Rachel Maddow met South Bend mayor and presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg for the first time on Monday night in a live interview that covered many topics, the most personal being coming out as gay and the decision to stay closeted until he was 33.
Maddow explained to Buttigieg that she, like Buttigieg, was a Rhodes Scholar, but that she found out when she got the scholarship that she was the first openly gay person to receive the accolade.
“That was a decade before you,” said Maddow. “You went through college, and then the Rhodes Scholarship process, and then getting the Rhodes Scholarship and going to work for McKinsey and joining the Navy and deploying to Afghanistan and coming home and running for mayor in your hometown and getting elected before you came out at the age of 33. … I think it would have killed me to be closeted for that long.”
Maddow continued: “I think about what it takes as a human being to know something and to have to bifurcate your public life. And for you to have had all of those difficult transitions, and experiences, and to be aiming as high as you were all of that time, and not coming out until your early 30s, I just wonder if that was hurtful to you? If it hurt you to do it?”
“It was hard,” said Buttigieg. “It was really hard.”
“Coming out is hard,” interjected Maddow. “But being in the closet is harder.”
“It took me plenty of time to come out to myself,” said Buttigieg. “I did not the way you did or my husband did figure out at such an early age. I probably should have. There were certainly plenty of indications by the time I was 15 or so that I could point back [and say] ‘yeah, this kid’s gay.’ I guess I just really needed to not be. There’s this war that breaks out inside a lot of people when they realize that they might be something they’re afraid of. It took me a very long time to resolve that.”
Buttigieg said that he did come out to a couple people before he took office citing a “psychological pressure” to not be out to somebody.
Buttigieg also said he was fearful because he thought being an officer in the military and an elected official were “totally incompatible” with being an out person.
But he said it was serving in Afghanistan which made him realize it was time: “You don’t know how long you have on this earth. And by the time I came back, I realized, ‘I gotta do something.'”
Buttigieg also spoke about how people have reacted to him as an openly gay candidate: “Don’t get me wrong. As you know, there’s plenty of ugliness that comes in from all over the place. Most people I think are either supportive or even enthusiastic about the idea of the first out person going this far. Or they find a way to let me know they don’t care, and that’s historic, too.”
More of the interview: