Queers Against Pete Say Buttigieg Isn’t With Them, So They Aren’t for Him

"We're not saying he's not gay enough. We're saying gay is not enough."

Above: Trans activists demonstrate during a CNN town hall event, holding up a trans pride flag with the words "We are dying" written across it.

Pete Buttigieg has made history as the first openly gay presidential candidate to win delegates. But a vocal and visible segment of the LGBTQ community hopes his ascendancy stalls, and stalls quickly.

Most recently, earlier this month, demonstrators showed up to a fundraising at San Francisco’s National LGBTQ Center for the Arts, standing outside holding signs with messages like "Queers Against Pete" and "People Over Corporations."

(at least everyone who puts people over profit)

— SFR Action Fund (@SFRisingAction) February 14, 2020

Inside, activists spoke out, met with chants of "Boot! Edge! Edge!" by supporters.

Prior to that action, activists from Queers Against Pete, a loose but determined collective organizing mostly online, interrupted a fundraiser in Chicago.

"A friend of a friend reached out and was like, 'There's a bunch of queers who don't like Pete, and Pete's coming to Chicago, and you're in Chicago. Do you want to connect up with them and tell Pete that he sucks?'" recalls Jes Scheinpflug, of how they got involved in the effort. "And I was like, 'Yes, I do.'"

Scheinpflug and others, including Gregory Cendana, spoke out during a town hall style event in which questions were pulled from a bowl and asked of Buttigieg. Cendana, another organizer from Queers Against Pete, asked the candidate how he "would advise a transgender, queer, or nonbinary teen who is disowned by their wealthy, homophobic parents, and therefore cannot afford college because you oppose universal free public education."

Buttigieg answered that that individual would qualify for free college under his plan, which would provide that option to all earning under $100,000 dollars a year.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

SOUTH BEND, INDIANA - JUNE 29: Demonstrators protest the shooting death of Eric Logan outside of the South Bend Police Station following his funeral on June 29, 2019 in South Bend, Indiana. Logan was shot and killed by South Bend Police Sgt. Ryan O'Neill who was investigating a report of car break-ins in the area. Logan was reported to be holding a knife when he was shot. The shooting caused outrage in the community and turmoil for Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg who is mayor of the city. “It’s a mess” said Buttigieg referring to the shooting during the presidential debate in Miami on Thursday. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Demonstrators protest the shooting death of Eric Logan outside of the South Bend Police Station following his funeral on June 29, 2019 in South Bend, Indiana.

Sheinpflug challenged him to answer questions regarding the police shooting death of Eric Logan, a black South Bend resident who was killed by a white officer who alleged the 53-year-old had approached him holding a knife, and that he felt his life was at risk.

The officer didn't have his body camera turned on, meaning the shooting was not recorded. Buttigieg has been criticized for not attending community meetings, where residents could give feedback to leaders about various law enforcement issues, having made it to only one of the eight events. He explained to Sheinpflug that he felt attending them would do more harm than good, due to his high profile and the media attention that brings with it.

Those moments can be seen in the video below, at the 12:30 and 15:30 marks respectively.

Scheinpflug tells NewNowNext they planned to only participate in that one event, owing to a lack of time. But after the Chicago fundraiser, they got more involved, becoming one of the group's lead organizers, managing the site and running the Twitter account.

An open letter, which organizers encourage those who agree with to sign—it recently passed the 4,000 signature mark—lists a number of concerns with Buttigieg's candidacy.

It criticizes his record on racial issues, drawing attention to Logan's death, as well as Buttigieg's decision to fire South Bend's first black police chief, Darryl Boykins, and his refusal to release tapes Boykins made of senior white police officers allegedly using racist language against him and others.

Additionally, it notes his opposition to free college for all, canceling student loan debts, Medicare for All, ending the cash bail system, restoring voting rights to felons, and placing a moratorium on deportations. It also takes him to task for calling the Chick-fil-A boycott "virtue signaling," and favoring increasing the military budget, among other issues.

"Attacks and threats on our community have only me heightened under a Trump administration," Cendana tells NewNowNext. "So, I believe, we believe, that we must push all candidates, including and especially those who say they are in community with us, to really center and address the needs of those directly and disproportionately impacted."

Cendana also points to Buttigieg's complaint about queer media as problematic, saying he couldn't read it due to criticisms of him he found unfair. Buttigieg has since said that comment resulted from a "grumpy moment."

"We believe that queer and trans people really deserve a president, and other elected officials, who actually listen to our concerns, not run from them," Cendana says.

"He's uniquely positioned to really address issues that our community's facing," notes Sheinpflug.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MAY 11: South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg delivers a keynote address at the Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) 14th annual Las Vegas Gala at Caesars Palace on May 11, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Buttigieg is the first openly gay candidate to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. The HRC is the largest LGBTQ advocacy group in the United States. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Buttigieg delivers a keynote address at the Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) 14th annual Las Vegas Gala at Caesars Palace on May 11, 2019.

Cendana tells NewNowNext they are open to hearing Buttigieg out if he changes his positions on the issues outlined in the Queers Against Pete's open letter, but he is not hopeful of that occuring.

"We would be open to Pete adjusting [to recognize] our concerns, and changing his policy platforms completely upside down," he says. He adds that that would constitute a "huge win for our collective," but based on Buttigieg's current policy platforms, as well as where his donations are coming from, he doubts this will occur.

"He will continue to maintain the status quo, and protect the elite at the expense of working class communities," he predicts.

The group has heard criticisms that include suggestions they are secretly pulling for another candidate, but both Cendana and Scheinpflug stress the group is not affiliated with any of the campaigns, and that members support various candidates, as well as some planning not to vote at all.

They do, however, count other grassroots groups, like Queers Not Here For Mayor Pete and Black Lives Matter — South Bend, as partners in achieving their goal of raising awareness.

They have also dealt with being called "divisive," Cendana reports.

"We just see it as another way to really silence marginalized voices and marginalized people, who are really trying to do better for our people and our communities," he says of those accusations.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

NASHUA, NEW HAMPSHIRE - FEBRUARY 11: Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg appears on stage with his husband Chasten Buttigieg at his primary night watch party on February 11, 2020 in Nashua, New Hampshire. New Hampshire voters cast their ballots today in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Pete Buttigieg with his husband, Chasten Buttigieg.

They have also had to push back against claims they are trying to "police Pete's gayness."

"No one’s saying he’s not gay enough," explains Sheinpflug. "Like, you’re gay, you’re gay. There’s no scale that I know of."

"We're not saying he's not gay enough. We're saying gay is not enough," they add.

As for what's next? More of the same advocacy and activism.

"We want to find more ways to lift up this narrative, to get more folks within the LGBTQ community involved and engaged," Cendana says.

Both said if Buttigieg becomes the party's nominee, the group would have to "cross that bridge if we get there" regarding continuing or ceasing its campaign.

"The queer and trans community has a long history of protest and disruption: everything from the Stonewall Riots, to groups like ACT UP, especially in the height of the AIDS epidemic," Cendana says. "If we’re not going to be the ones pushing, then…who? And if not now, then when?"

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