The New York Times publishes today a lengthy profile of Pete Buttigieg’s struggle with accepting that he is gay, and his eventual “coming out:”
Mr. Buttigieg, now the mayor of South Bend, Ind., struggled for a decade after leaving Harvard to overcome the fear that being gay was “a career death sentence,” as he put it in his memoir.
Mr. Buttigieg spent those years trying to reconcile his private life with his aspirations for a high-profile career in public service.
Attitudes toward gay rights changed immensely during that period, though he acknowledges that he was not always able or willing to see what broader social and legal shifts meant for him personally.
“Because I was wrestling with this, I’m not sure I fully processed the idea that it related to me,” he said in an interview.
More than most people his age — even more than most of the ambitious young men and women he competed against at Harvard — he possessed a remarkably strong drive for perfection. He went on to become a Rhodes scholar, work on a presidential campaign, join the military and be elected mayor all before he turned 30. After being deployed with the Navy to Afghanistan in 2014, he said he realized he could die having never been in love, and he resolved to change that. He finally came out in 2015, when he was 33.
I use scare-quotes around ‘coming out’ because I believe everybody’s sex life belongs in the closet. I wouldn’t presume to ask the (presumably) straight couple next door if they’re into bondage/latex/threesomes/whatever, and I don’t think that what the gentlemen bachelors down the street get up to is any of my business, either.
I do think it’s a good thing that a prominent figure like Buttigieg is willing to speak frankly about the difficulty of not being a standard-issue male; it’s a hard row to hoe, and it’s good that young men wrestling with those difficulties have before them the example of an accomplished man living openly and successfully on the other side of those hard decisions. One hopes the day is coming — and sooner, rather than later — when nobody pays attention.