After months of pressure, former Illinois congressman Aaron Schock has come out as gay.
"I am gay," he wrote in an Instagram post on Thursday. "For those who know me and for many who only know of me, this will come as no surprise." Over the past year, Schock has made headlines as he's began to frequent gay clubs and parties, effectively pivoting to "InstaGay."
"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," he wrote. "I wanted my mother, my father, my sisters, my brother, and my closest friends to hear it from me first.
Schock was elected to Congress in 2008 (at the time he was the youngest member) as a Republican but resigned in 2015 after a POLITICO investigation accusing him of fraud. According to the publication, Schock requested mileage reimbursements from the government for 90,000 miles on his personal vehicle that he never actually drove. This came in addition to other accusations of misuse of taxpayer dollars.
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 wrote in the coming out letter which has also been posted to his website. "In many ways I regret the time wasted in not having done so sooner."
The letter is long, starting with Schock being raised in a faith-centered family in the rural Midwest where he denied his "natural orientation." This led him to public office. Once there, Schock sort of shot to fame, appearing on the cover of Men's Journal. But the press wasn't always good. In his letter he accuses journalists that said his big dollar renovation of his congressional offices were inspired by Downton Abbey of homophobia, calling it a "dog whistle." It's worth noting that the Washington Post cites this detail as being told to them by someone working in the offices.
Schock said he has never seen the show.
He went on saying he threw himself into work and didn't come out because of his constituents. "Perhaps correctly, perhaps not, I assumed that revealing myself as their gay congressman would not go over well." he wrote. "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."
While there could have been a time to come out at some point, Schock alleges that before he got a chance, he was being accused of fraud. That years-long ordeal included him resigning from office, further inquiries being launched, and the charges eventually being dropped. And it was only after this that Schock decided to come out.
On Easter of 2019, the former politician planned to come out to his mother but decided to take a trip to Coachella Music Festival first. His appearance there made headlines, and effectively outed him to his mother before he had a chance to speak.
"Pictures online made clear what I was en route to tell my mother in person," he wrote. "She told me to turn around and go back to LA. I wasn't welcome at home for Easter." And this wasn't an isolated incident, according to Schock.
"To characterize some of these conversations with my family in general, it's fair to say it has not been a case of instant acceptance and understanding," he wrote. "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."
As Schock has begun to integrate himself with the larger queer community, there have been calls for Schock to address his history as a politician. He supported a constitutional ban on marriage equality, supported "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," voted against the DREAM Act and voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
"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," he wrote of that history. "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."
He continued: "The truth is that if I were in Congress today, I would support LGBTQ rights in every way I could. I realize that some of my political positions run very much counter to the mainstream of the LGBTQ movement, and I respect them for those differences. I hope people will allow for me the same."
All of his votes would have put him alongside his fellow Republican colleagues.
"As for my family, I still get 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 wrote in the letter's close. "I'm optimistic about the future and ready to write the next chapter of my life."