Former Republican congressman Aaron Schock has come out as gay, saying he regrets “the time wasted in not having done sooner.”
The 38-year-old, who repeatedly voted against LGBTQ rights during his six years in office, published a post on his website and social media confirming his sexuality.
“I am gay,” he said. “For those who know me and for many who only know of me, this will come as no surprise. For the past year, I have been working through a list of people who I felt should finally hear the news directly from me before I made a public statement. I wanted my mother, my father, my sisters, my brother, and my closest friends to hear it from me first.
“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,” he continued. “In many ways I regret the time wasted in not having done so sooner.”
However, Shock refrained from directly apologizing for his record while in office — including voting against adding LGBTQ people to federal hate crime protections, voting against the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and voting for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Schock resigned from Congress in 2015 over allegations of misuse of taxpayer funds, including redecorating his office and taking a member of staff to a Katy Perry concert.
He was indicted in 2017 on 24 counts, including wire fraud, mail fraud, and theft of government funds, though charges were subsequently dropped.
Schock has previously refrained from discussing his sexuality publicly, and in 2015 his father stated that the former congressman is “not gay,” just “a little different.”
However, eyebrows were raised last year when Schock was spotted partying at annual music festival Coachella with a group of gay men, including alleged photos of him with his hand down another man’s pants.
Activists and online personalities noted the hypocrisy of Schock seemingly enjoying the hard-won freedoms fought for by other LGBTQ people, while refusing to come out and apologize for his voting record.
In his statement, Schock noted that upon reaching Congress he put “ambition over the truth, which not only hurt me, but others as well.”
He also characterized his support of anti-gay positions, such as opposing same-sex marriage in 2008, as “the same position…held by my party’s nominee, John McCain.”
He also referenced former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who both publicly opposed marriage equality in 2008.
“That fact doesn’t make my then position any less wrong, but it’s sometimes easy to forget that it was leaders of both parties who for so long wrongly understood what it was to defend the right to marry,” Schock said.
Schock noted those who fought for LGBTQ rights and freedoms, allowing him to attend Coachella with other gay men and party in Mexican gay bars.
“As is the case throughout most of human history, those who advance the greatest social change never hold elected office,” Schock said. “I can live openly now as a gay man because of the extraordinary, brave people who had the courage to fight for our rights when I did not: community activists, leaders, and ordinary LGBT folks. Gay bloggers who rallied people to our cause. I recognize this even in the face of the intense and sometimes vicious criticism that I’ve received from those same people.”
But Schock refrained from directly apologizing for his record, instead saying that if he “were in Congress today, I would support LGBTQ rights in every way I could.”
In his statement, Schock noted his rural, religious upbringing, and said he tried to ignore his sexuality while growing up.
He also called out attempts by the media to speculated on his sexuality while in office, including comments on his relationship status, his dress sense, and his physical fitness, as well as comparisons between his office redecoration and period drama Downton Abbey.
” It was another way, albeit more sophisticated, to be teased about being gay,” he said. “A dog whistle.”
He also addressed the impact that media coverage of his Coachella visit had on his family.
“I made plans to drive to my mother’s for Easter holiday and tell her what I had so long avoided,” he said. “In many ways my mind at that point was also oriented towards making up for lost time, socially. I got tickets for the Coachella Music Festival with friends. A few days later, I got into my car, with all the fear and anxiety that I suppose many feel when they finally head off to have that long-avoided conversation with their family. I think it would be fair to say, life intervened.
“Halfway through the trip, I spoke with my mother,” he continued. “News broke of my weekend at Coachella. 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.”
He said that coming out to his family “has not been a case of instant acceptance and understanding. “
“What I had to share was unwelcome news to every single person in my family, out of the blue in some cases, and was met with sadness, disappointment, and unsympathetic citations to Scripture,” Schock said.
Schock added that he hoped by coming out he can “help shine a light for young people, raised the way I was, looking for a path out of darkness and shame.”
“And maybe aspects of my journey will also give their parents and family some pause before they decide how they’re going to react to the eventual news,” he continued.
He also said that some family members send “occasional emails trying to sell me on conversion therapy.”
“[But] recently at our relative’s wedding, my mother told me that if there is anyone special in my life, she wants to meet them,” he said. “I’m optimistic about the future and ready to write the next chapter of my life.”
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