Vooruit leader discusses struggles with his sexuality
The leader of Flemish socialist party Vooruit, Conner Rousseau, has spoken of his doubts over his sexuality in an interview posted on YouTube on Thursday.
“It’s something everyone likes to speculate about, and something I’ve been struggling with for about three years. But it’s now at a point where it’s paralysing me,” he said in the interview with journalist Eric Goens. He talks about being attracted to both men and women, and says he feels “hounded” by gossip and rumours.
“The next year is going to be very tough, with the elections coming up,” he said of the timing of the interview. “I wanted to say something after the elections. But now it’s eating away at me enormously. And do I want to risk it hindering me from being the best version of myself?”
The fact that Rousseau has chosen to publish the video now may also be related to rumours of inappropriate behaviour. An investigation was carried out earlier this year by the West Flanders public prosecutor’s office, VRT says, following a report about Rousseau’s behaviour towards a 17-year-old boy. The complaint came from a journalist who said he had spoken to the teenager, and not the 17-year-old himself.
Rousseau was questioned by police and the investigation was dismissed without further action at the end of May.
The Antwerp public prosecutor’s office has confirmed it also received a report about Rousseau, in the form of a letter. The contents are not being communicated. A preliminary investigation has been launched, according to the prosecutor’s office, to establish whether an offence has been committed. No charges have been made.
"I wanted to say something after the elections. But now it’s eating away at me enormously"
“It’s true that Conner felt the pressure was high to say something about this,” Vooruit MP Freya Van den Bossche told VRT’s Terzake programme on Thursday night. “There has been a massive hate and gossip campaign going on for months, and there had to be a response to that as well.”
The 14-minute video, filmed in Rousseau’s home, professionally edited and carrying a soundtrack, was initially offered for sale to newspapers and broadcasters, many of whom declined to publish it without the opportunity to put their own questions to Rousseau. Media in Belgium generally do not pay for such content.
"Rousseau very explicitly deploys personal aspects of his life politically"
Meanwhile, the fact that Rousseau gets a lot of questions about his sexuality is partly due to his communication style, according to political scientist Dave Sinardet of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.
“Rousseau very explicitly deploys personal aspects of his life politically,” he said. “On Instagram, for example, you see him partying with his friends or relaxing with his dog. In that sense, it’s normal for people to wonder why he couldn’t be open about that aspect, especially today.”
#FlandersNewsService | Conner Rousseau at a Vooruit conference in Leuven © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK