Speaking Out

Mayor Pete Buttigieg talks privilege and prejudice in inspiring address to LGBTQ crowd

Pete Buttigieg, sexual assault

Not all political news needs to be bleak. Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, IN and Democratic Presidential Candidate just proved as much with a stirring address at the Human Rights Campaign’s 2019 Dinner in Las Vegas.

Buttigieg used the address to cap off a week of fundraising, including attending a dinner at the home of actress Gwenyth Paltrow and appearing before a crowd of donors at the West Hollywood venue The Abbey. In his speech, Buttigieg addressed a number of concerns about his candidacy; namely, concerns that as a white man he cannot understand the plight of people of color or women and that as a queer person he cannot win the White House.

“I may be part of the L.G.B.T.Q. community. But being a gay man doesn’t even tell me what it’s like to be a trans woman of color in that same community, let alone an undocumented mother of four or a disabled veteran or a displaced autoworker,” he said, before calling for a new solidarity as Americans. “The wall I worry about most isn’t the president’s fantasy wall on the Mexican border that will never get built anyway. What I worry about are the very real walls being put up between us as we get divided and carved up.”

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Buttigieg then made reference to his husband Chasten, and to the fears and pressures he faced growing up as an LGBTQ individual. He also said that experience offered him a specific kind of clarity when it comes to equality. “And what every gay person has in common with every excluded person of every kind is knowing what it’s like to see a wall,” he said. “I am ready to use my story, my energy, my alliances,” he added, “and yes, my privilege, to throw myself into tearing down those walls.”

Buttigieg exploded onto the political stage just over a month ago, rocketing from total obscurity to the top of the polls. The mayor, 37, now polls among the top candidates, with only Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden holding a greater lead. Some polls even have him besting Sanders in key primary states like New Hampshire. He also continues to rake in the donor funds, taking in a whopping $7 million in the first few weeks of his campaign. Educated at Harvard and Oxford, Buttigieg served a tour in Afghanistan during his military service. He married husband Chasten Buttigieg, a schoolteacher, in 2017.