Politics, Top Stories

Trailblazing Pete Buttigieg Revealed the Extent of ‘Progressive’ Homophobia

On Sunday evening, Pete Buttigieg announced that he was ending his campaign to become the Democratic nominee for the U.S. presidency. The former South Bend, Indiana mayor made history as the country’s first openly gay politician to become a legitimate presidential contender. In the Iowa caucuses last month, he bested every other candidate, and came a close second to frontrunner Bernie Sanders in the subsequent New Hampshire primary.

As a gay conservative journalist covering the 2020 campaign from Washington, D.C., I’ve followed Buttigieg’s campaign with special interest. Over my lifetime, I’ve certainly seen my share of traditional right-wing homophobia. And so I never imagined that when a gay man finally had a legitimate shot at becoming president, the loudest attacks on his identity would come not from the Right, but from the Left. While Buttigieg’s politics, qualifications, record and platform all were open to good-faith criticism, many of the “woke” progressive journalists and activists who opposed his candidacy went beyond this, and resorted to personal attacks that blurred into outright bigotry.

Yes, there were some conservatives here and there who made homophobic comments about Buttigieg, or who seemed otherwise bothered by his sexuality. But most, frankly, didn’t seem to care. Even Republican President Donald Trump said he thought it was “great” that a gay man was running for president, and that he himself would vote for a gay candidate. For most of Buttigieg’s conservative critics, the real sticking points were his support for late-term abortion, proposed tax increases, and his intention to pack the Supreme Court with liberals—not his sexuality.

The same wasn’t true of various LGBTQ activists, who took issue with the former mayor’s lack of effeminate mannerisms, his moderate policies, and even his whiteness. Consider one viral essay published in the formerly center-left New Republic, which decried Buttigieg as an “Uncle Tom”—or in this case, “Mary Pete”—in terms that can only be described as unhinged:

Mary Pete [is] different from every other left-leaning neoliberal in exactly zero ways. Because let’s face it. The only thing that distinguishes the mayor of South Bend from all those other well-educated reasonably intelligent white dudes who wanna be president is what he does with his dick (and possibly his ass, although I get a definite top-by-default vibe from him, which is to say that I bet he thinks about getting fucked but he’s too uptight to do it). So let’s dish the dish, homos. You know and I know that Mary Pete is a gay teenager. He’s a fifteen-year-old boy in a Chicago bus station wondering if it’s a good idea to go home with a fifty-year-old man so that he’ll finally understand what he is. He’s been out for, what, all of four years, and if I understand the narrative, he married the first guy he dated. And we all know what happens when gay people don’t get a real adolescence because they spent theirs in the closet: they go through it after they come out…The last thing I want in the White House is a gay man staring down 40 who suddenly realizes he didn’t get to have all the fun his straight peers did when they were teenagers…I don’t want it in the White House. I want a man whose mind is on his job, not what could have been—or what he thinks he can still get away with.

Yes, this is a real excerpt from a real article (albeit one that the editors eventually had the good sense to retract)—not a parody of self-loathing gay homophobia, or of a right-wing hysteric who imagines all gay men to be too sex-crazed to be trusted with important professional tasks. The New Republic, which still trades on its formerly respectable inside-the-beltway brand, actually published a spoken-word-style screed blasting a trailblazing gay Democrat as being the wrong kind of gay person—specifically, a gay person who hadn’t experienced enough gay sex.

Another nasty essay in the Los Angeles Review of Books mocked a photo of Buttigieg and his husband Chasten on the cover of Time Magazine as “Heterosexuality without women.” The reasoning: The couple was photographed in clean-cut attire, in front of a home, with the idea of traditional values being suggested by the caption “First Family.” (Needless to say, the “whiteness” of both men is also seen as highly problematic.) In the author’s mind, Democrats were being offered “the promise that our first gay first family might actually be a straight one.” Or, in other words: If you’re not a flamboyant queer socialist with a non-white partner, you apparently don’t really count as being gay.

