My American Dream: This Land is Your Land
Mayor Pete and husband kiss by Biden at the Presidential Debate, 2020 Pastel on velour board 26.25 × 18.5 inches
Mayor Pete and husband kiss by Biden at the Presidential Debate, 2020
Pastel on velour board 26.25 × 18.5 inches

This is an image of then South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg getting a congratulatory kiss from his husband Chasten as they stand behind former Vice President Joe Biden onstage at the conclusion of the 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential debate in Houston (from a photo by Mike Blake).

During this this, the third 2020 Democratic debate held on Tuesday, September 8, Mayor Pete movingly shared his thoughts towards his decision to come out, “I had to wonder whether just acknowledging who I was, was going to be the ultimate, career-ending professional setback,” Buttigieg said. When he was in the Navy, he was deployed to Afghanistan and operating as a military officer during the time of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which didn’t allow for military personnel to be out as LGBTQ. When he returned, he was elected to office in Indiana, notably when homophobe Mike Pence was Governor. “I came back from the deployment and realized, ‘you only get to live one life,'” the South Bend mayor said. “I was not interested in not knowing what it was like to be in love any longer, so I just came out… What happened was, when I trusted voters to judge me based on the job, I did for them, they decided to trust me and reelect me with 80% of the vote,” he continued. Buttigieg then discussed how prioritizing a person’s principles and identity over their desire to win is an important value, especially for this presidential race, concluding by saying “Part of how you can win and deserve to win is to know what’s worth more to you than winning.”

I came out in college during the Reagan era, when so many had been devastated from the AIDS crises, and when the president never even bothered to whisper the word “gay” or acknowledge the agency of so many victims. To in 2020 someone who was openly gay be a leading presidential contender was a remarkable revelation, and so encouraging during these current sad and dour times. Born in 1982, and with all his fabulous education and ideas, he was the youngest contender to run for president, and to me was like a queer JFK, as he also had a sincere brazenness and canny ability for debate and speaking eloquently and acutely to the issues of our time. While I am overjoyed that Biden and Harris won, I’m also so glad that now Biden has asked Buttigieg to be his Secretary of Transportation and am confident he will excel and continue his exciting career for America.

It was also so edifying to see Buttigieg always acknowledge his love and relationship to his husband Chasten, a middle junior high school teacher, and to see them openly kiss and be warm and physical with one another on stage and off like any other straight candidate, and to see how he was respected and for this by the other contenders, Biden included, and the press and fans. They had been dating since 2015 and married in 2018. I met my own husband Andrew Madrid back when we were both at school in 1994, and got married the first chance we could, the first Sunday that California allowed, in 2008 and have enjoyed 28 wonderful years together. I have always acknowledged Andrew with my family and friends, and for a long while students, as I feel it is important to be as out with my relationship as any heterosexual in private and in public, to serve as model. I’m so heartened that this all is quickly becoming normalized, for the country and world so dramatically heightened, perhaps, by Pete and Chasten, in love with one another for all the world to see.