Disgraced former Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock has finally told the world the worst kept secret in the world.
In a lengthy personal essay posted on his Instagram account as well as his personal website, the Republican – who famously voted against LGBTQ interests while in the House of Representatives – tells the world, “I am gay.”
After “working through a list of people” who he wanted to tell first hand over the past year including family members, he says he’s ready to make a public statement.
“The fact that I am gay is just one of those things in my life in need of explicit affirmation, to remove any doubt and to finally validate who I am as a person,” writes Schock. “In many ways, I regret the time wasted in not having done so sooner.”
He goes on to share “his story” which began in the rural Midwest and a family “centered in faith and its particular traditions.”
It was in church life – “Memorizing Bible verses, going to church camp, attending services at least twice a week” – that Schock says he “thrived.”
He chronicles his path through high school where he realized his “goal-focused personality” helped him to “force [his] thoughts in other directions” when he felt “drawn in the direction of [his] natural orientation.”
After holding several local public offices, he says his arrival in Washington in 2009 as the youngest member of Congress was a heady experience as he received “a lot of attention,” which he admits he enjoyed.
But soon he was aware of “speculation” he feels occurred because he was single, how he dressed, and his “preoccupation with physical fitness.”
Soon after, he says “Untruthful stories were written” by the news media. Referencing the scandal that revolved around his office in Washington being redecorated in the style of a hit television show, Shock shares he wondered why “the news media would run with an utterly false story about me and a show I’d never even heard of, and still haven’t seen, Downton Abbey.”
Along the way, he takes swipes at the “woke” media calling reports about him “another way, albeit sophisticated, to be teased about being gay.”
He explains his work in Congress included being responsive to the interests of his Illinois constituents. “Perhaps correctly, perhaps not, I assumed that revealing myself as their gay congressman would not go over well. I put my ambition over the truth, which not only hurt me, but others as well.”
He adds, “I also, in retrospect, realize that I was just looking for more excuses to buy time and avoid being the person I’ve always been.”
Schock details the investigation that led to his resignation from Congress, during which he planned to come out to his family, but felt it would be best to wait until the legal wrangling was done.
Once the charges of improper use of campaign funds were dropped in exchange for repaying $68,000 to his congressional campaign fund and $42,000 to the IRS, he again planned to come out to his family.
But first, he attended the Coachella Festival last year and photos of him with assorted men reached his mother before he did. When he spoke to her, she (and the rest of his family) reportedly did not take the news of his sexuality well.
“Pictures online made clear what I was en route to tell my mother in person. She told me to turn around and go back to LA. I wasn’t welcome at home for Easter.”
Like many LGBTQ people who go through a similar reaction from family members, Schock holds out hope his family will eventually come around.
He goes on to justify his anti-LGBTQ positions and votes (opposed same-sex marriage; voted against the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act) by pointing to political leaders at the time.
“In 2008, as a Republican running in a conservative district, I took the same position on gay marriage held by my party’s nominee, John McCain,” writes the 38-year-old. “That position against marriage equality, though, was also then held by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as well.”
While he’s correct about that timeline, what Schock misses there is McCain, Obama and Clinton weren’t secretly gay voting against their own interests.
Obama never supported a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
In 2010, as Obama worked to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Schock voted against that effort.
In 2011, Hillary Clinton famously told the United Nations assembly that “Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”
In fact, Schock’s record on LGBTQ issues was so negative the Human Rights Campaign gave him a rating of zero.
So, to compare himself with Obama and Clinton is intellectually disingenuous. At the very least, they ‘evolved’ on those issues a decade ago while Schock – at the age of 38 – is just now coming to terms with himself. Everyone comes out in their own time, but everyone doesn’t run for public office and then vote against a community they are a part of.
The former congressman does add that, if he were still in office today, he would support LGBTQ issues “in every way” he could.
He also hopes that sharing his story will “help shine a light for young people, raised the way I was, looking for a path out of darkness and shame.”
In closing his essay, he says family members still suggest so-called “conversion therapy” to him. But at a recent wedding, his mother did inquire as to whether he was seeing someone and if so, she is interested in meeting him.
LGBTQ media has covered Schock’s story for quite some time over the past few years mainly because he is ‘one of us’ but wielded his position in a manner that didn’t help but hurt the LGBTQ community.
In his post, he never apologizes for those political calculations nor offers a simple “Today, I regret those votes.”
That said, I celebrate that Schock has come to a place in his life that he can live his truth out loud.
Read the full essay on his website here.