The Sex-Positive Community Thanks You, Jack Layton

He was inspiring.

I’m not just talking about the ‘stache heard round the country. Jack Layton was, to many Canadians a leader who could be believed in. His passing this week is a devastating blow to many people and organizations who were hopeful of a strong left presence in Parliament. Jack brought credibility, presence and success to many issues mainstream Canada is, at best ignorant of, and at worst, intolerant of.

Throughout his years as a career politician, from his rise through the ranks of Toronto city scrums to his ascension as head of the New Democratic Party, Mr. Layton was always on the fore of progressive ideas and solutions. He championed many a cause for the homeless, the disenfranchised, the poor. Perhaps his strongest contributions were related to sex.

Jack Layton worked to create a society where sex was taken for what it is: your own business. As Chair of Toronto’s Board of Health from 1985–1991, Layton initiated programs to distribute condoms and safer-sex educational brochures in the cities bathhouses to help curb the growing HIV/AIDS crises. In 1987 he urged the city to spend $2.1 million on a specific AIDS defense team, the first time a city had planned such an action. While other groups were all about promoting abstinence, he promoted choice and education.

In 1989, Mr. Layton began a fight that played a crucial role in changing a law that required all positive HIV tests be reported to the Ministry of Health. He assisted the Hassle Free Clinic by presenting a motion to the Board of Health and Toronto City Council that urged support for anonymous testing. In 1991, those two bodies then petitioned a new provincial government and the law was changed. While others wanted to know who was fucking and becoming ill, he wanted that to remain the business of the individual.

As a long-time friend to the queer community, Jack was present at the first gay marriage in 2001 and was proud to be there. When and his wife, fellow MP Olivia Chow married, they made specific mention of wanting their queer friends to one day enjoy this same experience. When the time came for the historic gay marriage vote in 2005, he whipped the NDP caucus, the only party leader to do so. When one of his MPs voted against the bill, she was removed from her cabinet position and then, when the next election came, she was not chosen as the NDP candidate in her riding. While others wanted to maintain the exclusive status quo, he wanted an inclusive future.

We all owe a debt of gratitude for being allowed to marry who we want and fuck who we want and maintain our privacy and dignity. Jack Layton believed we all had these rights and he fought for them. His legacy will live strong and long and we should all appreciate his contribution to a sex-positive Canada. Rest in Peace, Mr. Layton.