During a recent radio interview, the openly gay American politician and Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said he has had to stop reading LGBTQ+ media because of ongoing criticism. When asked whether he believes his “masculine presentation” had somehow advantaged him, Pete replied, “It’s tough for me to know, right? I just am what I am…” expanding on the cryptic response, he said: “It’s all ‘too gay, not gay enough, wrong kind of gay’.”
It’s the latest misstep by Buttigieg in what should be a transformative moment in American politics. Pete quickly apologized for the “grumpy moment” during another interview with BuzzFeed news show “AM2DM” but the damage had already been done. His candidacy inspired millions of LGBTQ+ Americans when he announced his run earlier this year but in the time since the South Bend mayor has struggled to garner widespread support.
This isn’t the first time the Democratic Party leader has faced criticism from within the community. Earlier this year, Buttigieg sparked outrage when he told CBS News radio that he was “troubled” by president Obama’s decision to grant clemency to transgender whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Manning revealed U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now – despite having been granted clemency – being held in jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. His comments have led some to doubts about his commitment to government accountability and fair treatment for inmates from vulnerable minority communities.
“In the end we need an ally of the community in that office. … I’m not going to vote for him just because he’s gay.”Bryce Smith, Chair of the Dallas County Democratic Party
Buttigieg has made a pattern of distancing himself from LGBTQ+ issues. In March this year, Buttigieg said of notoriously anti-LGBTQ+ restaurant Chick-fil-A that while he “doesn’t approve of their politics” he does “kind of approve of their chicken” and that he would like to “broker that peace deal”. More recently, BuzzFeed news reported that Buttigieg’s campaign had initially decided not to attend the September 20th LGBTQ presidential forum. The decision was quickly reversed after some outraged officials voiced their disappointment, and Pete ultimately did appear.
“I would have thought that instead of seeing Cory Booker and Joe Biden and Julián Castro — these people are coming — well, where’s Buttigieg? I thought he’d be the first on the list. That infuriates me. You don’t want to come to something that’s part of your community?”Elizabeth Medina, LGBTQ leader in Iowa (in response to Buttigieg initially declining to attend the forum)
What Pete Buttigieg fails to understand, and refuses to learn for fear of reading that he’s ‘the wrong kind of gay’, is that the problem that the LGBTQ+ community have with him is not that he’s “too masc” or “too fem”. Instead, the problem we have is that he seems comfortable downplaying his sexuality to make himself more palatable to voters who may not be comfortable with a ‘queen’ in the White House. The LGBTQ+ community is, as ever, in a vulnerable position in the current climate; a president that ignores the responsibility that comes with his queerness, and is willing to throw the community under the bus to gain power, is of no benefit to LGBTQ+ people whatsoever.
Ultimately, it is probable that Pete’s greatest contribution will be that he was the first gay man to make it this far; his campaign should serve as a warning to those LGBTQ+ candidates who follow. What we need is a candidate that speaks for the community, is unabashedly part of it, not ashamed of it, or afraid of hearing the criticisms that LGBTQ+ people might have in the media.