It should go without saying that an out and proud gay man reaching for one of the most visible and powerful positions in the U.S. would be good for LGBTQ people, especially for gay men, which is probably why most of us are really excited to see him run.
One would think that this isn’t controversial.
But straight publications like Slate and The Outline are treating readers to think pieces with convoluted arguments how Buttigieg’s identity is actually bad, an argument that would never be made about a straight politician’s heterosexuality.
So here are four reasons Pete Buttigieg’s campaign is good for the gays, for all the people in the back who haven’t been paying attention.
His campaign will inspire LGBTQ people
As anyone who regularly reads this website knows, gay people face severe oppression.
Homosexuality was illegal in parts of the United States until 2003. 2003. That’s really not that long ago.
LGBTQ people are not covered by anti-discrimination legislation in most states, despite plenty of evidence of systemic discrimination.
Parents are still kicking their gay kids out. Gay people get attacked in the streets if they are at all visible.
If that isn’t enough evidence of pervasive homophobia, consider how gay and bi men’s suicide-attempt rate is four times higher than straight men’s, how LGBTQ people have higher rates of substance use and abuse, how states aren’t banning conversion therapy for adults because there are still gay adults who are trying to turn straight.
When straight people even notice homophobia exists, they are dismissive of it.
The Economist ran an article this past week with the title “Gay mayors? Who cares?” Well, a lot of people apparently do, since an estimated 0.1% of elected officials are LGBTQ, but we probably represent somewhere around 4% of the population in general.
Over 30% of people in 2019 aren’t comfortable with a gay or lesbian presidential candidate.
So it’s not surprising that Buttigieg’s campaign is inspiring for a lot of LGBTQ people, who care less about whether he ever used Grindr than they do about seeing society respect a person who shares a trait that they were taught made them unrespectable.
“For young members of the LGBTQ community, many of whom may be suffering discrimination or bullying or even being ostracized from their own family, seeing a member of our community run for president helps them know it’s going to be okay,” Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) told The Atlantic.
Buttigieg is forcing straight people to acknowledge our existence, our talent, our stories, and our humanity
A lot of straight people don’t interact with gay people on a regular basis.
Even those who do might not know it, because there are still a lot of gays who are at least partly in the closet.
If they do know it, they might not hear much about it, since even out gay people often feel uncomfortable discussing their personal lives with straight people.
And even if they do hear about it, they might not be listening.
Consider this tweet from law professor Laurence Tribe, where he says he has “never heard anything quite like” what Buttigieg said this weekend about his sexual orientation.
This @PeteButtigieg talk about his sexual orientation was awe-inspiring. Could my being straight help explain how much it took me by surprise? Anyway, I’ve never heard anything quite like it. He can communicate at a deep personal level while calmly imparting universal truths. https://t.co/MDIY32e6qI
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) April 8, 2019
Tribe, a Harvard law professor who argued for the Task Force in an LGBTQ discrimination case in the 1980’s and fought sodomy laws in Bowers v. Hardwick, is not some clueless straight dude. But even he admits he’s surprised by Buttigieg’s story about his journey to self-acceptance, a story that many gay people share at least parts of, a story that we have probably heard so many times.
And more understanding is always a good thing.
Buttigieg argues that his homosexuality has made him a better person
Opinions on homosexuality in mainstream discourse generally run from “sin that leads to eternal damnation” to insincere declarations that it doesn’t matter at all.
Buttigieg, instead, argues that his gay relationship – which is only possible because of homosexuality – is good. Not value-neutral, not something that doesn’t matter to anyone, but something positive.
At the LGBTQ Victory Fund’s event earlier this week, Pete Buttigieg said that his relationship with Chasten “has made me a better man.” He then said the same thing using Christian language, that his relationship “moved me closer to God.”
This is true, right? We know that gay relationships make gay and bi people happy and strong and can help us do good things.
But this is something that LGBTQ people – much less straight people – never hear.
Not only that, he has spoken regularly about how being gay has helped him be more sensitive about discrimination, a concept that survey data backs.
“As a member of one minority community, it doesn’t mean that I personally understand the experiences of others,” Buttigieg told Ebony. “I have no idea what it is like personally, for example, to be a transgender woman of color. But I know that I need to stand up for her, just as others have stood up for me.”
Frank Kameny’s “Gay is Good” is one of the movement’s oldest slogans. And it’s still revolutionary.
His campaign is forcing LGBTQ people to confront internalized homophobia
Earlier this week, The Outline published an essay under the headline “Why Pete Buttigieg is bad for gays.”
Even though The Outline isn’t an LGBTQ publication, the author Jacob Bacharach is gay. One of his arguments against Buttigieg is that Bacharach used to think that same-sex marriage would de-radicalize queer identity, that it was a bourgeois institution, and Buttigieg somehow proves this right.
Now Bacharach is getting married, and this is what he wrote about how Buttigieg’s marriage made him feel:
Well, I have a confession. I am getting married. To the man I met on exactly the app you’re thinking of. But I cannot look at Mayor Pete, his charming, handsome husband, and their wedding complete with “three-piece Ted Baker suits from Nordstrom of differing but complementary shades of blue and matching socks” without think that shitty, undergraduate me was at least partly right.[…]
Meanwhile, last year may have been one of the deadliest ever for trans women. The struggles of trans people, queer people of color, LGBTQ people who are rural, LGBTQ people who are poor, belie this neat onward-and-upward narrative, which is a story about a very particular kind of scrubbed, upwardly mobile, largely white, well-dressed, unutterably corny gay.
Notice how Bacharach casually refers to himself as “shitty,” how he reduces a long-term relationship that clearly has deep meaning for Pete and Chasten to superficial clothing choices, how he implies that there’s something wrong with Buttigieg for trying to get a little happiness in this world when there are so many people who really do suffer a lot, how he has a chain of insults for the type of gay man he says he identifies with.
That isn’t an argument. That’s self-hatred.
A lot of gay people just don’t like other gay people. Homophobia is so pervasive that it’s almost impossible not to internalize it. And who makes a better target for gay people’s own self-hatred than other gay people?
People don’t have to vote for Buttigieg; there are a lot of other great candidates and it’s perfectly legitimate to prefer someone else in this election.
His campaign, whether he wins or not, is good for the gays. And that’s good, because the gays deserve good things.