Pete Buttigieg’s closing statement at the Democratic presidential debate on Thursday was historic as he candidly told the story of his coming out in response to a question about resilience.
The Indiana native recalled being a military officer during the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gay service members and then working as an elected official in his state under then-Gov. Mike Pence. He told viewers that he wondered “whether just acknowledging who I was was going to be the biggest career-ending professional setback.”
Eventually the 37-year-old made a choice and decided to come out after returning from a deployment in Afghanistan.
“I came back from the deployment and realized that you only get to live one life, and 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,” he said.
The mayor went on to explain that it was an election year in his “socially conservative” community and that he wasn’t sure what would happen after his coming out.
“When I trusted voters to judge me based on the job that I did for them, they decided to trust me and they reelected me with 80% of the vote,” Buttigieg said. “And 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. I think that’s what we need in the presidency right now. We have to know what we are about.”
The moment marks the first in American history when we’ve heard someone from the LGBTQ community openly talk on a presidential debate stage about what it was like to come out.
Many supporters of Buttigieg and viewers of the debate lauded the politician for his transparency, including his husband, Chasten.
Here’s what others had to say about the significant moment:
Outside of Buttigieg’s memorable admission, the debate lacked discussion on issues faced by the LGBTQ community. The omission was so notable that GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, released the following statement at the debate’s conclusion:
“The Trump Administration has spent the last three years rolling back rights for LGBTQ and other marginalized communities, and it’s imperative that LGBTQ people and the issues affecting our lives and our families not be overlooked in this Presidential election,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD.
“Next week’s LGBTQ Forum in Iowa will correct the pattern we have seen in the first round of debates that have left LGBTQ people largely out of the conversation.”