Traditionally, when an LGBTQ person—celebrity or not—comes out, the immediate response is “Welcome.” But former Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock’s declaration—after years of public denial, alongside consistently voting against LGBTQ rights and not telling the truth about his sexuality in a court of law—merits little more than an eye-roll.
This is a coming out which elicits a groan rather than an aww. The winking truth was there staring from the Instagram shots of Schock showing off his buff body around guys in swimming pools or at Coachella. The winking truth was there when he was accused of financial chicanery, and the case surfaced many cherry-on-top allegations, like trying to make his office look like Downton Abbey.
The winking truth was there, most ludicrously, in a rare fully-clothed shot, in which Schock sported a purple-checkered shirt, tight white pants, and a teal belt at a White House picnic.
Online, as more and more of these pictures emerged of a topless Schock at yet another locale which apparently demanded few vestments apart from tight shorts, people not only called out Schock, but the men hanging out with him. A buff body seemingly obscured Schock’s character to many, happily quenched by the cheap thirst he offers.
What makes Aaron Schock special, or different? Well, he is the closet case living in plain view, with shredded abs. He is the extreme homophobe who is also gay. He is the gay man who lies about himself, and simultaneously betrays and hurts other LGBTQ people. He is someone who could have made a difference to LGBTQ people and their rights, and instead chose to actively hurt them in his quest for power. He still seems utterly vapid and self-absorbed.
On his website is his pitch for our sympathy in full; a coming out letter in which he casts himself as the perennial victim.
If you really boiled Schock’s schlock down, it would go something like, “Like so many LGBTQ people in the public eye before me, I wanted power and influence, and was prepared to sell myself and my LGBTQ brethren down the river to get it. Now I don’t have power. But I still want a public profile. So here it is, my big confession. Come ye, come ye, softball interviewers, and I’ll leak all my tears and pleas for sympathy over your cameras. Or I can take my shirt off.”
In his essay, which you can read here, Schock talks about his religious upbringing, and how brilliant a high achiever he was. He loved the attention of entering office, never saw Downton Abbey, dammit, and puzzlingly accuses the media of a “fabricated lie” when it came to his sexuality. Except it wasn’t a lie. He was gay. He was the one doing the concealing, and he was doing it for utterly selfish reasons like many a closeted politician before him.
He was going to come out, he says, but, shucks, the authorities came after him. He says prosecutors “weaponized” questions about his personal life. Nonsense. If he had been out, there would not have been an issue. He talks about the experience as if “someone” had locked the closet door. That “someone” was only ever Aaron Schock. He hopes his religious family, still proffering conversion therapy, come around. Well, any decent person would hope that works itself out positively.
The letter casts a dark shadow on the mess that is Aaron Schock, and others like him. Here is a gay man who set himself against LGBTQ legal and political equality when he had the power to advocate for the same. He is good looks and ugliness, ambition and fear, all wrapped up in one tragic protein powder keg.
Look at his Instagram account. Here is a man whose body apparently melts shirts on impact. He’s in Rio. He’s in Tel Aviv. Quick, find him a beach. His pecs need two plane seats. He only requires a Speedo to feel complete. If people talk about Schock’s body a lot, it isn’t shallow and objectifying; according to his social media posts that’s what he wants more than anything. His vanity is as ludicrous as that teal belt.
Here is what Schock doesn’t make clear in his coming out essay. While he was in the closet and living the high life, he set out to destroy LGBTQ rights. That takes a special kind of vindictive cruelty. Why not be closeted and vote in favor of them? Or not vote at all? Here was a gay man happy to hurt LGBTQ people because he wanted power himself within the Republican Party.
Now he is coming out, and asking the LGBTQ community to embrace him. Anyone who does not (he has been “warned” about this apparently), anyone who might criticize Schock, is “vicious.” Really? Any more “vicious” than a closeted politician out to hurt as many LGBTQ people as possible? His hypocrisy would be laughable if it hadn’t helped hurt so many people.
In his letter to the world, Schock mentions he was anti-marriage equality; and the now-familiar conservative ring-tone that Barack Obama was once too. But Schock’s anti-LGBTQ political record is far more extensive than that, and he doesn’t mention a single word of it.
Schock voted against amending federal hate crime laws to include crimes where the victims were targeted on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability. He voted against the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He was against employment discrimination protections. He was pro-the Defense of Marriage Act. He’s anti-a woman’s right to choose. He voted against the DREAM Act. He voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Think about this litany of conservative zealotry as you gaze upon his pumped-up disco tits now pleading for our acceptance.
In office, he scored a zero on the Human Rights Campaign’s congressional scorecard.
Schock’s cop-out is that “those who advance the greatest social change never hold elected office.” So, we should have expected nothing from him? A gay man in power can vote against pro-equality legislation, while closeted, and hope that non-closeted LGBTQ people without political power can pick up the slack? That they won’t look askance at his despicable voting record?
Schock then writes that he would support LGBTQ rights if he was in Congress now. Sorry: way too late, way too useless, and way too shady a track record to trust that to be true. The last part of the letter is a let’s-be-friends plea to the “gay community” that he now wants to embrace him—after he has done everything he can to destroy the equality they deserve.
Something else Schock assumes the mantle of victimhood for in this poor-me essay: the many scandals around his over-spending and claiming of expenses. In 2016, Schock was indicted in two dozen felony counts, including wire fraud, mail fraud, theft of government funds, making false statements, filing false election reports, and filing false tax returns.
He denied all charges; and the subsequent legal saga stretched until 2019, when Schock agreed to pay $42,000 to the IRS and $67,956 to various campaign committees. He also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of failing to properly report expenses. The charges were dropped.
“The government has investigated nearly every facet of Mr. Schock’s professional, political, and personal life,” Schock’s defense attorneys wrote in a 2017 motion to dismiss the charges. “This even includes his sex life. It is no secret that there has long been speculative gossip in the media about Mr. Schock’s sexual orientation. For no apparent reason, the government has felt itself compelled to investigate this too.”
There was an apparent reason—a man in Schock’s life, connected to the charges he was being investigated for. But Schock and his legal team leveraged the closet he chose to live in for their legal benefit. How ironic, especially as on Instagram, as my colleague Scott Bixby wrote, Schock continued to catalog his way-fabulous, often-shirtless life.
Plenty of people live in the closet like Schock without deliberately harming other LGBTQ people as Schock set out to do, and living merrily high as they do.
If what he writes about his family is true, then one can only wish Schock the best in repairing those relationships. But many LGBTQ people have come out in hostile circumstances, without Schock’s money, material freedoms, and overweening self-regard. All have provided him significant insulation from the immediate harshness of the world, as experienced—say—by those poorer and more marginalized.
Aaron Schock doesn’t want redemption. He wants a redemption storyline. And in a culture that valorizes physical beauty, shallow platitudes, and tales of woe-is-me adversity, then triumph, some may buy what Schock is now pathetically selling, chest and biceps pumped and bared.
The rest of us will wait for him to put some clothes on and do something meaningful and honest to repair the damage he has done to LGBTQ people and his own credibility. We will wait for Schock to convince us of his honorable intent. We will wait for him to stand up to Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and the Republican and religious homophobes out to destroy LGBTQ rights and freedoms. We will wait to hear his voice on the public stage, making a difference, loud and clear. We will wait.