Chasten Buttigieg

Chasten Buttigieg will appear at Oak Lawn Branch Library

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer

Chasten Buttigieg says he wrote I Have Something to Tell You for all the young adults who have no one else to tell them they’re valued and to share other lessons he’s learned along the way. But he also hopes parents will read the book to learn how to be more supportive to their LGBTQ kids. And for teachers and other allies, he even added a section of questions to start classroom discussions — at least in those states where discussion of LGBTQ issues is still legal in public schools.

I Have Something to Tell You is exactly the book you’d expect from Chasten, whom we got to know by observing him during the last presidential campaign. The book is compelling and innocent, well written and appropriate — and not on anyone’s banned book list.

At times, the book is challenging. For example, it asks should gay people have to come out? What if every straight person had to come out? We know that’s not going to happen, so why should LGBTQ people have to come out?

But most of all, Chasten says he wrote the book because he wants to be that role model he never really had growing up in Michigan.

Sure, there was Ellen Degeneres, who lost her TV show after her character came out and then couldn’t get work for years. And as a teen, he had Will and Jack on Will & Grace. But the message he received as a small town kid was it was OK to be gay in New York, but in his own small town? Not so much.

Chasten met Peter, as he calls the current U.S. Secretary of Transportation, on a dating app. His future husband was already mayor of South Bend, Ind., by then and had just recently come out.

On their first date, Chasten said, they discussed having children. Was he afraid the topic would scare Peter away? No, he didn’t want to waste his time because having children was something Chasten wanted, and it was non-negotiable. Turns out his future husband wanted kids as well.

A presidential campaign delayed their goal of having a family. But two years ago, they adopted twins.

And speaking of that presidential campaign, just how did they get away with a kiss on stage and walking off the stage or down the street holding hands without that becoming the story.

“I watched what other political couples did,” he said.

So if it was appropriate for Michelle Obama to gently take Barack’s hand as they walked off stage, it was appropriate for Chasten Buttigieg to gently take Peter’s hand as they walked off stage.

Yes, but without massive criticism and national exasperation?

Oh, there was criticism, Chasten said.Tucker Carlson was relentless in going after the couple. Well, we know Fox News was going to go after any Democrat and the more persistent, the more they feared them.

Still, how did the Buttigiegs make an on-camera kiss by a same-sex couple mainstream? Mayor Anise Parker, president of Victory Fund, may have had the best answer when she described the couple as simply wholesome.

Now the couple’s days are occupied with Peter Buttigieg serving as secretary of transportation and Chasten Buttigieg working as a writer — and both caring for two-year-old twins.

Teens — and those of us who are former teens — should find Chasten’s book very relatable. Although Chasten was closer to his mother, he went fishing with his father which brought them together. I had similar experiences with my father.

He describes what playground time was for himself — and me — and many gay kids: “I’d stand at the edge of the sidewalk, looking out over the vast playground through my large, round glasses, wondering just where I was supposed to be,” he wrote. How many gay kids who did well in school became awkward when it came to gym class?

But even where we were completely different, the stories in I Have Something to Tell You are completely relatable. Chasten grew up as a Republican for no other reason than he was a country boy, and everyone around him was Republican. So when George W. Bush was running for president, “I grabbed one of the W stickers his campaign was handing out and placed it on the back bumper of my car, because that seemed to be the easiest way to signal to my peers, ‘I’m just like you. Please leave me alone.’”

And isn’t that what most young people want — to be left alone? To not be bullied? To be allowed to just be who they are?

Chasten recalled running into one of his biggest bullies years after graduation, and the bully turned out to be gay. Bullying was just that guy’s way of saying “I’m just like you. Please leave me alone.”

Chasten is spending the summer in Michigan with family and the twins dealing with lots of baby poop, he said, and finishing up his book tour, while Peter is working in D.C. dealing with transportation issues.

Chasten Buttigieg will appear at the Oak Lawn Branch of the Dallas Public Library from 6-8:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 22. Admission is free.