The recent Time cover photo of Pete Buttigieg — Democratic presidential hopeful and mayor of South Bend, Indiana — with his husband Chasten is a sign of "heterosexuality without straight people," according to a self-described "queer" essayist.
Greta LaFleur, writing Monday for the Los Angeles Review of Books blog, added that "this photo is about a lot of things, but one of its defining features is its heterosexuality. It's offering us the promise that our first gay first family might actually be a straight one."
She went on write that the "unmistakable heraldry of 'FIRST FAMILY,' alongside the rest of the photograph — the tulips; the Chinos; the notably charming but insistently generic porch; the awkwardly minimal touching that invokes the most uncomfortable, unfamiliar, culturally-heterosexual embrace any of us have ever received — offers a vision of heterosexuality without straight people."
LaFleur added that it's "significantly, a heterosexuality without women."
"As a queer person, I also notice the quasi-uniform-like aesthetic of Pete and Chasten — I wondered, for a second, if they were actually wearing the same pair of pants ... before realizing that, instead, there's actually no sex at center stage, here," she wrote. "And that is part of the point."
'Heterosexuality has become portable'
LaFleur added that the Time cover "left me wondering: is this homonormativity? Or just heterosexuality? If straight people can be queer — as so many of them seem so impatient to explain to me — can't gay people also be straight?"
She added that "heterosexuality has become portable" and that perhaps those who look at the Time photo "instead of seeing the possibility of a gay man, legs high in the air, they instead see a house that could be in the Florida suburbs, inhabited by a FAMILY, with or without children."
Noting the "anonymity of Norman Rockwell's mid-century America" in the photo and the "timelessness" of the couple and the "pillars supporting the unseen roof of the porch" that "start to resemble the Ionic columns of the White House," LaFleur points out that "we have seen this image, we know this couple, 'we' should be comfortable."
She added that it "does seem interesting that as the potential of women candidates (Kamala Harris, Stacy Abrams, and Elizabeth Warren most immediately) to secure the Democratic nomination seem to be waning, Pete and Chasten appear on the cover of Time. And perhaps this is heterosexuality at its immaterial and strategic best, a heterosexuality that could take back to the Presidency for the Democrats: white, centrist, and without women."
You can read the entire essay here.