There've been a lot of soul-searching moments for our country in this presidential season. But every once in a while, something happens -- a single crystallizing instant -- when America needs to take a long hard look in the mirror. Saturday night, at a campaign rally outside of Denver, a nine-year-old boy gave us one. He'd come on stage, he said, to ask Pete Buttigieg a question. "Would you help me tell the world I'm gay too?" And instead of questioning it, or even hesitating, the room of 4,000 had one reaction: it cheered.
"Love is love!" the crowd chanted. Mayor Pete looked at fourth grade Zachary and smiled. "It took me a long time to figure out how to tell even my best friend that I was gay," he explained, "let alone to go out there and tell the world." Then, over the next few minutes, Buttigieg held the little boy out as a hero. "To see you willing to come to terms with who you are in a room full of thousands of people you've never met, that's really something." He warned him that it wouldn't always be easy, but said, "that's okay, because you know who you are." And who knows, Buttigieg went on, "who [might be] taking their lead from you -- who's watching you and deciding that they can be a little braver because you have been brave."
It was a "special moment," CNN declared. A boy, not even 10, being celebrated for a sexual identity he's too young to assume -- by a presidential candidate in a same-sex marriage. Is this even America? Nine-year-old children didn't used to know what sex is -- and now, five years into Obergefell, they're ready to make pre-pubescent decisions about their future partners? That should be horrifying to anyone, no matter which side of the aisle they're on. Almost as horrifying as a grown man sexualizing a fourth grader on the Democratic stage.
The reality is, Buttigieg had a lot of options for responding to Zachary. He could have said, "You're nine years old. I know the culture is sending a lot of confusing messages, but sexual decisions are for adults. Enjoy being a kid and focus on fun and school." Instead, Buttigieg didn't even blink. He affirmed this young boy without any regard to Zachary's wellbeing or future happiness. That, more than anything, ought to raise serious red flags about the kind of presidency we could expect from the former mayor. If Pete will push a fourth grader down this dangerous path, no questions asked, imagine what he'd do as head of our country and public schools? Things like transgender bathrooms, drag queen story hours, and graphic sex ed would be just the beginning of a nationwide campaign to entice and indoctrinate more kids like Zachary.
And while this nine-year-old obviously didn't arrive at this conclusion about himself alone (his parents were applauding in the wings), the reality is, feelings like his do fade. In fact, FRC's Peter Sprigg points out, young people's sexual identities are even more fluid than adults'. Two papers by Ritch Savin-Williams of Cornell University, probably the country's leading expert on sexual minority youth, found that this fluidity is even more common among the kids who, at some point, have expressed "non-heterosexual" attractions, behaviors, and identities. "In the data set of the longitudinal Add Health study," Peter explains, "of the... boys who indicated that they had exclusive same-sex romantic attraction, only 11 percent reported exclusive same-sex attraction one year later."
Of course, the irony is that boys as young as Zachary aren't old enough to feel that attraction either way. But when they do, it's almost certainly fleeting. "A nine-year-old boy has not even begun puberty, and therefore should not even be having thoughts about his sexuality, straight or gay," Peter argues. "The last thing any adult should be doing -- let alone a presidential candidate -- is planting the idea in such a child that being 'gay' is just 'who you are.'"
Worse, if kids like Zachary do start to struggle with their feelings, the Democratic Party has made sure they can't get help. In Colorado, where Zachary lives, he couldn't even see a therapist to talk through his struggles if he wanted to. Last year, the state legislature outlawed counseling for minors on sexuality -- one of the many efforts supported by liberals like Pete to keep people from finding out the truth that they can change.
Like the rest of the LGBT activists running for president, Buttigieg doesn't believe in compassion or freedom for people suffering through these feelings. If he did, he wouldn't try to keep children as vulnerable as Zachary locked in a life of struggle and pain.