Queer History Highlight: Pioneering Progress // Pete Buttigieg’s Road to Transforming Transportation

LGBTQ+ History Month

Pete Buttigieg become America’s first openly gay presidential cabinet member when he was sworn in as Secretary of Transportation in February 2021. Born in South Bend Indiana in 1982, Mr. Buttigieg attended Harvard University followed by Oxford University earning a Bachelor’s in history and literature, and a Bachelor’s in philosophy, politics, and economics. Following his 2007 graduation, Buttigieg worked for management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. He also became a Navy Intelligence officer in the reserves, serving from 2009 to 2017.

Pete Buttigieg’s political career began with a failed attempt at running for treasurer of Indiana in 2010. He was able to quickly recover and launched a successful bid for mayor of his hometown, South Bend Indiana, winning the election in 2011 and taking office in 2012. His tenure as mayor saw economic growth and improvements to infrastructure under his “Smart Streets” initiative. The new take on streetscaping earned recognition from the Department of Transportation. In 2014 Buttigieg had to take leave of absence from the mayoral office for a 7-month navy deployment in Afghanistan. In 2015 Buttigieg came out as gay and would later marry his husband Chasten Glezman in 2018. The couple has two children together.

Secretary Buttigieg successfully won a second term as mayor but did not seek a third term. During his 2016-2020 term, the mayor came under scrutiny as racial tensions within the nation and his city were coming to a head, especially in the wake of a 2019 fatal police shooting of black city resident, Eric Logan. Buttigieg would go on to acknowledge that his attempts at police reform in the city fell short of expectations.

In 2019 Pete Buttigieg entered the democratic primary for the 2020 Presidential election. Though his campaign saw early success, he ultimately exited the race and endorsed President Joe Biden. Upon President Biden’s victory, he nominated Buttigieg for Secretary of Transportation where he still serves today. As Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg’s areas of focus include “safety, jobs, equity, climate, and innovation”. Two of the significant areas of work he’s contributed to in his tenure are supporting the development of the bipartisan infrastructure bill and addressing supply chain disruptions during the height of the COVID 19 pandemic.

Secretary Buttigieg’s continued work to improve America’s infrastructure with a mindfulness towards racial justice, economic equity, and climate vulnerability demonstrates a willingness to learn and improve while modeling for local stakeholders how to address infrastructure development in a fairer way. Simultaneously, by living openly and authentically, Pete Buttigieg demonstrates that transportation can be a career for anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation.