WATCH: April Lawrence sits down with Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps who discusses why she decided to share her sexuality with the public at a ceremony honouring the victims of the Orlando massacre
It was a powerful moment for Victoria’s normally private mayor.
On Monday Lisa helps spoke publicly for the first time as a member of the gay community, pleading for tolerance in the wake of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
“It could have been me, it could have been any of us gay, lesbian, queer, bi, trans, two-spirited plus folks who go to such bars to find community,” she said.
After the ceremony it was clear her openness had touched those in the crowd feeling vulnerable from the tragedy.
“It really helped me, it was really inspiring, especially an elected official who’s like that, thank you so much,” one woman told Helps.
On Tuesday Lisa Helps explained her decision to go public with her personal life.
“If there was one reason why I did it it was to let those young people know that there are lots of ways to love in the world and lots of ways to be in the world and they’re all okay,” said Helps in an exclusive interview with CHEK News.
Helps said she has been ‘out since she was 13-years-old but had never felt the need to talk about it until now.
“Every person in city hall, my colleagues know, I just never talk about it, it’s how and who I am in the world, no different than the fact that I ride a bike everywhere, or happen to love being in my backyard or that I’m an introvert right? All of those are just part of myself just like who I happen to love,” she said.
But after the Orlando tragedy, Helps realized as a leader, she could have an impact.
“To just have someone in a leadership position be like you know what love is great, all love is great, and this affects all of us including me.”
What resulted was a powerful ceremony, that brought hundreds of people, feeling hurt and afraid, together.
Many people at the ceremony shared their own stories of being discriminated against right here in Victoria.
“We can remind ourselves that each and every one of us has a responsibility to step in and stop the hate, stop the discrimination, it’s that simple,” pleaded Helps.
And for any young people, who may be questioning or struggling with their sexuality, Victoria’s mayor shared a simple message.
“Believe in yourself and find people around you who can support you because you’re perfect how you are, perfect how you are.”