One piece in the Outline went so far as to say that Pete Buttigieg is actually “bad for gays,” because he is too “palatable.” Which raises the question of whether these progressives are actually sincere about wanting gay politicians to succeed. Since being “palatable” enough to attract votes is a prerequisite for success in all forms of politics, it sounds an awfully lot like these critics would prefer that a gay stereotype decked out in night-club leather would fail spectacularly on the national political stage—as this would at least allow them to revert to the usual script of America being dominated by right-wing bigots who aren’t “ready” for gay men and women.

A BuzzFeed article argued that Buttigieg becoming president “would also be a constant reminder of how much the gay rights movement had to give up in order to make it this far. Buttigieg’s ascendance is at least in part a byproduct of the least ambitious, most compromised impulse of a decades-long fight for queer rights winning out over demands for something better.” In a similar vein, a particularly nasty op-ed in the LGBT-focused Washington Blade argued that “If Pete is elected, he will be the most heterosexual gay president possible.”

Since when does living a conventionally stable (and apparently happy) life as a successful white-collar worker with a white-collar husband (Chasten Glezman is a high school teacher) mean you had to “give up” anything? There is a certain kind of progressive writer who has convinced himself that there is only one way to be gay; and if you don’t fit that mold, you’re a class-war traitor who doesn’t even count as part of the LGB community. This kind of bigotry may be disguised as progressive extremism. But at root, it’s no less offensive than the attitude displayed by those few homophobic voters who openly admit they wouldn’t vote for a gay man.

Consider that an entire beyond-woke activist group dubbed “Queers Against Pete” formed to lobby against his candidacy—the LGB equivalent of the Neturei Karta anti-Israel Jews who once got trotted out by rabid anti-Zionists. Queers Against Pete penned a letter denouncing Buttigieg for not being socialist enough, and for having policies that ran against the grain of their “intersectional framework.” Unlike the most radical candidates, you see, Buttigieg didn’t support fully socialized healthcare or open borders. Of course, these also happen to be two policies that a majority of American voters clearly reject. This is consistent with the above-described pattern, by which the loudest progressives seem happier bemoaning failure than pursuing success.

(Hilarious side note: Queers Against Pete issued a correction/apology to their letter because they forgot to include the “2” in “LGBTQIA2+,” which apparently insulted Indigenous “two-spirited” people: “We apologize for our error and appreciate the person who held us accountable to being more inclusive. We regret perpetuating erasure of the Native community.”)

The ironic result of all this is that Buttigieg’s candidacy indirectly propped up the most radicalized candidate—Sanders—by splitting the center-left vote between Joe Biden, Buttigieg (and, in New Hampshire, at least, Amy Klobuchar). With Buttigieg out of the race, many of his supporters seem likely to flock to Biden. Then again, if Biden gets the nomination, that’ll simply give these same progressives some other new thing to be furious about, which seems the real goal.

But once you move outside that sour little world, there is good news here that transcends politics. Just five years ago, gay marriage was still illegal in 13 U.S. states. Yet in 2020, America is so open and tolerant that a gay man could make a run at the U.S. presidency. Old-fashioned homophobia is on its way into the dustbin of history. Let’s hope its “progressive” mirror image soon suffers the same fate.


Brad Polumbo (@Brad_Polumbo) is Deputy Opinion Contributors Editor at the Washington Examiner, a D.C.-based conservative web magazine. His work has also formerly appeared in Quillette, USA Today, National Review and the Daily Beast.

Featured Image: Photo by Gage Skidmore, featuring Pete Buttigieg speaking with attendees at the Presidential Gun Sense Forum in Des Moines, Iowa.


  1. The rejection of a gay presidential candidate by the woke is not surprising. It really wouldn’t matter how woke PB was.

