It is so much more than another “first,” Pete Buttigieg nominated as Transportation secretary, the first openly gay person to be named to a Cabinet post requiring Senate confirmation. Far better to think of his nomination as a culmination of a terrible history played out over decades at the very door of the Cabinet Room itself.
LGBT Americans have been ruined and fired there. Gay Americans have entered there with their darkest secret of homosexuality. We have met there many times as some of the most powerful staff in the world, think of LBJ’s right-hand, the troubled Walter Jenkins. We have gathered there as hopeful advocates and confidants when “the boss” was elsewhere. Think of Special Assistant to the President Midge Costanza’s and Jean O’Leary’s first-ever gay and lesbian policy meeting held in the Roosevelt Room at the Carter White House, or John Berry, who became the highest-ranking official in gay history when President Obama named him director of the Office of Personnel Management.
But it has never been like this, an openly gay Cabinet Secretary to be confirmed by the United States Senate. Pete Buttigieg, doubtless, welcomes this “first,” but it will not define him. We have all come too far for that.