My father died 20 years ago, still largely in the closet. He never really “came out,” but we knew, and he knew we knew. His mother also found out, and his mother (my grandmother) blamed us (her grandkids) for being a bad influence, and he died while not on speaking terms with her. When the father of my best friend growing up found out his son was gay, he decked him. He literally punched him in the face. It wasn’t that long ago.
We’re only 24 years removed from “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” We’re only nine years removed from the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” We’re only 16 years removed from the first state to allow gay marriage. We’re only four years — FOUR YEARS — removed from gay marriage becoming legal across the United States.
Granted, LGBTQ discrimination still exists. Both individual states and the Trump administration have pushed to pass “religious freedom” laws, which would allow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. There are still court battles over the rights of gays and lesbians to adopt children. LGBT workers in our Department of Justice continue to face discrimination and some have quit. The Vice President of the United States is a virulent homophobe.
There’s still a ways to go, but we’ve come a long way in a relatively short period of time, so quick in fact that a conversation like the one last night between Rachel Maddow and a legitimate Presidential contender — who only came out 6 years ago — still feels to me like a big deal. And to do so in such an open and casual way feels like an even bigger deal. Whether Mayor Pete ultimately wins or loses, it feels like a big deal that he’s running, but also, that his sexual orientation is “no big deal” to most potential voters. In fact, Fox News has been beating up on him lately, because they’re legit afraid of him, but even Fox News is not using his sexual orientation as a cudgel. They’re trying to define him as an “extreme leftist” like Obama and, gasp!, an “Episcopalian,” because they got nothing else on the man, which could make him a very difficult opponent for Trump, who wins by defining and vilifying his opponents. Whatever else you want to say about him, Mayor Pete is a hard man to vilify.
Anyway, whether you support him or not, this interview brought me a lot of joy.
Also, a gay man is running on values. There are some bright spots in 2019.
“And so it’s very important to me to make sure we’re winning a values argument too. It’s why I talk about things like freedom, and why freedom can’t just be a property of the conservative movement to the Republicans, but that means constructive freedom.” pic.twitter.com/fDJ89EEm8W— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) April 16, 2019