Think you’re supporting the LGBTQ community by supporting Mayor Pete? You’re not.
The foreparents of LGBTQ liberation set the bar high and a Buttigieg presidency doesn’t even come close.
On the same year that we marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the LGBTQ community saw its first Democratic candidate make a run for the presidency. In the first piece of a five-part series critiquing the prospect of a Buttigieg presidency, we take this opportunity to question if “Mayor Pete” is really a candidate that is helping or hindering the journey towards collective liberation. While his candidacy is a sign of how far we’ve come, his positions are a reflection of how far we have to go.
We need more queers in office…
When we look in the realm of electoral politics, we are still grossly underrepresented — only 0.15% of elected officials are “out” despite around 4.5% of adults in the US identifying as LGBT. There are currently only 2 out governors, 9 out congresspeople, and 44 out mayors.
There are obvious reasons why we want to be better represented in government. First, many LGBTQ people are struggling with difficult issues like HIV/AIDS, homelessness and poverty, bullying, access to healthcare, hate-based violence, housing and job discrimination, and police brutality. Chances are that an out elected official will be more in touch with these challenges and more willing to tackle them.
Second, due to decades of rejection by mainstream society, it can feel empowering to see someone you can relate to in the halls of power. The attacks on our community by the Trump Administration have been so harsh that the physical and emotional toll is all too real. For instance, the calls to Trans Lifeline quadrupled after a transphobic government memo was leaked in 2018. So many in our community are holding on by a thread until ‘45’ is out of office.
Considering the times we are in right now, it is affirming and uplifting to see Pete Buttigieg — South Bend’s first openly gay mayor — doing so well in the preliminary polls for Democratic presidential nominee. Before ‘Mayor Pete’, the only out presidential candidate was Fred Karger in the 2012 Republican races. LGBTQ kids and adults across the country probably feel a bit better about themselves when they see Mayor Pete on TV or magazines standing beside his husband. There is no denial in the importance of representation and visibility.
…but we don’t need President Pete.
Our community already has a rich history of political activism and our bar for leadership is set by the words and actions of the likes of Harvey Milk, Audre Lorde, Sylvia Rivera, Bayard Rustin, Frank Kameny, Brenda Howard, and Marsha P. Johnson. It’s disappointing to learn about the ways in which Mayor Pete’s political platform truly ignores and deviates from this legacy of leadership, especially at this precarious time for our community. In the June issue of Out magazine, under “50 Radical Ideas for Queer Liberation”, they listed idea #1 as “We’ll finally have a dyke for president. (But until then, there’s Pete Buttigieg).” Based on the points we’ll make in this series, we think Out got its #1 ranking very wrong.
There were other great ideas on that list, though, like #2 “The Marsha P. Johnson National Day of Service” and #15-#20: “Abolish ICE”, “the Military”, and “Prisons”, along with “Legalize the Green New Deal”, “Universal Healthcare”, and “Sex Work”. Ironically, though, Mayor Pete’s own policy proposals don’t go that far. Not even close.
We’re not alone in our opinion of Mayor Peter either. A few months after the list was published, Out released a poll of LGBTQ+ voters likely to vote in the Democratic primaries — and Mayor Pete ranked fourth.
Avoiding the Lightfoot steps
We have a very recent example of the excitement of some in the LGBTQ community about an out candidate with poor politics resulting in predictably poor outcomes after they took office. In April 2019, The Advocate ran a headline story “Lori Lightfoot Has Become Chicago’s First Lesbian Mayor”, which was shared enthusiastically on social media across the country. Former Houston mayor Annise Parker, also an out lesbian, stated that “A black lesbian taking power in the nation’s third-largest city is a historic moment for so many communities that are too often ignored in American politics”.
But, the very next day, The Advocate posted commentary describing that, actually, “Chicago’s First Black Lesbian Mayor Isn’t a Victory for All Queers”. Benji Hart wrote:
“Black queer Chicagoans, especially those who are low-income, don’t merely predict oppressed people will suffer under the Lightfoot administration but know it through her record, which already demonstrates a commitment to gentrification, disinvestment from poor communities of color, and impunity for an ever more militarized police force.”
