Much of the early focus on Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the not-so-long-shot presidential contender from South Bend, Indiana, has been on his almost cartoonishly polished life story: the son of academics who went to Harvard, won a Rhodes Scholarship, became mayor of his hometown, deployed to Afghanistan and came out of the closet, all before age 35.
But in the first in-depth profile of would-be first gentleman Chasten Buttigieg, published Thursday in The Washington Post, the mayor’s 29-year-old husband laid out his own biography—which may be even more compelling. Buttigieg (né Glezman) lived out of his car after coming out to his family as a teenager, worked a second job as a Starbucks barista for health insurance, and has a complicated relationship with his newfound notoriety.
“It’s just so important to go out there and do a good job right now,” Buttigieg told the Post’s Ellen McCarthy. “Because for the first time in many people’s lives, they see someone on a national scale that makes them say, ‘Oh, that’s me, too.’”
Here, the most interesting bits from the profile of the former middle-school drama teacher whose supporting role to the Democrats’ dark horse has attracted an audience of his own:
Chasten Buttigieg Lived Out of His Car After Coming Out
After graduating from high school, Chasten came out to his family, who he said did not take the news well.
“I remember my mom crying,” he told the Post, “and the first thing she asked me was if I was sick. I think she meant, like, did I have AIDS?”
Feeling that his family—particularly his older brothers—didn’t accept him, Chasten left home, couchsurfing with friends and sleeping in his car in the parking lot of the community college he attended. He lived this way for months before his mother invited him home.
“She said, ‘Will you come home?’ ” Buttigieg said. “And I cried and I went home immediately.”
While he now has a better relationship with his parents, who walked him down the aisle when he married Mayor Pete in 2017, his brothers “never got over it.”
“I want the best for him,” said Rhyan Glezman, a pastor in Clio, Michigan. “I just don’t support the gay lifestyle.”
He Worked Two Jobs for Health Insurance
After graduating with a degree in theater and global studies from the University of Wisconsin, Chasten Buttigieg became an instructor at a theater academy in Milwaukee—a job that did not provide health benefits.
To obtain health insurance, he worked as a Starbucks barista part-time, eventually enrolling in its coffee-master training program until a customer pulled a weapon on him during a shift.
“I should have stuck it out, just to say I was a coffee master,” Buttigieg said. “Then you get the black apron.”
He Laughed When His Husband First Proposed Running for President
Barely a year into their marriage, the two-term mayor of South Bend floated the possibility of making a long-shot run for the Democratic presidential nomination while his husband was folding laundry.
Chasten’s first reaction: laughter.
“I laughed,” Buttigieg said. “I was like, ‘No, no, no—are you serious?’ OK, what are we thinking here? I love you. I believe in you. You’re amazing. Do you think this would work?’ ”
When the campaign officially kicked off in South Bend last month, the pair made history with a casual kiss on the cheek—a moment that Chasten said was not choreographed in advance.
“I’m not surrounded by people telling me not to be myself,” Buttigieg said. “And if I were, I’d ask them to find a different project to work on.”