“Buttigieg is the first openly gay American to run for President. Only a few years ago, a gay Presidential hopeful was unthinkable. Yet, even in the midst of the backlash against LGBTQ equality created by the Trump administration, I feel underwhelmed by the prospect of a President Buttigieg and his significance as an openly gay politician.”
Those are the words of Jeffry Iovannone from his article titled, “Pete Buttigieg is Not the Gay Candidate I Want”, which was incidentally published on January 27th, 2019, a few days after Buttigieg launched his presidential exploratory committee.
Pete Buttigieg is Not the Gay Candidate I Want
On January 23rd, Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old Democratic mayor of South Bend, Indiana, launched his presidential…
Jeff has been a regular guest on the podcast and today he joins me as we discuss Jeff’s follow up essay, “Pete Buttigieg is — Still — Not the Gay Candidate I Want”. We go deeper to consider what we would like to see from someone who is not only gay and out, but someone vying for the leadership of the Democratic Party in the United States of America.
Pete Buttigieg is — Still — Not the Gay Candidate I Want
Talk Queerly: an occasional column on LGBTQ culture & politics
We cover the following topics:
What is “Covering”?
Erving Goffman’s definition and how “covering” differs from “passing” and Kenji Yoshino’s definition as related to gay identity.
Why Pete Buttigieg is a prime example of “covering”
Buttigieg’s “coming out” essay in which he writes,
“Being gay has had no bearing on my job performance in business, in the military, or in my current role as mayor. It makes me no better or worse at handling a spreadsheet, a rifle, a committee meeting, or a hiring decision. It doesn’t change how residents can best judge my effectiveness in serving our city: by the progress of our neighborhoods, our economy, and our city services.”
“Covering” and Queer Leadership
Darren defines Queer Leadership as:
Leading from our difference with creative uniqueness, not to assimilate into the dominant culture, but to liberate; not just ourselves, but also those oppressed by the dominant status quo.
Do queer public figures have a different responsibility to “use their difference to make a difference” than the average queer citizen?
Jeff makes the comment that,
“I think members of the LGBTQ community are simply tuned into issues that our straight, cisgender counterparts are not.”
We discuss the wisdom of Audre Lorde found in her essay, “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism,”
“I cannot hide my anger to spare you guilt, nor hurt feelings, nor answering anger; for to do so insults and trivializes all our efforts. Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness.”
Can one exercise effective queer leadership, or effective leadership in general, if they’re “covering”?
Can someone lead effectively from a place of shame?
What is the difference between shame and guilt? Guilt is about one’s behaviour and one’s actions for something you have done, whereas shame is something you feel about who you are as a person, possibly for your identity and it is taught and forced upon you by others. Repeated often enough and you own the shame, believing it is your fault.
The opposite of shame is pride. The way out of shame is understanding what others are saying about you, learning how to deconstruct that, and understanding that’s one’s difference is their creative uniqueness.
What might someone like Mayor Pete tell us about the state of LGBTQ rights at present?
Do we want Liberty or Equality? This has been the historical conflict and divergence of gay rights movement organizations in the United States over the last 40 years according to Martin Duberman in his latest book, “Has the Gay Movement Failed?”
Duberman describes the two fractions as one side standing for “…sexual and emotional liberation, as a necessary prelude, not a substitute, for creating an egalitarian society” versus the other side that sought “…winning equal access to all the rights of citizenship…” whereas “respect — not a reconfigured society…” was its primary goal.
Finally, we postulate that Buttigieg doesn’t necessarily want to reconfigure society. He is stuck and /or unaware of his own privilege and shame to effectively create the change we would like to see along LGBTQ lines. Paraphrasing Audre Lorde,
If we fail to recognize all facets and variations of prejudice and racism — as a gay man, as LGBTQ — then we perpetuate oppression and our own.
Jeff Iovannone is an activist-scholar, writer, educator, and researcher from Buffalo, New York who holds a Ph.D. in American Studies and specializes in gender and LGBTQ studies. He is the creator of the blog Queer History for the People, a columnist for Th-Ink Queerly, a member of the Buffalo-Niagara LGBTQ History Project, and is a founding member of Body Liberated Buffalo, a volunteer-run activist and advocacy group that works for body liberation in Western New York.