Being Proud Of A Gay American Running For President

As the Iowa caucuses are soon to get underway (as of this writing) there are many ways to view the candidates.  They can be arranged according to how they match the needs of the time, show abilities for the general election, or might govern if elected.   We all have our top tier and those we could abide if chosen as the nominee.

But for me, there is one other perspective when gauging a candidate this election cycle.  As a gay man, I have paid much attention while watching another gay man run for the presidential nomination of my party.   There is, for me, a deep sense of pride in watching the campaign of Pete Buttigieg.  In the span of a few decades, I have gone from being the object of redneck bullying in high school for just having been assumed to be gay, to now living in the  20th-year of a relationship with my husband.  I have seen society move from outright gay bigotry to a place where social norms are creating acceptance and tolerance in ways I never could have dreamed as I literally viewed the world from inside a locker as thick-necked farm boys kicked the metal door from the outside.

I came out of the closet partly while in broadcasting school and then completely a few years later after moving to Madison.  I never felt better as a person than when I lived life authentically.   I know what it was like to have lived a closeted life for a number of years, and the freedom that comes with throwing off the yoke of others people’s expectations and asserting my own personal narrative.

That is what I see when I watch Mayor Pete.  I see the journey, I feel the journey.  I have lived that journey as a gay man.  I have watched how some in both politics and the press have responded or reported on his being gay.  I am not thin-skinned but have bristled at times when the tone seems wrong to me and I wonder if it is due to just the heat of politics or some coded way of not understanding the life he lived and the paths he needed to take to be able to stand as tall and proud as anyone else who entered the race.

The path Pete has taken–and yes, in some kindred type of way I think it fine for me to call him Pete–is historic.  His race for the White House as a gay man who has a husband, kisses him in public, shares stories about their family life, and knows that he is just as able and ready to meet the requirements of office as any other contender sends a very loud message to all the young gay kids in the nation.   The message is this: be true to yourself and the rest will follow.  Do not allow for the bigoted ones who would look you in the eye as they argue 100 is a perfect IQ score to define you as a person or limit where you will travel in your life.

Pete has broken down barriers.  He is a Christian veteran gay American.  And he is seeking his party’s nomination.   He has made me proud as a citizen, and as a gay man.

I still at times have bad dreams about the inside of a locker.  I suspect I always will.  But over the past months, I have thought about that episode with the imaginary sound of a louder kick in return.  A gay president who sits in the Oval Office and makes the kind of social statement that will be loud enough for all the rednecks to hear.

Yes, that day will come.  Maybe not this year.  But it will happen.  Pete has prepared the road for that eventuality.