Aaron Schock, a former GOP representative known for supporting anti-LGBTQ legislation and dodging rumors about his sexuality, came out as gay in an Instagram post Thursday.
“The fact that I am gay is just one of those things in life in need of explicit affirmation, to remove any doubt and to finally validate who I am as a person,” Schock wrote. “In many ways, I regret the time wasted in not having done so sooner.”
Upon entering Congress in 2009 at the age of 27, Schock became the youngest member of the legislative body. Yet his political career ended in disgrace after he resigned amid a scandal surrounding his spending in 2015. At the center of the controversy were accusations that Schock used tax payer dollars to decorate his office in the theme of the hit television show “Downton Abbey” and for extravagant travel.
At the time, Schock called the investigation and subsequent media coverage into his spending a “great distraction” that was preventing him from doing his job effectively. He was later arraigned on federal fraud charges and pleaded not guilty to two dozen counts of felony corruption.
Schock, who has been criticized for a dismal track record on LGBTQ rights, revealed that he tried to avoid addressing his sexuality while growing up in a religious household in Illinois and that when he entered Congress, he did not feel like people would accept him as a gay man, so he “threw” himself into his work.
This work included voting against the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and against hate crime protections for LGBTQ people. He also voted for the Defense of Marriage Act.
The former Congressman acknowledged this part of his record in his coming-out post, stating that he took “the same position on gay marriage held by my party’s nominee, John McCain” and that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were also against same-sex marriage at one point.
“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 like to defend the right to marry,” Schock wrote.
Last April, pictures of Schock kissing another man at Coachella surfaced on social media, which some interpreted as confirmation that Schock was gay. Many criticized him at the time for appearing to benefit from the work of LGBTQ activists without using his political clout to bolster the community.
Schock wrote that he recognizes that he can now “live openly as a gay man because of the extraordinary, brave people who had the courage to fight for our rights” and that were he in Congress today, he would support LGBTQ rights in “every way” he could.
While Schock added that it’s “never too late to be authentic and true to yourself” and that he hopes his story can help others struggling with their sexuality, social media responses to Schock’s coming out have been overwhelmingly negative, with many remaining unsatisfied by Schock’s “lack of apology” for not elevating LGBTQ rights when he was in a position to do so.
“Good morning, aaron schock doesn’t get a free pass and a warm welcome from me, that dude can eat s---,” tweeted writer Tyler Coates.
“Former GOP congressman Aaron Schock finally comes out and makes like it’s no big deal that he’s gay,” wrote journalist Michaelangelo Signorile. “He voted against all of us — voted with the bigoted GOP on discriminating against gay people — over and over. Screw him.”
Schock said that his family will still occasionally send him emails trying to get him to try conversion therapy — a medically debunked practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity — but that his mom recently expressed interest in meeting his future partners.