CHICAGO (CBS) — The Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has come out as gay in an essay published Tuesday in the South Bend Tribune.
“I was well into adulthood before I was prepared to acknowledge the simple fact that I am gay. It took years of struggle and growth for me to recognize that it’s just a fact of life, like having brown hair, and part of who I am,” Pete Buttigieg wrote.
The 33-year-old first-term Democrat is up for re-election this year, and said being gay has no bearing on his service as a Navy reservist, or his performance as mayor.
He started his essay by noting the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on whether gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry, or whether states can ban same-sex marriages, but he said regardless of that ruling, equality issues remain unsettled.
“It remains legal in most parts of Indiana (though not South Bend) to fire someone simply for being gay, and bullying still contributes to tragically high suicide rates among LGBT teens,” he wrote.
He noted his high school had nearly 1,000 students, and statistically, that means several dozen were gay or lesbian, but when he graduated in 2000, he had yet to meet an openly gay or lesbian classmate.
“Putting something this personal on the pages of a newspaper does not come easy. We Midwesterners are instinctively private to begin with, and I’m not used to viewing this as anyone else’s business,” Buttigieg wrote. “But it’s clear to me that at a moment like this, being more open about it could do some good. For a local student struggling with her sexuality, it might be helpful for an openly gay mayor to send the message that her community will always have a place for her. And for a conservative resident from a different generation, whose unease with social change is partly rooted in the impression that he doesn’t know anyone gay, perhaps a familiar face can be a reminder that we’re all in this together as a community.”
Buttigieg said acceptance of the LGBT community is still often a divisive issue around South Bend, but he said it doesn’t have to be.