Chasten Buttigieg Explains It All To You in New Memoir

by Steve Duffy

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday September 21, 2020

One of the bright spots of American politics this year is the success of openly gay candidate Pete Buttigieg during the primary season. Almost overnight the little-known mayor of a small, heavily Republican Indiana city (South Bend) challenged more seasoned pols in the quest for the nomination, displaying an intelligence, confidence and wit that set him apart from his rivals. That Buttigieg's age (38) was more an issue than his sexuality is proof of the extent of LGBTQ acceptance in 2020 America.

At his side throughout was husband Chasten Buttigieg, who would become "First Husband" if Pete is ever elected to the high office. Being Millennials (Chasten is 31), it is not surprisingly they met online using the social media app Hinge (more aimed at finding a relationship than a hookup). At that time Chasten Glezman "lived 95 miles away in Chicago, where he was then starting a master's degree in education at DePaul University while working as a substitute teacher in Illinois public schools," wrote the New York Times in 2018 in reporting on their marriage.

Beginning in August, 2015, the men got to know each other on some long-distance beer dates on FaceTime. Buttigieg had come out publicly in an essay for the South Bend Tribune two months earlier with little difficulty. Glezman's coming out story was very different. "'I decided at 18 that I needed to come out,' said Mr. Glezman, the youngest of three brothers raised in a conservative Roman Catholic family in Traverse City, Mich. 'And I don't recall my parents specifically saying I couldn't live at home anymore, but I was made to believe I needed to leave,'" wrote the New York Times. He left home and spent some time coach-surfing with friends, even living in his car at one point.

Chasten and Pete Buttigieg (Associated Press)

When he met Buttigieg, he had been out for a decade and was looking for something more than a casual relationship. After a number of long-distance beer dates on FaceTime, the pair bonded. When they had their first-date in South Bend, Glezman recalls they held-hands for the first-time while watching fireworks along the Mississippi. The relationship progressed to Glezman moving to South Bend the following year to live part-time with Buttigieg while still pursuing his graduate degree in Chicago. In June, 2018, the pair married in South Bend. Immediately after the ceremony, they visited the block party for South Bend Pride before attending their own reception.

Two years later, Chasten Buttigieg is home in the old frame fixer-upper the couple share with their dogs Truman and Buddy in the midst of a virtual promotional tour for his recently released new memoir, "I Have Something to Tell You" (from Atria Books). The book follows his growing up in Traverse City, Michigan; spending his senior year of high school in Germany; his coming out and the drama that followed; stints at multiple universities; his teaching career; meeting Pete and moving to South Bend; the arduous presidential campaign; and such difficult issues as his sexual assault and his thoughts of suicide.

EDGE spoke to Buttigieg about why he wrote the book, how he overcame hard times, and If any topics were off-limits for his book.

Chasten and Pete Buttigieg on the campaign trail earlier this year (Associated Press)

EDGE: What made this the right time to tell your story?

Chasten Buttigieg: When I was approached to write the book, I wasn't very confident that I had a book in me. I didn't want to write a memoir, but they said I should write one. I am 30-years old; I think it is kind of silly when my life is just beginning. It really was the campaign trail that convinced me that if we have a platform and the power to open up and share our vulnerabilities then we should. Especially, when I was meeting with younger queer people, I thought I could write a book that I wished I had when I was 17-years old. I didn't want to write a glossy 'and I pulled myself up by the bootstraps' story. My story is kind of typical, muddy, and confusing. I just thought that it could do some good.

EDGE: Did you feel that telling your story was important for America, or was it more important for you?

Chasten Buttigieg: It's a little bit of everything. I spent a lot of time on the trail meeting with people of all backgrounds, but along the way I would go from these roundtables with young queer people and we were talking about the future of America and what we would like to see in an inclusive administration. But then I would go to a community event where a woman would say "I haven't always been supportive of gay rights." In a way, our campaign welcomed and invited in these people to be on the right side of history. I would be having conversations about how we can continue to push the needle and turn around and be speaking to someone who was still trying to understand why gay rights are important. So, I was thinking that writing this book I was hoping that this could be something for everybody.

EDGE: Did you struggle with how personal you wanted to get in the book?

