Pete Buttigieg sat down with Rachel Maddow for a wide ranging interview, including opening up about how difficult it was to be closeted and what it took for him to come out. Buttigieg came out in 2015, while serving as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, a position he still holds today.
Maddow noted that she had come out while still in college, becoming the first openly gay American Rhodes Scholar. She then noted the Democratic presidential candidate didn’t come out until he was in his early thirties.
Acknowledging at the outset that what she was asking was “awkward” and “difficult,” and adding, “not that it’s bad that you didn’t come out till you were 33,” she then said she thought it would have “killed” her to be closeted for that long.
“I just think about what it takes as a human being to know something and to have to bifurcate your public life. For you to have had all of those difficult transitions and experiences, and to be aiming as high as you were all of that time, and not coming out till your early thirties, I just wonder if that was hurtful to you?” Maddow asked.
“It was hard. It was really hard,” Buttigieg admitted.
“First of all, it took a lot of time for me to come out to myself,” he continued, adding that he, unlike Maddow or his husband Chasten, did not know he was gay from an early age.
“I guess I just really needed to not be [gay]. You know, there’s this war that breaks out, I think, inside a lot of people when they realize that they might be something they’re afraid of, and it took me a very long time to resolve that.”
Buttigieg explained that he did come out to a handful of people in his life before taking office. He also pointed out that he hadn’t made things easier for himself as a gay man by being an officer in the military, as well as an elected official in Indiana. He said he had thought both were “totally incompatible” with being openly gay, but soon learned that wasn’t the case.
In fact, it was his deployment to Afghanistan that he said “put me over the top.”
“I realized that you only get to be one person. You don’t know how long you have on this earth. And by the time I came back, I realized, ’I gotta do something.'”
So he came out in an op-ed ahead of his re-election campaign, and won in a landslide.
While Buttigieg said he had hoped his hard work would be recognized, allowing him to win re-election, he also knew “there was no playbook,” as “no executive in Indiana had ever been out.”
Time will tell if he can make history again by becoming the first out president. His campaign has been gaining momentum, with recent polls showing him in third place.