After voting against handing out LGBTQ+ rights, former Illinois Representative Aaron Schock has come out as gay.
The personal is political. This statement could not be more true for anyone else other than Aaron Schock, a former Republican House Representative. During his time in office, he voted against same-sex marriage and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a policy that prohibited gay and lesbian folks from serving openly in the United States military. Now, in the most ironic plot twist to happen so far this year, he has come out as gay. He announced his homosexuality through an Instagram post, The Huffington Post reports. The most unfortunate part of this story is that he was able to walk away from a track record of oppressing the LGBTQ+ community without losing anything.
"I am gay," he stated in his Instagram post. "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. In many ways, I regret the time wasted in not having done so sooner. I offer my story as one person’s experience. I’ve come to believe it is, in some respects, just a more public version of a difficult and ultimately, now optimistic, journey familiar to many LGBTQ people." Unlike other LGBTQ+ folks, however, he had the ability to vote for a more equal country where people wouldn't have to be afraid to be who they are. And he threw that opportunity down the drain.
This is not to say that he did not experience his own troubles and challenges. Having to put up a conservative front while knowing in your heart of hearts that your actions directly conflicted with your identity would not have been an easy feat. Nonetheless, it must be noted that his personal struggles cannot trump the public hurt he inflicted. Schock continued, "Perhaps correctly, perhaps not, I assumed that revealing myself as [my constituents'] gay congressman would not go over well. I put my ambition over the truth, which not only hurt me, but others as well. 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." The former lawmaker was the representative for Illinois, a historically blue state. Schock's district, albeit, is a Republican stronghold.
He also shared details of what it was like to come out to his family, an experience that will sound familiar to many members of the LGBTQ+ community. "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," he stated. "My approach since has been rooted in an appreciation for how long it took me to overcome my own resistance to being gay. As much as I would like for my family to quickly change about the way they view it, I’ve come to terms with the fact that it might take my loved ones more time than I would like. And I realize some might never come around. I do hold out hope that, over time, my family will come to accept me as I am."
Finally, he addressed the elephant in the room. Where was he when he had to stick up for the community? He acknowledged, "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. The truth is that if I were in Congress today, I would support LGBTQ rights in every way I could." While it may not be the apology that his political track record warrants, perhaps this is a lesson for other Bible-thumping Republicans. As long as it's consensual, the state does not belong in our bedrooms or in our love lives.