“I am gay,” 38-year-old ex-congressman Aaron Schock announced Thursday on his Instagram, and at the start of a nearly 2,000-word essay on a website that apparently exists for the express purpose of running this bulletin. His announcement rivals Kevin Spacey’s 2017 public acknowledgment of his gayness (which came just hours after the publication of a Buzzfeed story in which actor Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of hitting on him when he was 14) as the least surprising and flat-out worst coming-out in recent memory. To live without shame is the elusive goal of many gay men, and when achieved can be interpreted a sign of self-actualization. It means one has conquered all the negative messaging about oneself that culture has provided. Aaron Schock, however, could use some more of it. His coming out is an occasion for shamefulness.
Schock served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois’s 18th district from 2009-15. During that time, he amassed a galling anti-gay voting record: He voted against the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. He opposed Obama’s decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. In 2009-10, he showed overwhelming support for the American Family Association, a group that devotes a lot of its time and energy to informing the public how dangerous queer people are. In 2008, he bragged to the conservative publication HumanEvents.com: “I have one of the most conservative voting records in the state house. I’ve got a 100 percent pro-life, pro-family, 100 percent with the second amendment.”
For the bulk of his political career and after, rumors of gayness have followed him like bees on Jameela Jamil. To the 2010 White House picnic, he wore an outfit of a hot pink gingham shirt, a teal belt, and white jeans that didn’t so much signal gay as screaming queen to anyone with a half-trained eye. (“Never thought a pic of me w/ my shirt on would go viral. Learned my lesson and burned the belt,” he tweeted later.) Last year, he was spotted making out with a guy at Coachella and hobnobbing “like he’s on a gay honeymoon,” according to an observer, at the pool of the Standard Hotel in West Hollywood. Most recently, he was snapped lathering sunscreen on the back of out gay model/party promoter Eliad Cohen.
Before Thursday, Schock had long denied he was gay. In a 2019 Daily Beast piece regarding outing pegged to leak of nudes purportedly featuring Schock, veteran gay journalist Michelangelo Signorile recalled Schock’s defensiveness when asked about how his anti-gay voting record squared with the gay rumors (which is to say: He was asked about his evident hypocrisy that he was not yet comfortable owning): “Those questions are completely ridiculous and inappropriate. I’ve said that before and I don’t think it’s worthy of further response. I think you can look it up.”
Coming out is a highly personal process and queer people should be allowed to operate on their own timeline. Generally speaking, no one is obligated to show who they are until they’re ready. It would be nice if everyone entered the world standing up to be counted, just from a strength-in-numbers perspective, but for a variety of valid reasons, some people don’t feel comfortable doing so until later in life. In general, I think queer people deserve a degree of patience in these matters, and even retroactive forgiveness for the lies they may have told as they grew more comfortable acknowledging their truth.
People who do harm to their community in service of personal gain can be reasonably exempted from this compassion. You don’t get a parade for ceasing to be a shithead. It takes Schock almost 1600 words to get around to acknowledging the reason why the coming out of a washed-up and disgraced politician is newsworthy at all. He does not even seem particularly sorry, merely explanatory:
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. That position against marriage equality, though, was also then held by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as well.
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.
As is the case throughout most of human history, those who advance the greatest social change never hold elected office. 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.
Cry me a river. This guy would barely be a footnote if it weren’t for his demonstrable hypocrisy. Before Schock even gets to the reason why most people would bother to read his story, he establishes his difficulty in coming out via his religious background. “My story starts in the rural Midwest, as part of a family centered in a faith and its particular traditions,” writes Schock. He acknowledges the investigation into the misuse of funds that eventually caused his resignation, saying, “I refused any offer of a plea bargain and insisted on going to trial. The trial never happened because, last March, government prosecutors asked the judge to dismiss the indictment and all of the charges against me.” I mean, that’s one way to put it. Another way is this, from the Chicago Tribune: “Completing what’s known as a deferred prosecution, federal prosecutors in Chicago dropped all charges against Schock after he completed a probationary period where he stayed out of trouble and paid back $68,000 to his congressional campaign funds that he’d used for personal expenses.”
In his coming-out essay, he denies ever having seen Downton Abbey (his office was widely reported to have been inspired by it, in what is retrospectively interpreted to be an example of his abuse of funds). Regardless, the pieces here should make it clear: While Schock, a man who in his own words was aware of his sexuality early in life, was voting against the rights of his people, he was spending lavishly on himself with funds that he had no right to use, by the admission of that $68,000 check. “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 writes.
I don’t trust this guy. I think his coming-out lacks adequate contrition, and that it is petulant and smarmy. (“I also hope that in sharing my story it might 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.”) I know that Aaron Schock is someone who is proud to be pictured alongside people who similarly play chicken with the truth for the sake of their own advancement like Donald Trump and George W. Bush.
I also know that all of this notwithstanding, Aaron Schock will get laid by the very people he attempted to disenfranchise because he looks like this:
I do not think it is my place to tell people what to do with their bodies, but to anyone reading who may one day have an opportunity to fuck this hypocrite, I have a gentle request: Please do not.