Out For Business, an organization for LGBTQ+ students in the Ross School of Business, hosted a “fireside chat” with author and advocate Chasten Buttigieg Friday morning. Buttigieg, who is the husband of U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, discussed his new book, “I Have Something to Tell You,” during the event. The chat marked the conclusion of Out for Business’s first annual “Out Week,” a weeklong series of events surrounding LGBTQ+ rights and advocacy.
In his book, Buttigieg discusses his experience on the campaign trail for his husband’s 2020 presidential campaign, current legislation targeting transgender youth in the U.S. and how to be an LGBTQ+ ally in both personal and professional settings. At Friday’s event, Buttigieg recounted being told by some friends and advisors during the 2020 election cycle that he should not draw attention to his marriage.
“It was crushing to be told by people that you loved or trusted that you should hide and suppress who you are,” Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg also spoke about the importance of being authentically yourself in professional and public settings.
“Just be true to yourself and hold onto that because if you lose it, I really feel like you’ve got nothing left,” Buttigieg said.
Business and Public Policy graduate student Emma Jabour moderated the event. Jabour asked Buttigieg about his thoughts on the nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced around the country, many of which restrict school curricula and access to gender-affirming care.
Buttigieg said this recent wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is out of step with public opinion, stating that today’s research shows a majority of Americans support LGBTQ+ equality.
“When I was growing up in northern Michigan, public opinion about LGBTQ people was predominantly negative,” Buttigieg said. “Now, it is predominantly positive and supportive, but that is not reflected in the halls of Congress, or even in some state houses or school boards.”
Though Buttigieg said he recognizes it can be disheartening to see anti-LGBTQ+ laws and rhetoric around the country, he also said it is important to continue advocating for equality by protesting and showing up to vote.
“Just because it feels like we’re not going to knock the wall down doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pick up the hammer,” Buttigieg said.
As the event neared its close, Buttigieg acknowledged his privilege as a white, cisgender man in the LGBTQ+ community and encouraged allyship with those in the transgender community, now more than ever.
“Fight disinformation with information,” Buttigieg said. “I think we have to recognize in our community that it is not on the shoulders of our trans brothers and sisters to solve those problems by themselves.”
Buttigieg then encouraged allies of the LGBTQ+ community to ask themselves what the term ally means to them. Buttigieg emphasized the importance of using money, privilege and platform, particularly in the business world, to benefit other people.
“We need to all stop and ask ourselves, when it comes to the term ally, have I given it to myself? Or have I earned it?” Buttigieg said.
Public Policy graduate student Dominique Baeta told The Michigan Daily they felt moved by the message of authenticity that Buttigieg brought to the conversation.
“I would encourage people who are interested in these topics to get involved because even if it is a business or policy event, those are things that touch everyone’s lives,” Baeta said.
Business graduate student Camren Kaminsky, Out for Business co-president, told The Daily she hopes Buttigieg can help educate U-M students on anti-LGBTQ+ policies.
“Chasten really has a hand on the pulse of what is going on the policy side in regards to trans-legislation and rhetoric,” Kaminsky said. “ … (Buttigieg’s) perspective can help be a ripple and continue with the impact of change at the University.”
When asked by a member of the audience for a message of hope he can give in a world that seems dominated by hateful rhetoric, Buttigieg said the media often disproportionately covers negative news and does not have enough coverage of the people advocating for the LGBTQ+ community.
“We live in a system that rewards dumpster fires,” Buttigieg said. “But there are really good people in this world who are doing their jobs, who care about the things they should be focusing on right now, especially allyship.”
Daily News Contributor Emma Macaluso can be reached at email@example.com.