In Buttigieg’s candidacy, Pa.’s young LGBTQ voters saw themselves – and a way forward

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg gestures during a rally at Lincoln HIgh School, Des Moines, on Feb. 2, 2020, the day before the Iowa caucuses. (Photo by Kathie Obradovich/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

For Temple University student Brendan Hamel, former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 campaign for the White House was a source of reassurance and a reflection.

“To know that someone has had shared experiences with you is reassuring,” Hamel, who identifies as LGBTQ, told the Capital-Star. “Having an openly gay president could have normalized the LGBTQ lifestyle among people who do not identify as LGBTQ. It would pave ways for generations to come and could have de-stigmatized any lingering ill will people have towards the community.”

With husband Chasten at his side, Buttigieg, 38, exited the presidential field on Sunday, finding himself unable to broaden support beyond the mostly white and well-educated voters who made up his base.

“By every conventional wisdom, by every historical measure, we were never supposed to get anywhere at all,” Buttigieg told a hometown crowd in South Bend.

By Monday night, Buttigieg, along with U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and ex-2020 aspirant, Beto O’Rourke, of Texas, had thrown their support to former Vice President Joe Biden, setting up an argument over for the Democratic Party’s soul between its moderate wing and the ardent progressive base of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

The historic nature of Buttigieg’s candidacy wasn’t lost on millennial voter Matthew James.

“It is inspiring to see a fellow LGBTQ person have the courage to stand up and announce to the world that he is gay, married, and wants to create positive change” James, of Harrisburg, said. “Mayor Pete’s actions have a more meaningful impact with the younger LGBTQ generations. His run for office proves you can dream big and not be held back by identifying as LGBTQ.”

James also believes that America may not have been ready for an openly gay president. “If we want to have more LGBTQ people in office, we need to elect those like Buttigieg that are the most mainstream.”

Luisa Suárez is a LatinX student journalist at Temple University. She said she believes that Buttigieg’s decision to run for president was an important representation for LGBTQ people.

“It showed that a gay man did have the ability to run for president and have success in his campaign,” she said.

Although Buttigieg has made a positive impact on the LGBTQ community, he also faced questions about  how he identified and what he actually represented within his candidacy. Individuals within the LGBTQ community sometimes saw Buttigieg as just another white male running for office.

While Buttigieg’s run for office was personally inspiring, James also said he doesn’t think the LGBTQ community can come to a true consensus.

“This is due to our community being marginalized. Having marginalized communities means that there are competing priorities. Therefore, you are never going to make everyone happy,” he said.

Suárez likewise mentioned how it can be tough talking about Buttigieg being inspiring to the LGBTQ community and other minorities.

“We must remember he had a tense relationship with the black community,” she said. “The LGBTQ community also encompasses everyone, and I have to ask myself if he was inspiring for all members of the LGBTQ community, or mostly those who identified like him.”

Michala Butler, of Harrisburg, is a sophomore communications student at Temple University in Philadelphia.