    Their raison d’etre is not to achieve something positive or concrete but to to complain and rail against everything. They don’t announce the type of world they want to see, only what they don’t want.

  2. This is a truly fascinating article. Like most conservatives, I disagree with Buttigieg’s policies and I think he is too inexperienced to be President. But I think that it is very cool that we live in a country where a gay guy can run for president. I thought the same thing about Obama being black even though I didn’t vote for him either. Since I do not read publications like the New Republic, I was unaware of the vitriol directed against Buttigieg by the left.

    The basic problem is that Pete Buttigieg gives the lie to the whole victimhood scam. He is simply not a victim. He is a very successful, very bright guy with a great future. We have definitely not seen the last of Pete Buttigieg and I will take odds that this is not his last go at the presidency. If he is not a victim, then those of us on the right can’t be evil homophobic bastards that are oppressing him. So, I guess that the only logical solution for the left is that he is not really gay.

    It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me but…….

  3. I’ve come to recognize use of the term “white dude” as dripping with condescension and opprobrium, virtually regardless of the context. If a writer (or speaker) is using that term, you can be fairly certain he or she has succumbed to bitter, counterproductive “wokeness.”

  4. Can we talk about the donkey in the room?

    South Carolina’s African American Democrats are too homophobic to pick a gay presidential contender.

    Not gay enough had nothing to do with it.

  5. If you understand intersectionality, you understand why Buttigieg got the reception he did. He is essentially a _________ young white male. He is, true, gay, but he is not trans, nor POC, nor disabled, nor cognitively diminished. He also has the huge impediments of being accomplished, of speaking 5 (or 9) languages, of having been elected to office. And of course, in the actual performance of his job, he had to deal with … BLACK people. And since he was the boss of the Chief of Police, he was ultimately responsible for actions taken by the police. You know where that is going - whenever the police do their job, we are going to have some mad bad black folks. VOILA!! We had that.

    So, intersectionally speaking, he has only 1 marginalized merit badge (gay), but that is considerably weakened. He’s not a flaming faggot gay guy. He looks like a Shriner or Marine gay guy. He would NEVER appear doing drag. He is not queer. He’s just a guy who loves a guy. He doesn’t even have AIDS. If he had AIDS, he might have done a whole lot better in some of those primaries.

    So, it’s not at all surprising if you understand intersectionality.

  6. Great article. I had no idea there was so much hate for Buttigieg among the people that should have been his allies, but I suppose I’m not surprised. It’s the famous circular firing squad of the left.

    Young conservatives in particular are quite accepting of homosexuality, so long as it doesn’t include coercing churches or exposing children to sexual content. What I want for my LGBT friends is the same thing I want for my straight friends: a loving marriage and many children. I would have preferred that gay marriage be legalized by vote, not through the courts, but I’m happy it was done. If I were a Democrat I wouldn’t have voted for Buttigieg because he doesn’t have the necessary experience, but I’d be warm on him running again after some time in industry or in the cabinet.

    It seems to me that the left wing embraced homosexuality because they saw it as subversive and exotic, gay rights as an avenue to battle traditional society. For them, the more outrageous and extreme, the better. But once it became clear gays are not just pink booty shorts and sexualized street displays, that they’re mostly indistinguishable from straight people, the subversive element was eroded.

    This made gay rights more palatable to the right, particularly since the thrust of their argument was that they just wanted to live free of government coercion. It also made gay rights lose their appeal with the left, who chose to scratch their subversion itch by appropriating a serious mental condition and transforming it into a hammer with which to beat not only traditional society, but the gays with, too.

  7. Yeah, that’s a good point. In a way, the Buttigieg candidacy is counter-narrative for the left. A successful high-achieving gay guy who wasn’t held back by his sexuality undermines the “oppressors vs the oppressed” paradigm you see the left trot out time and again in its rhetoric.

  8. Interesting and disturbing stuff. It reminds me of when black public figures are criticized for being “nonthreatening.”

