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Pete Buttigieg Told His Coming-Out Story During The Democratic Debate

"This would have been unfathomable just a few years ago."

Posted on September 12, 2019, at 11:16 p.m. ET

Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images

Pete Buttigieg told his coming-out story in his closing remarks during the third Democratic debate on Thursday, a moment that many felt was emblematic of how far the US has come on LGBTQ rights.

For the closing remarks, all of the candidates were asked to describe a time of personal resilience in their lives.

Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana and a former intelligence officer in the US Navy Reserves, said, "I came back from the deployment and realized that you only get to live one life, and I was not interested in not knowing what it was like to be in love any longer, so I just came out," he said.

"I had to wonder if just acknowledging who I was was gonna be the ultimate, career-ending political setback."

Pete Buttigieg: "I came back from the deployment and realized that you only get to live one life and I was not interested in not knowing what it was like to be in love any longer, so I just came out." #DemDebate

Instead, he said, his community trusted him, and he was reelected.

"What I learned was that ... part of how you can win and deserve to win is to know what's worth more to you than winning," he said.

Many people online, regardless of their politics or which candidate they support, pointed out that a candidate talking about coming out so candidly was an important moment.

Pete Buttigieg says that coming out as gay & “acknowledging who I was” could’ve been the most career-ending professional setback. Thank you, @PeteButtigieg for your bravery, and for showing LGBTQ youth across the country what is possible when you live authentically. #DemDebate

They respected his honesty.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg ... OMG ... just a pitch perfect answer to the Q about resilience. He speaks candidly/honestly about coming out as a gay man, about trust, and about not knowing whether his career would be over by living his truth. So much humanity there. #DemDebate

Some shared their stories as well.

As a fellow gay veteran, I also had to worry if being true to myself would end my career and stunt my opportunities. Like @PeteButtigieg, I learned to trust myself, I learned others would trust me, and I learned to succeed not in spite of my sexual orientation, but because of it.

Many called the moment historic.

Just 16 years ago, a number of states still criminalized same-sex intimacy. Mayor Pete's candidacy should not be taken for granted or discounted, because it is historic.

A presidential candidate telling his coming out story on TV is HISTORIC. #DemDebate

"This would have been unfathomable just a few years ago," one said.

Pete Buttigieg talking about his coming out as a gay man on the #DemDebate stage for President of the United States is a historic moment for all minorities. This would have been unfathomable just a few years ago 🌈

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.