October 10, 2019 at 6:00 am EST | by Pete Buttigieg
Becoming whole
Pete Buttigieg, gay news, Washington Blade
Pete Buttigieg is mayor of South Bend, Ind., and a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. (Photo courtesy of Pete for America)

(Editor’s note: This is edited from a summary of Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s 18-page LGBTQ Equality Plan on PeteforAmerica.com.)

To be LGBTQ+ in America today is to enjoy freedoms hard-won by trailblazers who came before and to feel the urgency of an unfinished promise of full equality under the law….

Twenty years ago, an awkward teenager at St. Joe High School in South Bend, Indiana, who didn’t know a single out LGBTQ+ student there, never would have imagined how far we would come as a country. But what does our country look like to a teenager in 2019, just starting to realize who they are? What future do they see for themselves?

They see an administration that has unacceptably deemed people who risk their lives for their country as unfit for service because they are transgender. They see a government that is allowing clinicians to refuse to treat patients who are LGBTQ+. They see a president who, when asked about LGBTQ+ rights by a reporter, joked of his vice president: “Don’t ask that guy—he wants to hang them all!”

They see more states covering gender-affirming procedures, but they also see schools refusing to allow trans students to use the bathroom of their current gender. They see people with HIV living vibrant lives, but they also see people who cannot afford the treatment they need. They see gay nightclubs opening up across the country, but they can’t forget Pulse. They see transgender people, primarily Black transgender women, murdered at alarming rates. They see a country where they are still not fully free or safe and one in which they still don’t feel like they fully belong.

In the past week alone, four out of five LGBTQ+ youth felt down or depressed, more than two out of three reported feeling worthless, and last night, almost all had trouble sleeping. This past year, LGBTQ+ Americans were twice as likely to suffer from mental illness as their straight peers, and almost one in two transgender people considered suicide.

Across much of our country, discrimination and the ever-present fear of it continue to govern aspects of LGBTQ+ people’s lives. Can I be who I am and keep my job? Can I hold the hand of the person I love in public? Which bathroom can I use safely? Will I be able to raise a family or not be harassed at school? Can I live here and be happy? Will I ever be accepted?

When I’m president, I hope these questions will start fading away. We will share solutions big enough to meet the challenges the LGBTQ+ community faces while bringing the American people together to understand that our freedoms are bound up in each other.

For LGBTQ+ people, like for other marginalized groups, the political has always been extremely personal. This is why our policy is inspired by LGBTQ+ people’s stories: by the war that breaks out in the heart of a young person when they realize that a basic fact about them makes them more likely to be feared, and the immense joy that comes with finally knowing with certainty that you belong….

Each of us has our own story. And when I’m president, I will use the power of the presidency to tear down the walls that have excluded far too many LGBTQ+ people for far too long. Major policies:

On equality:

●  Pass the Equality Act, so that LGBTQ+ people can no longer be denied a job or housing.

●  Ensure that the freedom of religion is not the freedom to discriminate.

●  End the blanket ban on blood donation for gay and bisexual men and replace it with a science-based approach.

●  Protect and respect the rights of intersex people’s bodily autonomy, including banning medically unnecessary genital surgeries on intersex infants and children.

On health:

●  Guarantee that every LGBTQ+ person has access to affordable health coverage through Medicare for All Who Want It.

●  End the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030, which is disproportionately affecting gay men of color and transgender women.

●  Pass the LGBTQ+ Suicide Prevention Act to address key risk factors for deaths by suicide.

On youth and families:

●  Prohibit violence, bullying, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and ensure that all students can learn in safe, supportive environments.

●  End “conversion therapy” for good.

●  End youth homelessness as part of a comprehensive housing agenda.

●  Pass the FAMILY Act so new parents, including LGBTQ+ parents, get time off from work to take care of family, including chosen family.

On community:

●  Launch a “We Belong National Mentorship” program modeled on My Brother’s Keeper and other successful peer-to-peer mentoring efforts, and focused on supporting LGBTQ+ youth.

●  Increase funding for community-based programs that support the LGBTQ+ community.

On justice:

●  Ensure the safety of all LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender women of color, by vigorously enforcing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and training law enforcement to provide respectful, appropriate and equitable treatment to all.

On honor:

●  Honor the contributions of the LGBTQ+ veterans and service members, starting by rescinding the transgender military ban.

●  Review and restore honorable discharges and appropriate benefits to veterans discharged solely based for being LGBTQ+.

●  Fund and promote the ongoing documentation and celebration of LGBTQ+ arts, history, and culture.

●  Increase the representation of LGBTQ+ people and history in our National Parks System.

Leadership:

●  Become a global leader on LGBTQ+ rights, including by strengthening protections for LGBTQ+ immigrants and refugees.

●  Recognize the right to refugee status and asylum in U.S. for individuals being persecuted for being LGBTQ+.

●  Lead against persecution and discrimination of LGBTQ+ people on the global stage, and encourage our ambassadors to be spokespersons for LGBTQ+ rights as human rights.

●  Build an Administration that reflects the diversity of America, including LGBTQ+ Americans.

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