On the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, Buttigieg represents a long-overdue liberation from this repressive past. That he speaks of his gayness with nonchalance—as “just a fact of life, like having brown hair, and part of who I am”—has engendered critics from both the religious right and the intersectional left, each of whom has a problem with the way Buttigieg expresses his sexual orientation: The former take issue with the very fact of it, while the latter don’t consider him gay enough. For social conservatives who believe that a gay person, simply by dint of his sexual orientation, is unfit to hold the nation’s highest office, Buttigieg has the potential to change hearts and minds in much the same way Barack Obama could with respect to race. As for those who take umbrage at Buttigieg’s “assimilationist perspective,” I hate to be the one to break it that the first president from the LGBT community is likelier to be a cisgender, white gay man from a red state who looks like a middle manager at a paper company than a transgender woman of color from the Tenderloin.
The fact that a gay politician can say of a straight one, with absolute plausibility, “It is hard to look at this president’s actions and believe that they’re the actions of somebody who believes in God” is not just a sign that the religious left is successfully fighting the religious right on its own rhetorical turf. It indicates that gays are finally beginning to play on equal political ground with straights. Pete Buttigieg offers his country double relief: He has the potential to deliver us from a scandal-plagued presidency and, by doing so, transform the relationship between gay and straight America for the better.