Like any mother, Anne Montgomery wants her son to be happy, healthy, and safe from harm. But those wishes are very different when your son is one of the first out gay men to run for president of the United States.
On Monday, the Associated Press published an interview with Pete Buttigieg’s mother, who says she has witnessed — in the AP’s words — the “ugliness that persists in the country her son hopes to lead.” After seeing the enormority of “anti-gay mail” her son receieves for being an LGBTQ+ candidate in the 2020 race, the 74-year-old linguistics professor “worries harm could come to her son.”
“I kind of look around, and especially in this political climate,” Montgomery said, before adding: “Let's be honest, you have to worry about public safety.”
Montgomery did not address any of the specific messages her family has received or state whether any of them had risen to the level of an actionable threat. She added that the blowback has “become a part of life, really.”
But even as 30 percent of Americans say they are not ready for a gay man to be president, Montgomery suggested that the majority of responses to Buttigieg’s historic candidacy have been “happy people, really happy, hopeful people.” She added that she’s “surrounded by so many positive forces that [she] could take it for granted.”
There has certainly been a great deal for Montgomery to celebrate. In addition to being the first LGBTQ+ person to compete in a presidential debate, Buttigieg is also the first to candidate to tell their coming out story on the debate stage.
Montgomery said her son told her about his sexual orientation when he was preparing to run for reelection as the mayor of South Bend, Ind. at the age of 33.
“I have something to tell you,” she recalled him sitting her down and saying.
“I wonder if I was blind,” Montgomery said, claiming that the news had been the furthest thing from her mind. “Because he’s always a very private person. From elementary school on, he was a private person about personal matters. So I did not inquire or ask.”
The same year, Buttigieg came out in an op-ed for the South Bend Tribune and handily won reelection, winning more than 80 percent of votes.
“I’m not sure I saw a track as to where he is today,” Montgomery admitted.
But his mother added that she has been proud to see that not only did coming out not dampen his ambitions, Buttigieg has also been able to compete for the nation’s highest office with his husband by his side, Chasten Buttigieg. The couple tied the knot last year after meeting on a dating app in 2015.
“I was very glad to see him find someone to share a life with,” Montgomery said.