Mayor Pete, Obergefell Gays, and White Male Privilege

Russell K. Robinson | Law | Buffalo Law Review, 2021

This Article argues that Mayor Pete Buttigieg seized the national imagination and a substantial number of Democratic delegates through the combination of his gay identity and his alignment with masculinity norms generally assigned to heterosexual men, and by taking aim at more senior and qualified women candidates, namely Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. Buttigieg’s unprecedented success suggests that some White gay men now enjoy a unique pathway to reclaiming their status as men and asserting White male privilege. In short, contrary to pervasive media claims, Buttigieg’s success should be read as a breakthrough for certain White gay men, but not for the LGBTQ community more generally. Indeed, Buttigieg’s appeal to White heterosexuals may signify a growing chasm between the “G” and everyone else who identifies with a term included in that acronym. The lack of enthusiasm for Buttigieg’s candidacy—and in some cases outright repudiation of Buttigieg—among LGBTQ folks who are women, people of color, queer, transgender, and/or younger reflects an objection to the “respectability politics” that have fueled the movement since the 1990s. The Mayor Pete backlash, which was closely followed by the convergence of a historic racial uprising and a remixed Pride Month, suggests that the future of LGBTQ rights is intersectionality.