Rick Mercer says gay teens need more role models
Published Thursday, October 27, 2011 5:08PM EDT
Comedian Rick Mercer is speaking out against the bullying of gay teenagers, saying public figures need to provide them with more support.
"Young people in junior high and high school are now coming out of the closet. This is a relatively recent phenomenon. When I was in high school I certainly wasn't out of the closet and certainly it wasn't even on the table," Mercer told CTV's National Affairs.
"If you are young and vulnerable and that age, it would certainly help to see more and more visible people who are gay and lesbian."
Mercer has been speaking out loudly on the issue since his television rant on bullying and the suicide of 15-year-old Jamie Hubley from Ottawa went viral.
"The kids that bullied that boy, they know who they are, and more importantly, other kids know who they are. It's no longer enough to tell kids who are different that it's going to get better," he says in the video. "We have to make it better now. If you are gay and in public life, I'm sorry, you don't have to run around with a pride flag and bore the hell out of everyone, but you can't be invisible, not anymore."
Although Mercer is openly gay in his private life, he was criticized for not explicitly mentioning that on his television show, the CBC's Rick Mercer Report. Since then, he's been making the rounds on radio and television shows to come out of the closet again, so to speak.
"How many times do you have to come out in this country?" he asked rhetorically.
The bullying of gay teenagers has taken on great prominence over the past year after the high-profile suicides of several teens, many of whom were featured in the "It Gets Better" campaign.
The "It Gets Better" project was the brainchild of sex advice columnist and gay rights advocate Dan Savage, and features gay adults telling teens their lives will improve.
Mercer said he's against outing people, as gay and lesbians may have personal or professional reasons for not coming out, but it's something to think about.
"I'm not saying people need to step up and be a leader or gay activist . . . (I'm) just saying it would be better if there were more visible gay cops, gay soldiers, gay hockey players," he said.
"We'd kill for a hockey player, a hockey player would be worth 10 of me," he added with a laugh.
Mercer said schools must do more to deal with bullying, as behaviour that is tolerated in schools would never be accepted in any Canadian workplace.