LGBTQ Advocates In Chicago React To Pete Buttigieg's Strong Iowa Results

Feb 6, 2020
Originally published on February 7, 2020 11:13 am
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

While we don't have the final Democratic results in the Iowa caucuses, it's safe to say Pete Buttigieg did very well. That thrills many LGBTQ folks. Others, though, say the openly gay former mayor of South Bend, Ind., is not progressive enough for them. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports from Chicago.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: Even though Chicagoans elected a lesbian as the city's mayor last year, having a gay man run for president is still a wow factor.

ANN CHRISTOPHERSEN: I think it's really exciting that he's acquired as much legitimacy as he has.

CORLEY: That's Ann Christophersen. Retired now, the former co-owner of a feminist bookstore says she has mixed feelings, though, about Pete Buttigieg.

CHRISTOPHERSEN: I think Buttigieg has a bright future, but I think he has to be out in the world more. I think he has to have more political experience in a bigger arena.

CORLEY: Chicago has seen a lot of firsts, says English professor Amy Blumenthal - the first gay mayor. The first black president lived here. She says while there's enthusiasm for Buttigieg, it's not as widespread.

AMY BLUMENTHAL: He's too middle-of-the-road for me. I think the reason there isn't that excitement is because he's not as progressive as two of the candidates, as Warren and Sanders.

CORLEY: Iowa may not be a bellwether for Buttigieg, no matter the hopes of the LGBTQ community, says Sandra Small. She works in the behavioral health field.

SANDRA SMALL: I think Iowa - because they get to meet people up close, I think they make open judgment. And they may be signaling it's time for a change, but I'm not sure it's a change the rest of the country is ready for.

(SOUNDBITE OF VOLLEYBALL GAME AMBIENCE)

CORLEY: It's volleyball night at the Center on Halsted, and the recreation hall, named after Billie Jean King, is packed. Twenty-six-year-old Casey Campbell, a social media marketer, and 33-year-old Brett Michaelson, who works in economic development, say they aren't surprised at all by Mayor Pete's strong showing.

CASEY CAMPBELL: He's built his momentum piece by piece, and he seems to be really getting people excited, especially our demographic and millennials. So it seems like he's doing the work.

BRETT MICHAELSON: He focused a lot of his campaign and the legitimacy of his campaign on, I can connect with voters in the Midwest that maybe weren't so turned on by the Democratic Party the last time. I will be surprised if he can win another state and continue this momentum.

CORLEY: Momentum is exactly what Annise Parker is looking for. She is the former mayor of Houston and the head of the LGBTQ Victory Fund. The organization endorsed Buttigieg early on, and she calls his candidacy revolutionary.

ANNISE PARKER: He changes the entire conversation about what is possible for an openly LGBT candidate - what we can achieve, what things we can run for.

CORLEY: And she calls his standing in the polls astounding.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CAN'T GET YOU OUT OF MY HEAD")

KYLIE MINOGUE: (Singing) La la la la la, la la la, la la la la la.

CORLEY: There is a big crowd at Soundtracks Nightclub in Chicago's gay-friendly Boystown neighborhood. Twenty-five-year-old Bailey Wayne Hundl, a self-described drag queen, is in seminary and works at a thrift shop. He says he's not a Buttigieg supporter, but he says he doesn't pay any mind to comments some have made that Buttigieg might not be gay enough.

BAILEY WAYNE HUNDL: I think whenever you're a queer person, there's, like, a lot of pressure to, like, not be, like, that gay - you know, like, capital G. And I feel like Pete, in a lot of ways, kind of gives into that, which I'm not necessarily mad about.

CORLEY: His best friend, 29-year-old Doug Atkins, an actor from Houston, is a staunch supporter.

DOUG ATKINS: It may come off to most gays as, he doesn't speak for who we are. But who we are - he is one of us.

HUNDL: Oh, absolutely.

ATKINS: He is one of us.

CORLEY: Hundl and Atkins say they're looking forward to what happens next in New Hampshire, but they're ready to vote blue no matter who eventually becomes the Democratic nominee.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: This story misidentifies the location as Soundtracks Nightclub. The name is actually Sidetrack.]

(SOUNDBITE OF JUSTICE'S "VALENTINE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.