If I were to run for office, I would speak openly and often about being gay. This is not news. I’m a fairly public ordained minister who talks, writes and preaches from the pulpit about being gay. It is a habit for me to bring that part of myself with me wherever I go. I do not do this because I want to invite people into my bedroom (it’s a pretty boring place.) Rather, I do it because I know that my speaking about sexuality as part of my lived experience opens up the conversation for others about how sexuality and gender play into our communities, our faith, our health, our politics, and our governed lives. My sexuality history allows me to speak about access to health care, mental health services, housing, jobs and a host of areas in which I’ve experienced direct discrimination, marginalization and fear…as well as compassion, joy and hope and an intimate understanding of where a lack of clear policies and understanding created chaos. My public and ongoing exploration of my own male gender expression has helped me to have a deeper understanding of women’s experience of their bodies and how they are politicized whether they are cisgender or transgender. My public process has also helped me to find a great place of compassion for men who hold on to “traditional” concepts of masculinity and to recognize their needs as a legitimate part of a broader community, while helping them to steer away from patterns of harm based on their gender expression. My willingness to talk about my own sexuality and gender is an opening for others to consider theirs and an invitation for people to have greater understanding and less shame regardless of whether or not they are straight or gay. My public sexuality is an incredible responsibility as well as a privilege of my gender, my education and my economic class. I own all of it.
We are missing a moment right now in the discourse around Rush Limbaugh’s stupid attacks on Pete Buttigieg and the radio host’s supporters vile defense of him. But Buttigieg is also missing a moment to put a strong stake in the ground as a public figure with a platform and a call to action. In this world, no one “just happens to be black” just as no one “just happens to be gay.” As with Obama’s blackness, having a robust and nuanced response to attacks on being gay will not make Buttigieg a one issue candidate. It has the potential to humanize him and give him greater dimension, and help us all evolve. The legion of activists, artists and politicians who came before him can attest to that. I’ve personally spent a lifetime presenting my sexuality as only one facet of myself that is a point of pride. And I’ve also lifted it up as a uniquely powerful point of insight and transformation. Certainly, everyone is different, but it feels like a missed opportunity when someone like Limbaugh has a platform to spread hate while someone else who has a platform to counter that destructive narrative appears powerless to use it.