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Attitude Person of the Year: Pete Buttigieg – the gay man who ran for the world’s most powerful office

Wherever you stand on his politics, there's no denying that the gay former Mayor of South Bend made LGBTQ history in 2020.

By Will Stroude

When, in early 2019, US Democrat Pete Buttigieg – the out gay former mayor of the mid-sized city of South Bend, Indiana – revealed his intention to run for President of the United States, the news generated a small, feel-good story among a handful of liberal-leaning newspapers and the LGBTQ press.

Just a year later, as news broke that the then-37-year-old had claimed victory over Democratic front-runners Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and future President Joe Biden in the Iowa caucus, it became clear the tectonic plates of US politics had shifted – possibly forever.

Among LGBTQ people, Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign has been the subject of impassioned debate: there are those that argue his centrist policies offered less for the most marginalised than some of his fellow candidates, or that his position as a white, married former Afghanistan veteran offered a sanitised version of the gay experience that was palatable to Middle America.

There is of course merit in these arguments, but to see Pete Buttigieg proudly kiss his husband Chasten at campaign rallies before going on to not just compete in, but win, a presidential caucus in a mid-West US state is to understand that a glass ceiling for LGBTQ people has truly been smashed in 2020 – and as we reveal our list of 101 LGBTQ trailblazers in the Attitude February issue (which you can see here) we can announce that Pete Buttigieg is, for all that he represents, Attitude Person of the Year.

The Attitude 101 February issue featuring 100 LGBTQ trailblazers and our Person of the Year is out now 

After being elected as the 32nd mayor of South Bend in 2012, former US Navy intelligence officer Buttigieg came out publicly as gay ten days before the Supreme Court’s historic ruling on marriage equality in 2015, writing that “at a moment like this, being more open about it could do some good.”

He began dating his husband, teacher Chasten Glezman, just two months later. The pair announced their engagement in 2017 before marrying in South Bend in June 2018.

Now, as President-elect Biden’s nominee for US Transport Secretary, Buttigieg is set to make history as the first Senate-appointed out and proud member of the US cabinet. 

In the Attitude 101 February issue – out now to download and to order globally – gay Labour MP Chris Bryant profiles a man who proved that LGBTQ people won’t be side-lined in an increasingly divided USA.

Pete Buttigieg (rightt) kisses husband Chasten at a campaign rally 

“There have been remarkably few reasons to be cheerful this year, but Pete Buttigieg, the openly gay former mayor of the 100,000-strong city of South Bend in Indiana, has been a ray of light all year”, begins Bryant, who himself has been out since his election in parliament in 2001.

“An openly gay candidate standing for President in a country led (I use the term reluctantly) by a President who has deliberately appointed conservatives to the Supreme Court in the hope that policies such as abortion and gay marriage would be overturned.

“An openly gay candidate in a country where thousands claimed that attending a Trump rally without any social distancing was perfectly safe because they would be protected by God — or, as one woman put it, ‘I’ll be drenched in the blood of Christ’.

“An openly gay candidate in a country where millions (including lots of gay men) voted for Trump and more than four out of ten citizens believe that the second coming of Christ is imminent.

“Maybe it helps that Pete’s a church-going Christian of a liberal bent — but maybe that incenses the fundamentalists even more, as they bow to a far more vengeful God and view Pete’s (and Biden’s) faith as worse than heresy.” 

Bryant continues: “Whatever it was that started to attract mainstream voters to his cause, he narrowly pipped Bernie Sanders to the post in the Iowa caucuses – meaning that the first-ever out gay candidate for president was also the first-ever out gay candidate to win a state primary and to secure delegates at a national convention. Then he came second in New Hampshire.

“It was only when he came fourth in South Carolina, following the phenomenal resurrection of Joe Biden, that he stepped aside and immediately threw himself behind a Biden victory, raising millions of dollars and delivering one of the best speeches at the unconventional Democratic Convention.”

Chris Bryant MP reflects on what Pete Buttigieg’s achievements mean for the LGBTQ community in the Attitude 101 February issue, out now

The MP for Rhondda adds: “And now he’ll be the first openly gay member of a US Cabinet.”

Bryant goes on: “I defy anyone not to be moved by his cabinet nomination acceptance speech, in which he tells how he was infuriated as a young gay teenager by the Republicans’ vicious opposition to Bill Clinton’s appointment of an openly gay ambassador in 1998 (to Luxembourg of all places). It seemed that people like him were not allowed to belong in America.

“He decided 20 years ago that he wanted to change that, and now he hopes that his appointment will send teenagers a different message.”

The Attitude 101 February issue featuring 101 LGBTQ trailblazers is out now.

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