  9. Buttigieg played the identitarian card, and lost when he wasn’t extreme enough. Others have, others will.

    “*There has been a massive divide throughout gay history, which has really been weaponized recently. And that’s the difference between people who are gay, and people who are queer. Gay people discover they are gay at some point, and want to live their lives just like everyone else. Queer is different, and it always has been. Queers feel being gay is just the first step to a much bigger campaign which includes breaking down, deconstructing, or undermining the system in some way. *”

    What has happened in recent years is the prevalence of queer over gay. And this is happening in every other identity case as well.

    -Douglas Murray

  10. Here’s your answer from user Mourvedre;

    Can we talk about the donkey in the room?

    South Carolina’s African American Democrats are too homophobic to pick a gay presidential contender.

    Not gay enough had nothing to do with it”

    Thankfully you can’t blame this one on those “homophobic Mormon’s” like they did in CA for Prop 8.

    Even though black people vote for gay candidates at a rate even lower than racist homophobic white racist conservatives to your typically scared white progressive wokester-wanker to think a totem so high up in the hierarchy was hushedtones “homophobic” would kill them. I mean if they had to comprehend that black people (all be praised inshallah) might actually be…you know…not that fond of gay people.

    And if a liberal has to ponder about what black people think about gays, what do blacks think of Jews? Well now you’re on to somethi…jedihandwave these are not the hateful people you’re looking for.

    Points at Nick Sandman. There’s your true enemy!

  11. Nobody gives a shit about the fact that Pete Buttigieg is gay- although I find it outrageous that only the woke seem to be able to engage in homophobic and racist slurs with impunity, because everyone is scared of their cancel culture superpower. The real hindrances to his path to the Presidency were the firing of a popular Black Police Chief and his time spent at McKinsey. The first situation is complicated, because the taping of employees was under investigation by the FBI, exposed South Bend to liability and could represent an internal breach of checks and balances, implicit to possessing leverage over subordinates- even though it might have been undertaken for noble purposes, or to expose institutional resistance to reform. This issue was always going to hurt Mayor Pete with African American voters, whose support of President Trump has recently almost doubled to 14%, from a dismal 8%.

    But the McKinsey term of employment would have been far more problematic going forward. Democrat pundits have blamed Russia, James Comey, voter suppression and the Electoral College, but none have focused on the three main reasons why Hilary Clinton was unelectable. The first was charisma- she just doesn’t have that spark of spontaneity and sincerity that her husband had on campaign. Like Prime Minister Gordon Brown compared to Tony Blair, she may be very personally engaging, but she just doesn’t have “it”- that moxie in a crowd.

    Second, there was the deplorables comment. In one instant she became the living embodiment of everything the Tea Party had been emphasising for years, the quintessential liberal elite. Plus, we now know from surveys and research, that implying that voting for a particular candidate is racist, bigoted, sexist or homophobic in no way acts as a deterrent- even if someone is only considering voting for a particular candidate, these implied insults are only likely to tip them over the edge, and harden their resolve.

    But her time spent giving extremely well-paid talks to finance with the Clinton Foundation were the final nail in the coffin. Political pundits just don’t recognise that, whilst most American are still broadly supportive of capitalism, the 2008 bailout still deeply offends most Americans. There is an embedded fear of repossession, resentment over rates rises, used to cover poor lending decisions and a hatred of the ‘casino economics’ types who broke the system, and burned through a significant amount of the wealth that many Americans had stored up, for a rainy day or a life of autumnal leisure. Against this backdrop of deeply held hurt and resentment towards the finance sector, the moniker “Wall Street Pete” would have sunk any campaign for President like a lead balloon, once Primary season was over.

  12. Ironic that the first gay Presidential candidate was given a much harder time by the gay press than the mainstream prsss. Ironic but not surprising. Progressivism is the opposite of what it purports to be. The most illiberal, close-minded, authoritarian and bigoted people are the progressives.

