In the interview, Maddow who, like Buttigieg, was also a Rhodes Scholar, said she couldn’t imagine staying in the closet for as long as he did.
“I think it would have killed me to be closeted for that long,” she said without hyperbole. “Not coming out until your early 30s, I just wonder if that was hurtful to you? If it hurt you to do it?”
“It was hard,” Buttigieg answered. “It was really hard.”
“Coming out is hard,” Maddow said. “But being in the closet is harder.”
“It took me plenty of time to come out to myself,” Buttigieg replied. “I did not the way you did or my husband did figure out at such an early age. I probably should have.”
He continued: “There were certainly plenty of indications by the time I was 15 or so that I could point back [and say] ‘yeah, this kid’s gay.’ I guess I just really needed to not be. There’s this war that breaks out inside a lot of people when they realize that they might be something they’re afraid of. It took me a very long time to resolve that.”
It wasn’t until he was serving in Afghanistan that Buttigieg realized it was time to start living his truth.
“You don’t know how long you have on this earth,” he told Maddow. “And by the time I came back, I realized, ‘I gotta do something.'”
Buttigieg also discussed the reaction he has gotten from people as an openly gay candidate.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he said. “As you know, there’s plenty of ugliness that comes in from all over the place. Most people I think are either supportive or even enthusiastic about the idea of the first out person going this far. Or they find a way to let me know they don’t care, and that’s historic, too.”