Pete Buttigieg’s run for the Democratic presidential nomination is history-making because he’s an out gay man with a viable campaign, but that doesn’t mean all LGBTQ people are enthused — including some transgender actors and filmmakers who were interviewed at the Sundance Film Festival.
Variety filmed a panel with director Sam Feder and six trans artists who appear in his documentary Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen, which premiered at the festival. They talked about a broad range of topics, especially trans representation, but when the discussion came around to the presidential election, Buttigieg wasn’t the candidate of choice for the three who offered opinions.
Actress and writer Jen Richards (Tales of the City, Nashville, I Am Cait) said she’s all in for Elizabeth Warren. “I have been an open fan of Elizabeth Warren for the last 10 years,” Richards said. She had read Warren’s autobiography and was impressed with how “boring” it was, she said.
“This is the person who just like is so wonky and really wants to do things right,” Richards said of the senator from Massachusetts. “Whether it’s realistic or not, I don’t know. But I support her.”
Former Survivor contestant Zeke Smith, who was outed as trans on the show in 2017, likewise gave a nod to Warren. “As a high school debater from Oklahoma City who also ended up at Harvard, I feel like I have a strong connection to Liz Warren as well,” Smith said. Warren is an Oklahoma City native who became a professor at Harvard Law School.
When the interviewer noted that no one had mentioned Buttigieg, Richards said, “It’s a weird assumption from everyone else that all LGBT people like Pete.”
Yance Ford, director and producer of the Oscar-nominated documentary Strong Island, had similar thoughts. “I think there’s a problem with the assumption that Pete should automatically have the support of the queer community,” he said. “I think that he has the responsibility, like every other candidate, to prove that we should vote for him. From my perspective as a Black queer person who’s from a working-class background and a community that has terrible education statistics since I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, I need to hear policy from Pete.”
“I’m glad that he loves his husband. I want everyone to have a loving relationship,” Ford continued. “But I’m making my decisions based on policy. And I think Pete will have to address issues of race, issues of equity, issues of police reform. If and until I hear that from Pete, I’ll be listening to the candidates who are talking about those things.”
Buttigieg has had a difficult relationship with Black residents of South Bend, Ind., where he is mayor. Like other candidates, however, he has released policy stances.
Ford added that he’d be voting for Stacey Abrams for vice president — “hint, hint.” Abrams, a former Georgia state legislator, ran unsuccessfully for governor of the state in 2018. She was the first Black woman to be a major-party candidate for governor anywhere in the U.S., and she’s been mentioned as a vice-presidential possibility.
Among other topics in the session: Transparent actress Trace Lysette said she had made her peace with the show — she had come forward to accuse star Jeffrey Tambor of sexual harassment — and was proud of the program’s legacy. Smith said it was worth being outed to tell a transgender person’s story and to meet the man he loves. Several participants talked about the importance of upping trans visibility in addition to portraying trans characters whose gender identity isn’t the point of their story. And Richards pointed out that film and TV have “explored absolutely every single variety of straight white guy,” so it’s past time to diversify. Watch below.