U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg slammed Republicans over their repeated attacks against the LGBTQ community, claiming that conservative politicians are seeking to exploit populist anger over culture-war issues in order to distract from the more unpopular parts of their party’s platform.
Speaking to MSNBC anchor Chris Jansing during an on-air interview on Tuesday, Buttigieg offered an explanation for what appears to be an onslaught of attacks targeting the LGBTQ community or displays of LGBTQ visibility.
“I think it’s being done out of the perception that it is politically convenient to target vulnerable groups,” Buttigieg said of the GOP attacks, which take the form of both screeds by anti-LGBTQ pundits and legislation seeking to restrict LGBTQ rights or censor expressions of LGBTQ identity.
In the past six months, more than 75 anti-LGBTQ bills have been signed into law in more than 20 states, prompting theHuman Rights Campaign to declare a national state of emergency for LGBTQ Americans. These bills include four “Don’t Say Gay” bills, seven bills requiring schools to “out” LGBTQ students to their parents, and over fifteen that ban transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming care.
“I think where [this slew of bills and hateful rhetoric] largely comes from is folks who don’t want to talk about why they were against the infrastructure loans, building roads and bridges,” Buttigieg continued. “They don’t want to talk about why they were against $35 insulin that the president delivered for Medicare recipients. They don’t want to explain why they were for these radical positions.”
By vilifying LGBTQ individuals, the GOP can divert attention away from its “radical policies,” Buttigieg said.
Regardless of whether this rhetoric and these various anti-LGBTQ measures serve as a mirage to distract from more unpopular economic policies, their effect on the LGBTQ community, especially LGBTQ youth, is real. It can be demoralizing and ostracizing for anyone questioning their place.
Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten, recently offered advice on how to better support and protect LGBTQ youth from the fallout from such attacks in his new young adult novel, I Have Something to Tell You.
The book, which describes Chasten Buttigieg’s experiences growing up in a community with hostile anti-LGBTQ attitudes, explains how local communities’ actions can drown out even the loudest anti-LGBTQ voices in media or online. In the book, he details how, when he felt alone and “wrong for being gay,” it was the support of his family and friends that carried him forward, regardless of what voices on television or in the media said about LGBTQ people.
“Whatever’s happening on social media, people tend to believe that’s the public square,” Chasten Buttigieg told People magazine in a recent interview, noting that the messages bombarding LGBTQ people aren’t necessarily reflective of wider public opinion. But if LGBTQ youth can find support in other aspects of their lives – from family, friends, teachers, pastors, or other influential people – those anti-LGBTQ messages can lose their power.
“I thought something was wrong with me [when I was young],” he told People. “I felt like people’s opinions about me defined me. I didn’t realize that one day I’d grow up and be on a presidential campaign and feel so empowered by leaning into what others said would define me.”
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