The sentence could just as easily apply to a Buttigieg administration.
The #stoplightfoot campaign, created by “a group of young Black, Brown, Native, white, queer, Trans and gender-nonconforming organizers and people who love Chicago, and have worked for years on issues of police violence, immigrant justice, LGBTQ liberation and more” challenged her record on policing, immigration, housing, and ties to Islamophobia.
In the months since she has taken office, local organizers observed she has backtracked on several campaign promises like releasing video of a police shooting of a teenager, moving to an elected school board, and ending drivers license suspensions for unpaid parking tickets. She also battled with the Chicago teachers union as it went on strike to seek improved learning environments for the students.
The lesson is — just because someone may share our identity, it does not mean they will show up for the most marginalized and those most need of attention within our community.
Pete for the People? or Pete for Wall Street?
For someone that likens his journey to Obama’s, Mayor Pete doesn’t seem to have invested in building a successful grassroots movement. Instead, he is chasing “big money”, earning him the nickname “Wall Street Pete” for closed-door fundraisers with wealthy financial executives, such as the one recently hosted by billionaires at lavish Napa Valley winery.
Some of his early donors have begun getting their donations refunded and use the hashtag #refundpete, based on recognition that he is not as progressive as originally portrayed.
It’s been argued that we’re helping Trump get reelected, simply by taking a stance during the primaries! We’re not. Mayor Pete’s chances head-to-head against Trump are the worst among top candidates. According to the Out poll, only 29% of LGBTQ people think Mayor Pete could beat Trump. Also, we will — obviously — do our part to get out the vote against ‘45’ in 2020.
We’re not the only queers ‘not here’ for Mayor Pete
We’re certainly not the first queer and trans people to be sounding the alarm, either. There is a growing list of figures within the LGBTQ community speaking out against the prospect of a Mayor Peter presidency:
- Jacob Bacharach reacted in April 2019 to Mayor Pete’s chosen label of “democratic capitalist”, noting that American capitalism and democracy have led to only some types of gays getting a “conditional membership to the club”, meanwhile 2018 “may have been one of the deadliest ever for trans women”.
- Yasmin Nair wrote in June 2019 about how “Pete Buttigieg is not a candidate of the future. He is, rather, a candidate whose singular function is to allow Americans across a broad spectrum, from kinda-sorta conservatives to the progressive left, to forget the reality of American brutality, in both its present and its past.”
- Son of Baldwin told his 140k followers in November 2019 that “I’m a Black queer person. I’m not voting for Pete Buttigieg because he demonstrates a clear and consistent commitment to institutionalized racism and anti-Blackness as the leader of his own city.”
- Shannon Keating argued in December 2019 that “Buttigieg is also effectively arguing that queer people’s rights should derive from the very institutions we’ve only recently gained (tenuous) access to, like marriage and the job market. He’s insisted that universal coverage for things like pre-K, Medicare, and college education — policies I believe in, which would guarantee coverage to every individual, regardless of their marital or employment status — isn’t only financially impossible, but wasteful and unnecessary.”
- Kenyon Farrow, responded in December 2019 to an opinion that queers don’t like Mayor Pete simply because he’s not “gay enough”. Farrow reminded his Facebook followers that: “No one hates Pete because of his marriage. Queer critiques of Pete have to do with his racist, neoliberal, pro-corporatist politics that we’re supposed to overlook because of his sexual orientation (and marriage, by extension).”
- Max S. Gordon also reminded us in December 2019 that when thinking about “Buttigieg dilemma”, “Being gay doesn’t automatically translate for these men into a deeper understanding of racism or sexism. And it doesn’t automatically diminish their allegiance to Whiteness.”
- Also, the authors of this essay created a sassy Facebook page, “Queers Not Here for Mayor Pete” (which has over 350 followers).
Why we are speaking up
We are writing this series because we fear a very similar fate could follow if we don’t learn from the misplaced enthusiasm in Lightfoot’s campaign and naively rally for Mayor Pete’s campaign.
