Last week the Canadian prime minister's office was looking for families to be part of the backdrop for a political statement about our Liberal government's new budget.
I received a last minute request: Would my partner and I be willing to bring our children and take part the following morning?
We quickly agreed to be used. It's not often you get a chance to meet the prime minister!
The day dawned cold and icy but we made the trek halfway across town to a neighborhood community center. We were ushered into a playroom where Justin Trudeau would come to chat with us.
Soon he bounded in, all energetic and photogenic, and introduced himself to the three sets of parents. A phalanx of media cameras clicked away and video cameras recorded.
Well briefed, the Prime Minister said hi to our children by name, sat on a small kid's chair and began to play with them. My kids were both shy at first but soon warmed up to the father of three young children.
After having our photo of our family taken with the Prime Minister on a couch, I did take a moment to say, “We're looking forward to seeing you again at Pride this summer." He demurred and said he doesn't understand the big deal because he attends every year.
While true, it's especially meaningful this year: It will be the first time a Canadian prime minister will attend a Pride celebration.
For the Prime Minister's political statement, we dutifully stood behind him and looked on as he talked. We had trouble hearing what he was saying, because his back was to us, and because the parents of all three families were doing our best to keep our children quiet and still.
When the media part was done, Prime Minister Trudeau shook our hands once more and gave out high-fives to the kids, except my daughter decided to use her forehead instead. Justin laughed and went with it.
It was a privilege to have the opportunity to meet our country's leader and to be included. While we had been asked because we're a gay family, there was no specific attention drawn to us. And that's what was so remarkable: we were there to be shown like any other family, to represent everyday Canadians.
The Canadian government is emphasizing a point: making inclusion and diversity both visible and natural. The Liberals are early in their mandate and still have a lot of campaign pledges to fulfill, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his party have made sure that the symbols, tone and outset of his government are promising.
When he became Prime Minister, one of his first actions was to appoint a cabinet that was half female for the first time in our country's history. Why? “Because it's 2015," he responded.
Some might think it tokenism or a quota, but all of our cabinet ministers are eminently qualified. When I saw the news coverage of the announcement, it truly sunk in for me. All of society can now see itself reflected in the makeup of cabinet, at least along gender lines. My daughter can look at this cabinet and see herself. It's more than words to say she is equal; she can look at the cabinet and know immediately that she is truly considered equal.
It's more than a token or symbol for the Prime Minster to attend Pride. It's important for other Canadians to see him there to understand the message of inclusion and a celebration of diversity. For me, I feel proud and validated when this Prime Minister and the government he is leading recognizes and accepts me as a gay person.
And to be portrayed as an everyday family – I am grateful for the larger message we helped convey: Our families deserve to be included. Our families deserve to be visible. Our families are welcome.
Let me be clear: Gay families deserve to be as ordinary as anyone else's.
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