Buttigieg and I might appear to have a lot in common, but our values are different

On the surface, Pete Buttigieg and I have a lot in common. We’re both white queer people, though I’m sure Buttigieg prefers the term gay. We have similar haircuts, but Buttigieg’s is expected for a man and mine gets me yelled at by teenagers joyriding down High Street. We are of the same generation: Buttigieg is only 2 years older than me.

There is, however, a pivotal difference between us, a choice that has shaped the trajectory of our lives: Pete Buttigieg came out only five years ago, at age 32. I came out at 16.

When I came out in 2000, I started my high school’s first club for LGBT people. My classmate who read the morning announcements stumbled over the words “Gay-Straight Alliance.” Soon, I received threats, which the school ignored. I became ever more scared to walk the hallways of my high school.

Meanwhile, Pete Buttigieg was graduating from a private high school and preparing to go to Harvard. Soon he was planning his political career. Staying in the closet became an integral part of his strategy.

I don’t blame Buttigieg for not coming out in the early 2000s. It wasn’t an easy time to be queer and coming out is a personal decision that no outsider can judge. I respect the decision to stay in the closet to preserve one’s safety, but Buttigieg stayed in the closet to preserve his electability. "I had to wonder whether just acknowledging who I was, was going to be the ultimate, career-ending professional setback," Buttigieg said of his coming-out process during the third Democratic debate in September.

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Buttigieg has lived most of his adult life hoping that the people around him would see him as a straight white man. If you’re wondering why so many queer and trans people of his generation find him unrelatable and worthy of our most vicious memes, that’s why. We’ve lived our adult lives as openly queer and trans people, facing down hatred and discrimination as best we could. Buttigieg hasn’t.

The decision to come out as both queer and nonbinary has cost me, not just emotionally, but financially. Buttigieg and I may share a community, but he hasn’t shared my struggles.

I don’t find Buttigieg likable. I can’t imagine that he goes to the same bars as I do, or to the same protests. I doubt we like the same music or that he’d get my jokes. If you forced me to describe him, I’d call him a sneeze in a suit, but that’s not why I won’t vote for him in the primaries.

I won’t vote for Buttigieg because his policy proposals and record as mayor don’t reflect my values.

Buttigieg opposes policies that would improve the economic status of people like me. He opposes Medicare for All, but I don’t view his plan as a viable path to universal healthcare. He also opposes universal public college and canceling student loan debt.

In a time of budget cuts targeting SNAP programs and disability benefits, Buttigieg supports an increase in military spending, even though it already makes up more than half of the federal budget.

Despite all of his talk of generational change, Buttigieg’s climate change plan is among the worst proposed by the potential Democratic nominees, according to both Greenpeace and The Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund.

As mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Buttigieg has failed to address his constituents’ concerns about the death of Eric Logan, a black South Bend resident murdered by a white police officer. While all the candidates are complicit in structural racism, there’s a reason why Buttigieg is polling poorly with black voters.

We can’t always say this, but there are progressive candidates running for president this year. Both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren advocate better policies than Buttigieg, and I think you should vote for one of them. A writer with more faith in the political system would probably make a case for one of them as better than the other, but I’m not that writer. Personally, I’ll be voting for whichever one of them has the best chance to win the nomination.

Queer and trans people are hostage to the Democratic party. The Democrats do nothing meaningful to court our votes, because they know they don’t have to. Buttigieg is perhaps the worst example of this; he assumes he’ll have queer and trans support while doing little to warrant it. Who knows which candidate we might have to vote for come November? But in the primary, I won’t vote for Buttigieg. I won’t give my vote to someone who showed up late to the fight for queer and trans rights.