Former Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) opened up about his sexuality on Instagram Thursday, confirming in a lengthy post that he is gay.
Schock, who resigned from Congress in 2015 amid claims he misused taxpayer funds, said the news would “come as no surprise” to his family, friends and associates. Still, he said he felt compelled to make a public announcement “to remove any doubt and to finally validate who I am as a person.”
“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,” the 38-year-old wrote in the post, which also touched on his Christian upbringing and ascent into the political sphere. “I recognize this even in the face of the intense and sometimes vicious criticism that I’ve received from these same people.”
During his time in office, Schock opposed marriage equality and the 2011 repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which prohibited gay and lesbian people from serving openly in the U.S. military. He also voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded the 1969 federal hate crime law to include victims targeted because of their sexuality and gender identity and was signed into law in 2009.
Though Schock said via his Instagram post that he’d “support LGBTQ rights in every way I could” if he were active in Congress today, he didn’t formally rescind any of his previous stances on queer issues.
“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,” Schock wrote Thursday. “I hope people will allow for me the same.”
“This journey has taught me a valuable lesson: that, whether you are gay or straight, it’s never too late to be authentic and true to yourself,” he added, noting also that it “has not been a case of instant acceptance and understanding” among family members.
Schock, who posed shirtless for a 2011 Men’s Health feature in which he was proclaimed “America’s fittest congressman,” had been dogged with questions about his sexuality for years.
In 2009, he told Details magazine that he was not gay, and doubled down on that stance in a 2012 interview with HuffPost.
“Those questions are completely ridiculous and inappropriate,” he said at the time. “I’ve said that before and I don’t think it’s worthy of further response. I think you can look it up.”
Schock had been largely absent from the public eye since last year, when federal charges he’d misspent government and campaign funds were dropped. To avoid standing trial, he struck a deal with prosecutors by agreeing to pay back taxes and reimburse his campaign.
Speculation over his private life had been ramping up once again as of late, after snapshots and cellphone videos that appeared to show him partying with gay men at Coachella and in Brazil appeared in a number of LGBTQ outlets.