Grading Mayor Pete’s Queer Card
I want to talk about this whole “is Pete Buttigieg gay enough” situation.
I keep seeing lots of commotion on Twitter about folks arguing back and forth on Mayor Pete’s presentation of his own queerness and whether his flavor of gay is helpful or harmful to the wider LGBTQ+ community. This is a loaded topic, so let’s break it down a bit.
The Queer Card
First of all, is anyone “too queer” or “not queer enough?”
The answer to that is a hardy “no.”
When we talk about queer identities, we have to understand that they operate on a spectrum and that people who identify with any and all points on this spectrum are valid.
In my understanding, people are queer if they A.) identify with one of the letters in the LGBTQIA+ acronym and B.) participate in queer culture. If you have the experience of having a queer sexual or gender identity, even if you choose not to openly identify as queer, you create queer culture in your expression or non-expression.
For example, it’s a very queer thing to be out and proud, and to have been shamed into the closet.
You get a queer card at birth and the rest is history. You may have varying experiences as a queer person depending on which letters of the acronym you identify with, your racial background, and your socioeconomic status, among many other factors. No matter where you fit, though, that’s a card that you get to keep. Your presentation of queer may be more or less obvious to the public, but regardless of how you present, you are undeniably queer.
For example, some gay men present as very feminine while others present as very masculine. Both are still super duper gay because at the end of the day, they are attracted to people who are the same gender and/or sex, and as a result, participate in queer culture. The same holds true for gender identity, as well. Regardless of how masculine, feminine, and/or androgynous someone presents, one’s identity as a trans or non-binary person is not up for debate.
There’s no such thing as “too” or “not enough” queer. That would be like saying, “You can be yourself, but make sure you’re not too similar to yourself, but also make sure not to be someone other than who you are.”
That would be so confusing. It’s easy to understand why queer folks have such a hard time finding their place in the wider LGBTQIA+ community.
“Grading” Mayor Pete Queerness
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk Pete Buttigieg.
Pete cannot be any gay-er than he is right now. He is attracted to other men and he participates in queer culture. He is literally married to a man.
Five years after marriage equality passed as federal law, a gay couple could be living in the White House serving executive realness.
Even in Mayor Pete’s ability to “pass” as straight, he still represents a huge part of queer culture!
Mayor Pete is as gay as they come.
So What’s the Problem?
With all that being said, I think it’s important to remember that Mayor Pete does not represent the entire queer community.
No single human ever could represent a community as diverse as the LGBTQIA+ community.
The difficulty with Pete Buttigieg is that many queer folks do not necessarily relate to him or his experiences. This is hard for many of us because this is one of the first times that America has seen an out gay man in a position of political power and influence. We look to him to be a beacon of queer hope, and yet we haven’t seen him be very vocal about anti-trans violence, LGBTQ+ housing and employment discrimination, or queer homelessness.
In a position of power, it’s important to try as much as possible to connect and to listen to those whose experiences are different from yours so that you can accurately advocate for them. Pete is gay, and I am so glad for the representation he brings, but he’s not the answer to LGBTQIA+ discrimination.
I would love to see Mayor Pete really engage with the concept of intersectionality, not to feel ashamed that he cannot possibly represent all queer experiences, but rather to recognize ways that he can maneuver his privilege in order to bring important issues to a national discussion. Instead, it seems his response has been to use his privilege to avoid “LGBT media.”
The problem has never really been Mayor Pete’s presentation of queer. The problem is that he is in a position to represent his people and many of us have lost confidence in his ability to do just that.