The 2020 Democrat, who is the first openly gay man to run for president, was asked at the town hall hosted by CNN and the Human Rights Campaign what he would do about the Food and Drug Administration’s blood donation policy that prohibits cis men who have had sex with cis men in the past 12 months from giving blood.
Buttigieg responded by speaking about his own experience as a gay man leading South Bend’s annual blood drive.
“I remember the moment when I realized that, unlike most initiatives that I spearhead, I can’t lead by example on this one, because my blood’s not welcome in this country,” he said. “And it’s not based on science; it’s based on prejudice.”
The mayor said as president he would have the FDA revise its rules “based on evidence, based on individual risk factors and without regard to the prejudice that has driven the current policy.”
Buttigieg’s appearance Thursday night in Los Angeles was a historic one, as an openly gay presidential candidate being moderated by Anderson Cooper, an openly gay journalist, at a town hall specifically dedicated to issues within the LGBTQ community.
Buttigieg’s coming out experience happened after he came back from deployment in Afghanistan and when he had already been elected mayor, he said. The 37-year-old Indiana native told his story of coming out at last month’s Democratic debate, marking the first time in American history that the public had heard a presidential candidate openly talk about their coming out experience.
Cooper asked Buttigieg on Thursday what his earlier years were like when he first realizing he was gay.
“What it was like was a civil war, because I knew I was different long before I was ready to say that I was gay and long before I was able to acknowledge that that was something that I didn’t have power over,” he responded.
“I so admire people who are coming out at young ages but also recognize that there’s no right age or right way or right time to come out,” he said. “I think people are ready when they’re ready. And for me, I was well into my 20s before I was really ready to say even to myself that I was gay.”
Buttigieg has previously talked about his “internal war,” and his journey toward accepting and being proud of his sexuality.
The town hall occurred the same day Buttigieg unveiled his sweeping LGBTQ plan, which includes tackling HIV/AIDS, overturning the transgender military ban and securing the passage of the Equality Act, which amends the Civil Rights Act to specifically ban discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.