Diversity is important, but one must not simplify people to one aspect of their identity. Characteristics a person does not choose for themself should not define an individual. A person has the right to be heard for their ideas and their values, not just their race, gender or sexual orientation.
Pete Buttigieg is receiving considerable attention for his sexual preferences, which, while important to recognize, is, unfortunately, all that most people know about him as a candidate. Aside from possibly being more intuned to LGBT issues, he is also in favor of eliminating private prisons, the death penalty, unlimited campaign spending, marijuana criminalization and the electoral college. He also wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $15, enfranchise felons and give citizenship to Dreamers. As with other candidates, his policies should take center stage, not his sexual orientation.
Furthermore, it would be erroneous to imply Buttigieg would be the first gay president. He would also not be the first openly gay president either. Before becoming president in 1857, James Buchanan openly lived with William Rufus King, a senator from Alabama. The question at times has been whether King and Buchanan were open about their relationship. The two men never attempted to hide their courtship. Contemporaries often made reference to their kinship; Andrew Jackson regularly referred to King as “Miss Nancy”; a euphemism for a gay man. Letter correspondence between the two gentlemen shows the two men expressing their romantic love for one another.
Some claim that critics of identity politics are attempting to discourage diversity. Diversity is important, but the truth is that identity politics sum people up by their class, gender, sexual orientation, religion or race. Buttigieg may be the best candidate for the job but no one will ever know this because they are too focused on his sexual orientation. Progressives may decide to vote for Elizabeth Warren over Bernie Sanders simply on the basis of gender at which point, identity politics is leading the voters astray.
It is important that people look past the superficial details and judge a candidate based on their policies and past actions. Pete Buttigieg may very well make a great president of the United States, but nobody following politics right now knows much more about him other than the fact that he is gay, and that is a sign that today’s American culture cares more about what you are rather than who you are.