/Queers Against Pete highlights the LGBTQ community’s frustration with Buttigieg
Queers Against Pete highlights the LGBTQ community’s frustration with Buttigieg

Queers Against Pete highlights the LGBTQ community’s frustration with Buttigieg

On a certain subsection of Twitter there is a common refrain: LGBTQ — “Let’s Get Buttigieg To Quit.” It’s even made its way onto tote bags

To some, the “slogan” may appear surprising, as Buttigieg is the only out-queer candidate in the 2020 presidential race. For some members of the queer community, however, his campaign is frustrating — especially as he emerges as the centrist pick, having come in second behind Bernie Sanders in the New Hampshire primary. His moderate policies, billionaire donors, and the way he’s distanced himself from the community (last September he said he stopped reading LGBTQ media) are a few issues cited by his critics.

This is not a new revelation, but now that primary voting has begun its impacts are starting to show. Buttigieg came in third with queer Iowans who voted in the caucus, according to New York Times reporting. (They were more likely to vote for Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.) Since Buttigieg’s campaign took off last year, queer people have spoken against the candidate due to the fact that, as BuzzFeed News reporter Shannon Keating wrote in November, he represents “everything the marriage-focused mainstream gay rights movement has failed to deliver.” 

“Marriage equality is not justice or equality for the most marginalized of our community,” Jes Scheinpflug, a community organizer based in Chicago, told Mashable. “He [Buttigieg] talks about marriage equality as if it’s the greatest thing, and it leaves behind so many people.”

This is a sentiment that reverberates throughout the progressive queer community: Buttigieg represents respectability and whitewashed politics. For some members of said community — particularly those who are rich, white, and cis — the fight for equality may have ended when same-sex marriage became legal in 2015.

For others, however, there are many issues yet to be addressed. For example, LGBTQ voters listed violence against transgender people as the top concern that the community faces in the country, according to an Out magazine and YouGov survey released last November. The issue in second place was workplace discrimination; in 26 states, employees can still be fired for being gay.

Now, as primary season is underway, some queer voters are pushing back against Buttigieg harder than ever. One collective, called Queers Against Pete, has a mission of doing just that. Queers Against Pete was born out of frustration over Buttigieg’s policies, like his lack of support of free college, and his actions as South Bend mayor, such as how he handled the shooting of black resident Eric Logan by a white police officer

“Marriage equality is not justice or equality for the most marginalized of our community.”

Queers Against Pete organizer Gregory A. Cendana told Mashable he was inspired to get involved in a more active way after seeing Black Lives Matter – South Bend protest Buttigieg in Iowa. “It’s important for us to center black communities,” Cendana said, “Especially because black trans women are disproportionately impacted within the broader LGBTQIA community.”

Cendana said Queers Against Pete wants to push candidates, like Buttigieg, on issues that could be potentially harmful to their communities.

Queers Against Pete has “been truly grassroots, organic folks all just connecting through our organizer networks,” said Scheinpflug, who was pulled into Queers Against Pete when someone emailed them about shutting Buttigieg down in Chicago.

Indeed, Queers Against Pete’s first intervention was at Buttigieg’s fundraising event in Chicago shortly before the Iowa caucus. Cendana asked Buttigieg about how a queer teen who has been disowned by their parents would pay for college without universal free college. Scheinpflug asked about Eric Logan. At the end of Buttigieg’s remarks, they chanted “Queers against Pete.”

Now, the group encourages people who share their sentiment to sign an open letter. “We cannot in good conscience allow Mayor Pete to become the nominee without demanding that he address the needs and concerns of the broader [LGBTQIA] communities,” the letter states. It goes on to detail Buttigieg’s policies the grassroots organization do not support:

Queers Against Pete's open letter

Queers Against Pete’s open letter

Image: queers against pete

Queers Against Pete released a joint press release about the letter with Queers Not Here For Mayor Pete, a group with a similar message. The letter has more than 3,000 signatures thus far and according to Cendana, has representation in all 50 states and DC. 

The collective has gotten backlash over why they will not support the one openly gay person in the race. To that, Cendana said that identity is only one aspect of a candidate. 

“We have to look at all parts and make informed decisions on all parts, and not focus solely on a particular identity,” he said. “Especially if some of those policies or things folks are pushing for may actually be harmful.”

Cendana believes it’s his duty and the duty of the broader queer community to push candidates, especially Buttigieg, to be responsible and accountable. He wants Buttigieg to hear their concerns and shift his policies to reflect the broader community.

Scheinpflug echoed Cendana’s concerns about Buttigieg and his commitment to helping all LGBTQ people. “Just because someone’s gay doesn’t mean they’re progressive,” they said. “And it doesn’t mean they care about everyone in the community.” They compared their stance on Buttigieg to that about Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is a black lesbian and has received backlash from the queer community due to her policies. 

Cendana compared his feelings on Buttigieg to his feelings on Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard (this interview occurred the day before the New Hampshire primary, where Yang dropped out of the race).  “As a Filipino American and as an Asian American, people are like, ‘What about Andrew Yang? What about Tulsi Gabbard or some of the other Asian American Pacific Islander candidates up and down the ballot?’” 

“In the same way I feel about Mayor Pete and him being gay is the same response I give to Andrew Yang and him being Asian American,” he said. “Just because someone shares a particular identity doesn’t necessarily mean they share values, they share commitment.” 

Queers Against Pete has not endorsed any particular candidate. On the groups’s FAQ page, they state that members support different candidates, some not at all. According to Scheinpflug, the collective has gotten criticized by saying who they’re against and not who they’re for, but they do not think those criticisms hold. 

“I think they don’t have the big picture view of what this tactic is,” Scheinpflug said. In their work in local Chicago politics, Scheinpflug has seen the tactic work with initiatives such as No More Joe Moore, which rallied against the incumbent alderman for the 49th ward but did not endorse his competitor, Maria Hadden. Moore was voted out of office

“This is a broader call to folks that we care, we matter about who is trying to represent us” 

As of now, the open letter is Queers Against Pete’s biggest priority. Cendana hopes that as Queers Against Pete’s message spreads and more people become interested, that the group will organize more events. “This is a broader call to folks that we care, we matter about who is trying to represent us, and we’re going to do our due diligence to do what we can to ensure that the most vulnerable in our community are centered and lifted up,” he said.

Scheinpflug wants a candidate who will listen — and they believe Buttigieg has not thus far.

“There’s video after video of people asking him a question and him ignoring them, especially if they’re not people who paid a lot of money to get into his fundraiser,” they said. Queers Against Pete’s own exchange with Buttigieg in Chicago was caught on video. “He doesn’t want to listen to us. He’s literally going out of his way to not listen to us.” 

Scheinpflug said that no matter whom the country elects, they and the broader community will disagree, but what’s imperative is having a candidate who will listen. 

“We don’t have to agree on everything, but they have to be willing to have those conversations that try to see our side,” they said. “And he’s just not even willing to do that.”

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