Buttigieg Describes Struggle With Coming Out as Gay: ‘You Only Get One Life’

When candidates at Thursday night’s Democratic debate were asked about their biggest professional setbacks, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., described his experience with coming out as gay.

Hearing such a story on a national stage during a presidential campaign would have been unimaginable just a decade ago, before same-sex marriage was legal and when “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was military policy.

Mr. Buttigieg spoke in detail of his angst over the decision, saying that he worried about coming out at a time when Mike Pence, who has opposed same-sex marriage, was the Indiana governor. He feared it would be “the ultimate, career-ending professional setback.”

“I came back from the deployment and realized that you only get to live one life, and I was not interested in not knowing what it was like to be in love any longer,” he said. “So, I just came out.”

“I had no idea what kind of professional setback it would be, especially because inconveniently, it was an election year, in my socially conservative community,” he added, noting that he was re-elected with 80 percent of the vote. “What I learned was that trust can be reciprocated, and that part of how you can win and deserve to win is to know what’s worth more to you than winning.”