We know that while no presidential candidate is perfect, the policies put forth by some will do less harm and make us better off than others. Even for LGBTQ people, that candidate that might benefit us the most might not be one of us! Strong allies can play an essential role in ending oppression.
LGBTQ issues overlap with issues affecting many marginalized communities in America, because many of us have intersecting marginalized identities and experiences with many forms of oppression. During the primaries, the priority is to get the candidate with the best policies and best track record for fighting oppression to be the Democratic nominee. At the end of the day, that candidate, unfortunately, is not Pete Buttigieg.
As members of the LGBTQ community, we are duty bound to express our opposition to Mayor Pete’s campaign, not just because we are in the position to without being deemed ‘homophobic’, but ultimately because we believe, as defined by the legacy of our LGBTQ foreparents, our community simply deserves better.
We are not being paid to write this, and we are not affiliated with an electoral campaign. Some have suggested that we are self-loathing for taking this stance and that simply couldn’t be further from the truth. Rather, we challenge the notion that liberation rests in representation. We would love to have a queer /trans president who also spoke truth to power in their policies for equitable structural change and prioritized those who live at the margins!
Fellow LGBTQ folks, add your name.
We are calling on our fellow LGBTQ folks to add your name to a growing list of people who do not think that Mayor Pete is the best candidate to support the LGBTQ community into the future.
Upcoming Articles in our 5-Part Series
In the new year, we will be releasing a series of essays going in depth on four key issues we’ve identified. Performance and vision on each of these demonstrate that Mayor Pete is not capable of being the leader we need him to be. Follow us to read the next piece, which will be linked below!
Ideas? Questions? Media? Contact: email@example.com
In order to lead America into the future, a presidential candidate must be able to tackle white supremacy head-on and ambitiously implement racial justice initiatives. If you have only recently begun to follow Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, then you may have missed several key moments this past year which demonstrated that his capacity to do so is severely lacking. Some of them are uncomfortable campaign missteps, while others indicate severe policy failures. We’ll summarize many of them here to make it abundantly clear.
Part III: Weak healthcare policies
What is “Medicare For All Who Want It”, besides a policy framed by a caveat?
Buttigeig envisions a marketplace of private insurers disrupted by a government sponsored public option. He argues that the competition between private insurance and the public option will be so fierce that not only will overall health care costs decline but it will all usher in Medicare For All. But can we trust the candidate with the most funding from the health care sector to deliver and actually let the private sector collapse? What will stop private insurance from “cherry picking” from the healthiest pools of subscribers at the expense of the tax-payer sponsored public option? Our disabled, unemployed, chronically ill, trans, poor, HIV positive LGBTQ family cannot wait for market solutions to win out. We need change now. Health care is a right.
Part IV: Commodifying housing & exacerbating inequality
Housing is a human right, not a commodity for corporations to cash in on. The mass demolition of houses in Black and Latinx neighborhoods in South Bend, Indiana under Pete Buttigieg’s leadership, has continued to exacerbate inequality and reinforce systems of oppression. Given Mayor Pete’s blind faith in American capitalism as “one of the most productive forces known to man”, it comes as no surprise that his market-based approach to housing will continue to benefit those in the real estate industry and those at the top, including himself, and not everyday people.
Part V: Another hawkish American exceptionalist
Mayor Pete claims to be a foreign policy guru but at the end of the day, he’s just another American exceptionalist with an increasingly hawkish foreign policy. In the legacy of American diplomacy, it’s nothing special and as history tells us, global inequity would only get worse under a Buttigieg Doctrine. Mayor Pete is already looking to up the defense budget when the US already spends hundreds of billions of dollars to maintain a global military presence. He has already begun framing climate change through the lens of a need for increased security when we need to think how nationalism and militarism are failing in the response to the global crisis. What’s more, climate change is one of the foremost drivers of global inequalities, and yet Mayor Pete has yet to show how his foreign policy will address the devastation being unleashed on lower emitting and consuming communities and countries. For Mayor Pete, as per usual in the legacy of American foreign policy, capitalist interests come first.