Chasten Buttigieg, former high school teacher and husband of presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, has spoken about the hopelessness he felt during a period of homelessness after he came out as gay.
Buttigieg appeared alongside his husband in an interview with Billy Eichner for GLAAD’s fundraising event “Together in Pride: You Are Not Alone” last week.
Last year, Buttigieg spoke about experiencing homelessness after he came out to his family and received a negative reaction from one of his brothers.
He told the Washington Post that he moved out of the family home, stayed on friends’ couches, and even slept in his car in the parking lot of his community college.
Speaking at the GLAAD event, Buttigieg again spoke about his homelessness while discussing LGBTQ youth and his experiences while out on the campaign trail.
“I think young people across the board in this country are so fed up with power and Washington and politics that has continually failed them,” he said. “I remember when I came out growing up in northern Michigan I ran away from home and I absolutely felt like nobody understood me.”
He added: “I remember being 17, sleeping in the back of my car feeling like nobody believed in me and that there was never going to be a future for me. And there are still over 40% of homeless youth in this country are LGBTQ.”
Buttigieg noted visiting an LGBTQ youth center and meeting trans youth who told him “you don’t get my story.”
“I’d say that’s exactly why I’m here,” Buttigieg said. “Because it’s time we bring your story to Washington and have leaders in Washington who believe in you and see you. So I think a large part of leadership is just showing up and shutting up.”
He later added: “That’s why it’s so important for us to go out there, do the work and listen. So [LGBTQ youth] absolutely see leaders who are committed to telling their story and showing up for them.”
Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg also spoke at the event about his historic campaign for president, which saw him become the first openly gay person to win a state in a major party’s presidential primary.
Eichner asked Buttigieg about a generational divide in terms of LGBTQ support for his campaign. Buttigieg agreed that the “LGBTQIA+ community is going through that generational experience.”
“I saw and was so moved by that same thing you are talking about where people, especially from an older generation, sometimes would come up to me and couldn’t form words, they’d tear up and I knew what it was they were saying,” he said. “It was very humbling to hear that they were moved to think about my candidacy in the context of that struggle.
He said that it was “a struggle I don’t even fully understand.”
“And to even be able to do this, for Chasten and me to be married, certainly for me to be an out candidate, we are standing on their shoulders,” he continued. “There was something so powerful about that.”
As for the pushback he received online, particularly from younger members of the LGBTQ community, Buttigieg said, “Part of that is how social media works. Part of that comes along with politics. And I wonder if for some people it was empowering.”
“I mean there’s one generation that’s astonished there can even be a candidate and they have the freedom to vote for a candidate that’s queer,” he said. “For some others it may have been empowering to be able to be queer and not vote for a candidate who is queer. I get that. I just hope that people can have whatever political views and not be mean. I don’t believe we need to add any more meanness to this world.”
Buttigieg — who ended his campaign in March and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden — also highlighted the significance of November’s elections, and urged LGBTQ people to get out and vote.
“It couldn’t be more important,” he said. “If you care about the climate, if you care about wages, if you care about rights for our community, if you care about what’s going to happen on the courts, if you care about each other, this is even more important than ever a time to vote.’
GLAAD’s event, Together in Pride, raised more than $225,000 for CenterLink, a coalition of LGBTQ community centers. The full event is available to watch here.
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