He might arguably be the the world’s most pro-LGBT political leader, but Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that his commitment to promoting LGBT+ equality doesn't stop at his own shores.
The Canadian leader, who drew plaudits for openly promoting women's and LGBT+ rights at la Francophonie, the international organisation for French-speaking nations last year, has revealed that he's continuing to raise the topic of gay equality with leaders from some of the world's most vehemently homophobic states.
“I’ll say it and I’ll stand up for it and be very blunt about it,” Mr Trudeau says in the January issue of Attitude – available to download and in shops now.
“But inevitably, maybe not from the leaders — maybe from some leaders — but staffers and people around will say, ‘Thank you for standing up, thank you for adding that voice because it’s something that [people] need to hear’.”
Justin Trudeau used his appearance at la Francophonie last year to openly promote women's and LGBT+ rights.
Despite the challenges of winning over hearts and minds, Mr Trudeau is hopeful that change will come - if slowly.
“I remember an African leader said to me: ‘Justin, you spoke very well, but on the gays I just can’t go where you are’,” he admits when asked how his comments have been received in private.
“But,” he adds, “there was a recognition. [People are] blunt+ about it. They blame all sorts of things: society not being ready, or the Church; being a very conservative society — with a small ‘c’ — or having very traditional values.”
He continues: “The leaders are beginning to understand that the world is moving in that direction and we haven’t made it a direct condition of trade or aid or anything like that, but it’s starting to be a real pressure that you cannot continue to criminalise LGBT+ [people].”
The Canadian leader, who has just introduced domestic legislation to pardon gay men convicted under Canada's historic anti-gay laws, adds that he will continues to use his platform to stand up for LGBT rights abroad.
“I think sometimes it takes friends, or allies, or partners, like another country leader, to say: ‘Give your people more credit than you have, and maybe the religious leaders don’t have the kind of impact that you think they have’,” he says. Justin Trudeau marches with Ireland's openly gay Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at Montreal Pride, August 2016.
“You need to give people a friendly nudge to move forward in the right direction, and I’m very glad to do it. But, yes, I’ve had some very candid conversations with leaders about the fact that they need to go there.”
“There will always be small groups of people who have power, whether it’s religious groups, or political groups, who will protect that status quo and will resist change as it gets closer to them,” Trudeau goes on. “But I trust people, I trust citizens, and I know that the direction that we need to move is in respectful ways, in meaningful ways [and] is something that we need to keep pushing.”