On Thursday, October 10, nine Democratic presidential hopefuls gathered for a town hall hosted by HRC and CNN that delved into major issues facing the LGBTQ community including the eradication of HIV/AIDS, the Equality Act, and LGBTQ youth homelessness. Among the presidential participants were Cory Booker, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Joe Sestak, and Elizabeth Warren. For those that may have missed it, here are eight standout moments (both good and bad) from the event.
MOVING: Pete Buttigieg tells an emotional story about his experience coming out
For the first time in our history, we have an openly gay presidential candidate. But that was even more poignant when out gay man and moderator Anderson Cooper asked Buttigieg about his experience coming out. Buttigieg recalled: “It was like a civil war because I knew I was different long before I was ready to say that I was gay and long before I was able to acknowledge that that was something that I didn’t have power over.”
BAD: Joe Biden awkwardly tries to kiss Anderson Cooper, and stereotypes gay people as having “round the clock sex”
Biden definitely has had some missteps this campaign, most notably his poor handling of women who have come forward saying his hugs and kisses have made them uncomfortable. But just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it might have. During the town hall, Biden attempted to mimic giving Anderson Cooper a kiss and went on a long rant about gay people having “round the clock sex.” Yikes.
POWERFUL: Kamala Harris connected the violence that trans women of color face to other populations
After being asked about how she would ensure transgender equality, Harris made a powerful analogy to other marginalized communities. She said: “There is not a mother of a black son, the day that baby is born, that is not concerned about his safety. The same is probably true for the Jewish mother, or the Muslim mother, or the mother of anyone who is LGBTQ. What we have to understand is that we have whole populations of people who, often from they day they were born, know that their body is capable of being harmed physically.”
OOPS: Amy Klobuchar pivots to sex trafficking when asked about legalizing sex work
When asked about her co-sponsorship of SESTA, which made it harder for sex workers to protect themselves online, Klobuchar pivoted to talking about her work on human trafficking. Notably, sex work and sex trafficking are not the same thing, as sex work does not involve coercion. When asked about her position on sex work after the event ended, Klobuchar explained that she does not want to decriminaize it.
VIRAL: Elizabeth Warren slays with sass
After being asked how she would handle people who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, Warren made a viral comeback. She explained: “Well, I’m going to assume it’s a guy who said that. And I’m going to say…then just marry one woman. I’m cool with that … assuming you can find one.”
AWKWARD: Chris Cuomo shares his pronouns
Harris walked onto the stage with confidence and shared with moderator Chris Cuomo that her pronouns are she/her/hers. Cuomo quickly responded: “mine too.” Though he later apologized for his gaffe, Charlotte Clymer of the Human Rights Campaign rightly noted that Cuomo’s misstep is part of a “failure to understand how much trans and non-binary people struggle to have our authentic pronouns taken seriously.”
ADORABLE: Transgender children and their parents ask questions
Several young transgender children and their parents asked questions to the candidates directly. At one point in the debate, nine-year old transgender child Jacob asked Warren what she would do to protect trans kids in schools. Warren responded by saying that she would replace Secretary of Education Besty DeVos and run the replacement by Jacob before making her final choice.
NOT GREAT: CNN does not highlight trans women of color or handle protestors well
Several candidates were interrupted by protestors in the audience, but in perhaps the most talked about moment of the night, a black transgender woman named Blossom C. Brown grabbed the mic and called attention to how no transgender people of color had asked a question during the first three hours of the town hall. CNN did not handle the interruption well. While moderator Don Lemon did give Brown time to speak, he also minimized the trans erasure during the town hall by saying: “You’re a black trans woman. You have the mic in your hand.”
Despite some missteps, the night was successful in that it showcased LGBTQ issues for the general public. For more info on the presidential candidates, tune in for the next debate on Tuesday, October 15 at 8 p.m.