Chasten Buttigieg: No, I said right away I am not going to write the book if I have to muzzle myself. I am not going to write a book that says, "Life is hard, now it's fine." That is just not how my story is shaped. I wanted to talk about the really hard stuff because I felt like no one talked about it when I was growing up. For example, when I experienced the assault no one ever told me about that. I never had the talk with anyone. I never knew what to expect and I never saw anyone with the platform talk about these really scary situations. I wanted to talk about the bad relationships, the assault, coming out, and running away. All of these things that for so long felt like they defined me. Society makes us feel like these things make us weaker or less than. As I grew up, I found power in my own story. They didn't define me they shaped me.

A screenshot of Chasten Buttigieg on MSNBC where he spoke about his book earlier this week.

EDGE: Having experienced bullying, homelessness, and sexual assault, what advice do you have for others who may be going through it or who have survived it?

Chasten Buttigieg: I feel like men and queer people are made to feel like those things make you weaker. As men, it makes us weak even though someone else took advantage of us. That is how I felt for so long. How could I have done that. How could I have allowed myself to be in that position. It is scary when you open up to certain people and they ask why you didn't go to the police. It is amazing how powerless you feel based on the actions of someone else. It is very hard to offer a piece of advice. My advice is necessary to open up about it, but it is to know that it does not define you. That the actions of other people don't define who you are, and they don't erase your dignity and worth. It is very important that we reclaim our story and we don't allow the actions of others to define who we are.

EDGE: Was there anything about your relationship with Pete that you were hesitant to talk about?

Chasten Buttigieg: No, nothing about our relationship. Just the conversation about the hard part of my life. I think it is a great opportunity to write a book. I didn't want to hide anything. While out on the campaign trail, I did talk about them. I think people felt seen. I had these really profound meetings with other survivors and kids who have been pushed out of their homes. I was really having some emotional conversations and I told him that I wanted to have similar conversations in the book. I wanted people to feel a little less alone and feel understood. I understand in politics you are not supposed to talk about this kind of stuff, and I didn't want it to harm his campaign at all. Pete was really supportive of it and that is how we help others.

Chasten and Pete Buttigieg (Associated Press)

EDGE: What were some of the challenges that you and Pete faced as he became the first openly gay presidential candidate?

Chasten Buttigieg: When you're a first everyone has an opinion on how to get the moment right. What was hard at first for me was doing politics. It can be really invasive when people are constantly throwing opinions at you. As his rocket was taking off, all of sudden, people want your input, but also want to give you input. I was flooded with, "say this, do this, don't do this, and wear this. If you are going to be the first visible gay couple be this way." Some were saying I should disappear while others were saying I should be out front. When you are trying to figure out how you occupy that space, that input storm can be really overwhelming. For us, we just had to have some really important conversations that we are going to be ourselves. No one is going to workshop me into the perfect blend of heteronormality that is still palatable to the gay community. We are just going to be ourselves. It was one of the most important conversations that we had not just getting the historical moment of the race right, but just running in general.

EDGE: Do you think the United States of America is ready for a LBGTQ president?

Chasten Buttigieg: Yes, America is ready! At the end of the day, I am so proud of everything that Pete did and accomplished. How he presented himself, our marriage, and our love. He never shied away from it. All of the successes along the way proved that America is ready and will be ready for it in the future.

EDGE: Tell us about your two rescues dogs Buddy and Truman.

Chasten Buttigieg: They are both rescues. Buddy is a puggle, so he is food-orientated. Truman came from a pretty sad situation. There must have been some abuse and neglect, so it took him a couple of years to get used to us and affection. He is kind of a lab/beagle mix. He is very sweet. Buddy is the opposite. He is very food and love orientated. He always wants be on our lap. He only has one eye. He does have a little bit of a weight problem, so he is on a weight loss journey. They are both very funny and we love them so much.

EDGE: What's next for you as a couple?

Chasten Buttigieg: Isolation for us has been great us. We have gotten to reconnect and really enjoy each other. Now we can focus on our other hopes and dreams like starting a family. Beyond that I am kind of relishing in being selfish I love having him home and just being together. I hope to continue to use my platform for good and fighting like to hell to elect Joe Biden this fall.

For more on "I Have Something to Tell You" visit this website.

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