Pete Buttigieg is the only openly gay person among the prospective Democratic presidential candidates for 2020. But one Twitter user and Harvard student named Ryan Wheeler recently criticized Buttigieg by stating, “Mayor Pete may be gay but he sure as hell ain’t queer.” (Buttigieg is serving in his eighth and final year as mayor of South Bend, Indiana.)
Wheeler’s sentiment got some pushback from Twitter users, including openly gay Pennsylvania Representative Brian Sims.
Gayness requires gay sex; queerness demands liberatory politics. Mayor Pete’s career choices – McKinsey and the military – reveal that his politics are about self-promotion.Compare his choices (and the choices of most of the Dem candidates) to Elizabeth Warren’s (
@ewarren). She fought on behalf of the poor & middle class her entire career, and only fell into politics after creating the CFPB — an agency that protects consumers from predatory & fraudulent corporations.”
Sims responded, “I am 1000% certain that you are not the arbiter of gayness or queerness. If you knew even the first thing about either, you’d also know how painfully stupid this post is. Usually I see this kind of crap from our opponents, it’s worse when it comes from us.”
Wheeler responded, “I am not policing Mayor Pete’s gender presentation; I’m policing his capitalist imperialist politics.”
Ryan, can you center yourself in this any more than this? Holy hell. What you “love about queerness” has absolutely nothing to do with what queerness is or, more importantly, what queerness is for others. Repeat after me: You don’t get to define others’ queerness.
— Brian Sims (@BrianSimsPA) April 10, 2019
And Sims retorted, “You’re not policing anything. You’re embarrassing yourself and offending all of us that are actually working towards LGBTQ equality. Get over yourself. Apologize for an aggressively stupid comment. Then do better next time.”
Wheeler continued, “What I love about queerness is the radical rejection of oppression, a refusal to live by the rules of an unjust society. Mayor Pete is as conformist as they come – Harvard/Rhodes/McKinsey. That is not radical, but perpetuates the system.”
Sims then asked, “Ryan, can you center yourself in this any more than this? Holy hell. What you ‘love about queerness’ has absolutely nothing to do with what queerness is or, more importantly, what queerness is for others. Repeat after me: You don’t get to define others’ queerness.'”
Wheeler replied, “If queerness is about living your entire life with the purpose of amassing wealth and influence, then I’m out. I’m fighting for a better vision of queerness.”
Sims mocked his sentiment by stating, “‘Queerness is whatever Ryan loves.’ At least you’re being up front with your narcissism earlier. Be real.”
But as Hornet wrote while discussing the definition of the word “queer”, queerness can also refer “not only to whether you fall outside the mainstream (by being LGBTQ) but whether you fall outside the protection of the mainstream.”
For example, one might not consider a white, closeted, gay, cis, male, Christian Republican who is married to a woman and who opposes LGBTQ rights as “queer” because their identities and actions don’t place them outside of the mainstream or its protection.
This hypothetical Republican may be gay, but they aren’t queer because they’re conventionally and traditionally mainstream, and that provides them a large degree of social protection; especially when compared to, say, a black, bisexual, trans female, atheist anarchist who is in polyamorous group marriage and regularly protests for LGBTQ rights.
No, Buttigieg isn’t Republican, but by this definition, one can question seriously question whether he’ll truly advocate for marginalized Americans who fall outside the protection of the mainstream, both because of his background and because his official website has no actual policy positions on it yet.