Dispatches From the Queer Resistance #8 — A Pete Buttigieg Special

[Content Note: Transphobia; hate crimes; homophobia.]

Here's my regular reminder that 77% of LGBTQ voters chose Hillary Clinton over any other contender in the 2016 US presidential election and that Republicans, generally, are pretty terrible when it comes to acknowledging the rights, let alone dignity, of LGBT people.

1. On Pete Buttigieg

Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg officially launched a 2020 presidential campaign over the weekend. Buttigieg is the first openly-gay Democratic presidential candidate in U.S. history.

His reception among Democratic voters and the mainstream press has largely been positive. Via a recent piece in The New York Times:
Mr. Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., drew large, enthusiastic crowds in his first campaign visit to the early-voting state over the weekend. That followed a series of well-received appearances on national TV, which have helped fuel his new popularity: An Iowa poll on Monday showed him jumping to third place in the 2020 caucus race, and a Quinnipiac national poll on Thursday showed him rising to fifth and tied with Senator Elizabeth Warren.
As a lesbian, I want to be more excited about his candidacy, but it's been difficult because it's hard not to perceive his success thus far as a function of him being white, cis, and male. That he appears on the verge of running an "insurgent" campaign similar to Bernie Sanders' campaign in 2016 says almost nothing about whether someone who is queer and also female, trans, non-binary, and/or a person of color could do so with the same mainstream appeal and while being given gratuitous benefits of the doubt about their intelligence, competence, and demeanor.

But, it's not just that I harbor resentment about this. Although yes, there's a fair amount of that. It's 2019 and about fucking time for a female President of the United States. It's time. And I refuse to silence that sentiment in myself ever again.

It's also that he seems prone to adopting rightwing frames of social and political issues, which I think is counterproductive to progress. In addition to Liss's ongoing coverage of Buttigieg and his gentlemen's quarrel with Mike Pence about gay rights, I agree with her that it's a strategic mistake to try to have a conversation about LGBT people on the terms set by anti-LGBT Christians.

For several years in the pre-Obergefell era, I was a progressive lesbian contributor to a group blog that regularly ran contentious debates about LGBT rights, often with prominent "marriage defenders" participating. From that experience, one of my big take-aways was that those who opposed LGBT rights, and marriage equality in particular, had a very strong fear of being thought of as bigoted. They wanted to oppose our equality while also still being widely seen, even by gay people, as nice. Yet, the marriage equality movement had successfully cast the denial of marriage equality as a denial of love between two people.

Because of that frame, I really think that, to many heterosexual allies, the prominent opponents of equality began to symbolize hateful barriers to their loved ones' happiness. I think many people simply didn't want to be associated with the bigotry of that, and that's especially true in a post-marriage-equality world where so much of the opposition in hindsight looks like bigoted fear-mongering that has yet to be atoned for or acknowledged by those who used to peddle it:

More recently, the religious right, with the blessing of Trump-Pence, is trying to carve out special rights to discriminate against LGBT people under the auspice of "religious freedom."  Anti-LGBT Christians have long tried to claim that they are the ones truly persecuted in society, for having to live in a society that is relatively pro-LGBT, and now they once again have the backing of the Executive (and likely, the Judiciary). It is a mistake to backtrack and allow the culture narrative to once again become that LGBT rights is an abstract matter about which reasonable, nice people can disagree and still be friends.

The correct response to Mike Pence is to tell him that his views on marriage are indecent and bigoted, and that neither his religion, nor anyone else's, should serve as a pretext for denying LGBT people full equality under law.

Actually, an even better conversation would be for Buttigieg, who is ostensibly running for president, to direct his comments toward Donald Trump, both for being a bigot himself and for selecting the bigot Mike Pence as his vice president. By publicly feuding with Trump's vice president, rather than Trump himself, Buttigieg is feuding with someone beneath the position he wants the public to believe he's qualified to hold.

For these reasons, and others, I have concerns about Buttigieg as a candidate. I am inherently skeptical of how he would handle Donald Trump, Fox News, and the rightwing/Russian meme machines when he is vastly untested and unvetted on the national stage. In my experience, a Democratic politician can either stand up for the full dignity of marginalized people or they can care about being seen as "civil" and "electable" by a large chunk of Republican voters who will never vote for them anyway, but they usually can't do both. My concern is that Buttigieg sees his path forward as the latter, even as his run would be historic for cis white gay men.

2. Donald Trump and Mike Pence Are Not Our Friends

Hey, has anyone determined yet if the current vice president of the United States actually wants to hang queers, or whether the Donald Trump was "just joking" when he claimed as much? Har har har, what funny times we're living in, huh?

3. Matthew Shepard's Ashes Interred

In case you missed it, at the end of last year Matthew Shepard's ashes were finally, 20 years after his death, laid to rest at the Washington National Cathedral. I hope this brings at least some measure of peace to his family.

4. Billy Jack Gaither

Pete Buttigieg's presidential run is bound to invoke (and yes, revive) many national conversations about LGBT people, intersectionality, and our rights.  As such, it's going to be vitally important for progressives to acknowledge that people within LGBT communities can be more and less privileged than one another, depending on a wide variety of characteristics such as race, gender, age, disability, religion, income, body size, appearance, and more.

See, for instance, this thread, which I think is an important reminder that we have to collectively get better at talking about people who are marginalized within marginalized communities, while also doing justice to the reality that even those "at the top" so to speak, are still marginalized by the mainstream:

As we saw in 2016, bigotry is a national security vulnerability that can easily be manipulated for the benefit of Republican politicians. With multiple white women, women of color, men of color, a Jewish candidate, and a gay candidate vying for the Democratic nomination, we can count on that happening again in 2020. We have to remain vigilant and it's a really good thing those with the largest media platforms in the U.S. are representative of the full diversity of our nation! (har har har)

5. Massachusetts Bans "Gay Conversion Therapy"

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a law making the state the 16th in the nation to ban gay conversion therapy on minors.

6. Trump's Ban on Transgender Troops Goes Into Effect

The Trump Administration's policy of banning transgender people from joining the military went into effect last Friday. This policy is a reversal of the Obama-era policy from 2016 that initially lifted the ban.

Elections have consequences.

7. Lightfoot Makes History in Chicago

Earlier this month, Lori Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, won Chicago's runoff mayoral election.  Scheduled to take office in May 2019, Chicago will be the largest city in the U.S. headed by an openly-gay person and Black woman.

The local LGBT rag, The Windy City Times, ran an article of reactions to her win from those in Chicago's African-American and/or LGBT communities.

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