  13. that they’re mostly indistinguishable from straight people

    Well, that is what a lot of people WANT gay marriage to be. And perhaps it is for Mayor Pete.

    I’m a statistics guy. When I look at the statistics of gay male behavior…indistinguishable from straights is definitely not what I see. I see a lot of promiscuity, drug use, STDs, etc. The description of gays as anti-family train wrecks makes more sense to me as a lived reality.

    What % of gay men are married?
    About 10-11%.

    What % are in sexually monogamous marriages?
    This is hard to find, especially because “monogamous” amongst gay men often means “asked permission to cheat”, but even in marriage the closest guess I can make is 50% based on the evidence.

    What % raise children?
    Only 8% of “cohabitating” gay men raise kids. Couldn’t get numbers for married gay households. Most long term cohabitators are married from one source I saw.

    So 10% * 50% = 5% in monogamous marriages.
    5% * 8% = 0.4% of gay men in monogamous marriages raising children.

    You could play around with the probabilities there (maybe the subset of monogamous married gay couples is higher then the overall 8% rate for gay couples living together), but bottom line the % of gay couples living “the way you should” is in the low single digit %.

    Meanwhile, the STD stats, GrindR, and gay pride parades speak for themselves.

    I think there is a disconnect between what gayness means for UMC high earning professionals in certain circles and what it is for everyone else. The average household income of a married gay couple with an adopted child is a whopping $275,000; and they are highly concentrated in coastal urban centers like SF, DC, etc. So I think people in those areas and income strands get a certain kind of view of “normal” gays that just doesn’t hold out in the rest of the world.

    So there is certainly some subgroup that wants gayness to be just like straightness, but it’s a fringe (largely very well off) minority of the gay community, not the mainstream.

  14. Yes I know Andrew.
    I just don’t like the way the word is used; any criticism or dislike of a homosexual and there’s an accusation of homophobia. Words have meaning, they’re not weapons to be hurled about.
    I’ll illustrate my other point (the hypocrisy and lack of self awareness from the woke) with a little story.
    A women I know (family member’s ex) is a hard out woker, she’d by horrified to be called racist; racists are basically non human as far as she’s concerned. We (her and I) were talking with a Maori couple we know - English is their first and only language. I noticed something strange; she was altering her speech, clipping her vocabulary and speaking more slowly like you would to a child.
    Perhaps she was just being overly agreeable but it seemed to me she believed they were a bit stupid and I’m sure they picked that up as well.
    People show what they truly believe by their actions; watch what they do, not what they say they believe.

  15. I don’t really buy the reasoning within this article.

    Sure, the group within the homosexual community that was chanting, “not gay enough!” should wake up and realize that their ideal candidate wouldn’t stand a chance in hell of being nominated. If they wanted a gay president, this was as good as it’s going to get for now, but…

    I’m a conservative and there would be nothing “phobic” about me rejecting a candidate because he/she “isn’t conservative enough”. (Based on the quotations from Buzzfeed and Outline, they’re using “gay” and “progressive” interchangeably. That New Republic article is just garbage and shouldn’t be rewarded with attention.) Why then should gay folks be labelled phobic (or any other hyperbolic smear) because they complained that the first real gay presidential candidate isn’t “gay enough.” Just because they pride themselves on being inclusive doesn’t mean they have to give a blank check of acceptance to the first gay nominee to walk through the door. This is not a neighbor or local shop owner; this is a person who will attempt to represent them in Washington. They (probably rightly) predict that some bleeding-heart, vanilla, heterosexual like Warren would’ve pushed their interests much further along than clean-cut Pete would’ve. He’s not their guy, and that’s okay.

    Let’s tuck the ole “phobic” yellow card back in our vest and save it for a legitimate occasion. Better yet, lets rip it up and stop using it. It’s a progressive tool meant to impoverish political and cultural discussion and it should be done away with.

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