Forum

Buttigieg joins rainbow wave

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, seemed to emerge out of nowhere. He didn't have the publicity edge that more prominent Democratic candidates like Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden have, yet Buttigieg has been polling in third in both Iowa and New Hampshire, following right behind those two candidates. Already, he has racked up $7 million in donations by the beginning of April, which is extremely impressive considering he officially announced his presidential campaign this past Sunday.

Strides towards LGBTQ rights have not gone unnoticed over the years. Conversion therapy is on the decline; Massachusetts recently became the 14th state to ban the practice. People who identify as LGBTQ have risen to the political realm, on the local, state, and national level. In 2015, Oregon governor Kate Brown became our nation's first openly bisexual state governor. Danica Roem (D-VA) was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in the 2017 Virginia elections, making her the first transgender elected official in the U.S. Following the 2018 midterms, the New York Times reported a "rainbow wave" of over 150 candidates earning seats in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. Now, we have an openly gay candidate running for president for the 2020 presidential election.

Of course, a candidate's sexuality isn't an indication of how qualified they are in leading. However, it's refreshing to see that someone who identifies as part of the LGBTQ community can openly bring it up as though they are bringing up any other personal attribute such as their ancestry or socioeconomic background. Buttigieg had an inkling that his sexuality wouldn't be as big of a hindrance for his chances to be elected as it would have been in years before. He had a reason for such confidence. The Washington Post suggests that over two-thirds of Americans would, at the very least, not mind having an openly gay president. Compare that to a mere 26 percent that would have been okay in 2006; we have more than doubled the percentage. Of course, it's heartbreaking that a third of our country doubts a candidate's qualifications based on sexuality, but the number has shifted dramatically in the span of 13 years.

Perhaps I'm naive in believing that even increasing visibility can help shift the public's perception in the future. Ignorance and prejudice thrive on misinformation and faulty beliefs. By empowering more LGBTQ people to hold political positions, we can help give them a platform that proposes social equality. It would also demonstrate that people can be great leaders not despite identifying a certain way or because they identify a certain way, but rather regardless of their identity.

There is diversity within diversity, and many people seem to overlook it far too often. Even in casual conversation, some people fear the "gay agenda" as if being LGBTQ is a monotheistic cult wanting to indoctrinate our country. Not once has the person I love had any bearing on my views on topics such as international trade or education, and neither does it for many other members of the community.

Of course, being part of a marginalized community may impact one's perspective and thus impact their beliefs, but too often people make generalizations based on characteristics such as race, gender, or sexuality. Although Buttigieg is a Democratic candidate, he still remains diplomatic with conservatives and engages with Fox News to bring light to his platform to those who more than likely lie on the other end of the political spectrum. Although progress may appear to be slow — I, too, would like people to understand that merit, not sexuality, should be an indicator of one's qualifications for being elected to public office — I have hope that the influx of LGBTQ candidates leading our country can create a ripple effect and a more inclusive playing field.