iceland example should do well for Canada. So much so that I am hoping that Libby Davies may one day be the future PM of Canada.

I am for getting rid of Jack and letting Libby take over the NDP. Better for the Grits and the progressive left.