As the first openly gay Democratic candidate with a credible chance at winning the White House, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, has already made a historic mark on the 2020 presidential election cycle.
But at the close of the third Democratic debate last night, all ten candidates onstage were asked to relate a story of resilience from their lives.
In a moment that was as poignant as it was personal, the 37-year-old shared his own coming out story.
As a military officer service under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and as an elected official in the state of Indiana when Mike Pence was governor, at a certain point, when it came to professional setbacks, I had to wonder whether just acknowledging who I was was going to be the ultimate career-ending professional setback.
I came back from the deployment and realized you only get to live one life. I was not interested in not knowing what it was like to be in love any longer.
So I just came out.
I had no idea what kind of professional setback it would be, especially because, inconveniently, it was an election year in my socially conservative community.
What happened was that when I trusted voters to judge me based on the job that I did for them, they decided to trust me, and reelected me with 80% of the vote.
What I learned was that trust can be reciprocated and that part of how you can win – and deserve to win – is to know what’s worth more to you than winning. And I think what’s what we need in the presidency right now: we have to know what we are about.
And this election is not about any of us up here. It is not about this president, even though it’s hard to talk of anything else some days.
It’s about the people who trust us with their lives; the kid wondering if we’re actually going to make their school safer when they’ve learned active shooter drills before they’ve learned to read; a generation wondering if we will actually get the job done on climate change.
And if we hold to that, then it doesn’t matter what happens to each of us professionally. Together, we will win a better era for our country.
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) September 13, 2019
While it’s not news that Buttigieg came out during his campaign for a second term as mayor, what IS news is for an openly gay presidential candidate to relate his own coming out journey to millions while standing shoulder to shoulder with his peers.
Many in the Twitterverse, from LGBTQ advocates to gay veterans, acknowledged the importance of the moment:
Pete Buttigieg says that coming out as gay & “acknowledging who I was” could’ve been the most career-ending professional setback.
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) September 13, 2019
Pete Buttigieg made history with his coming out story on the presidential debate stage: "I was not interested in not knowing what it was like to be in love any longer." #DemocraticDebate https://t.co/6Mxb85lZu6 via @HuffPostPol
— Charlotte Clymer🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) September 13, 2019
I never thought I’d be so moved by a political candidate. Pete Buttigieg has already changed my life, no matter what happens next. https://t.co/YD843Xt5ER
— NYFanofPete (@nywheat) September 13, 2019
i've heard him tell his story probably 5x now and the impact of it is not diminished in any rehearing of it. I say that a straight person, I can't imagine what it must be like for LGBTQ folks to see & hear him tell it, especially on a presidential debate stage.
— Erin Brewster (@Brewster1Erin) September 13, 2019
As a fellow gay veteran, I also had to worry if being true to myself would end my career and stunt my opportunities. Like @PeteButtigieg, I learned to trust myself, I learned others would trust me, and I learned to succeed not in spite of my sexual orientation, but because of it.
— Veterans for Pete Buttigieg (@Vets4Pete) September 13, 2019
Just 16 years ago, a number of states still criminalized same-sex intimacy. Mayor Pete's candidacy should not be taken for granted or discounted, because it is historic. https://t.co/ipqhyp4FTX
— Eric van der Vort 🏳️🌈 (@ericibid) September 13, 2019
Pete Buttigieg talking about his coming out as a gay man on the #DemDebate stage for President of the United States is a historic moment for all minorities. This would have been unfathomable just a few years ago 🌈
— jacob streisand-brolin (@jakeeyy__) September 13, 2019