As we gear up for the third Democratic primary debate for the highest office in the land I wanted to pause and reflect on something truly groundbreaking that happened during the second debate earlier this month. A lot of press, and not much of it good, was focused on Julian Castro and his veiled, nasty attack on Vice President Joe Biden’s age. I think the negative coverage was correct, spot on, and totally appropriate. Castro’s chiding was childish, immature, and clearly an indication that he is not ready for this level of political leadership. What got lost in the shuffle I think was the pioneering moment Mayor Pete had in the closing moments of the evening.
Each candidate was asked to share a time in their career when they had to weather a particularly harsh storm or loss and how they recovered from it. When it came to Mayor Pete’s turn, for the first time in Presidential primary debate history (for either side I might add), a candidate for Leader of the Free World talked about the struggles and challenges of coming out while serving as a public official. He talked about the internal struggle and his need to feel authenticate and genuine personally and how that entailed him being out and open in his public life as well. He talked about how concerned he was about how his city and supporters would react and the anxiety he felt around what the repercussions would be for his career. He ended on a high note by talking about how South Bend rallied around him and ultimately elected him to a second term as Mayor.
Score one for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, trans, and queer political leaders, um, everywhere! This was truly a historic moment and one, frankly, I never fathomed I would see. Harvey Milk ardently believed that the most lethal enemy of the gay community was INVISIBILITY. He believed living in the closet and in secrecy enabled homophobic forces to spread lies and stereotypes about us. Staying in the closet helps keep our community silenced and maligned by myths and smears from conservative circles. The best way to combat this ugly dynamic is to live our lives in the bright light of the day. When people see for themselves that we are integrated into society as healthy, hardworking, and whole Americans in all walks of life then we can affect positive change for our community and our country.
Thank you Mayor Pete!!!