On Tuesday, when former representative Barney Frank (D-Mass.), one of the first openly gay congressmen, heard from a Business Insider reporter that Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) was resigning, he made an immediate assumption. “He was outed or what?” Frank asked. Informed that Schock was quitting over questions related to his use of taxpayer and campaign funds, Frank then asked whether that use (or misuse) had to do with the male companion Schock had allegedly taken on a taxpayer-funded trip to India. A day later he told The Daily Beast: “I don’t know a lot of straight guys who go to the gym and parade around with their shirts off.”
Frank is certainly not the only one — inside government or out — to make insinuations that Schock is gay. The New York Times, Slate and other media outlets have all made knowing winks about Schock’s sexuality, but it’s the LGBT press that has been relentless. Out magazine quickly reported on the Illinois representative’s resignation, focusing its lead on “all the ‘gay’ gossip tidbits. . . . His surfing photos. His pink gingham shirts. His cover of Men’s Fitness.”
Not to mention his expensive tastes: “He likes to charter private planes and stays in five-star resorts in Aspen.” In the same vein, gay blogger John Aravosis posted “The 7 Gayest Aaron Schock Instagram Posts of 2013.” And let’s not forget what openly gay comedian Mario Cantone said on ABC’s “The View” in January, with a shirtless photo of Schock in the background: “If he’s a Democrat, he’s gay. If he’s a Republican, he’s in the closet. Come on, look at him!”
Yes, that seems to be the point: Look at him. How could he not be gay since he works out, dresses well and travels in style? Frank and the LGBT media, who should know better, are using outdated stereotypes as evidence of their assertions. Shameful.
For the record, Schock has repeatedly denied being gay; he told openly gay journalist Michelangelo Signorile, author of the new book “It’s Not Over,” in 2012 that questions about his sexual orientation were “completely ridiculous and inappropriate,” and even his father told the media this week that his son was “different” but “not gay.” Of course, there are men who have sex with other men and don’t identify as gay (think about the accusations against former senator Larry Craig). Without credible “witnesses,” we’re left with rumors that sound more like accusations — all of which feels like pink-baiting to me.
Make no mistake: Schock, regardless of his sexual orientation, is no friend to the LGBT community. He has steadfastly opposed marriage equality and has voted against the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” hate-crime legislation, and LGBT employment non-discrimination. The Human Rights Campaign has awarded the congressman a rating of zero — its lowest — for each of his congressional terms.
Why, then, do I react so strongly to anyone making assumptions about Schock’s sexuality based on these stereotypes? Here’s one reason: an eighth-grader named Larry King, whom I reported on years ago. His Oxnard, Calif., middle school classmates tormented him. “Hey, you, gay kid, you want to wear lipstick?” one of Larry’s friends told the Los Angeles Times, recalling the taunts. Another said: “You’d hear, ‘Faggot! Hey, faggot!’ That was happening in every class.” It only got worse as Larry started to wear makeup and girls’ boots with his school uniform. Then he allegedly flirted with a classmate — who came to school one morning and fatally shot the 15-year-old twice in the head. That’s why I care — because those who are, or who are even suspected of being LGBT, are far and away the people most likely to be the victims of violent hate crimes.
If all it takes is a pink shirt or eye makeup to start the gay innuendo, then no one is really safe. It’s bad enough when the “haters” use stereotypes to justify bullying and violence against LGBT people, or even non-gay youths who simply flout gender conventions. When those winks and quips come from within our own community, what kind of message are we sending?
Barney Frank did have it right when he said several years ago,“I think there’s a right to privacy. But the right to privacy should not be a right to hypocrisy. People who want to demonize other people shouldn’t then be able to go home and close the door, and do it themselves.” Whatever comes of the speculation about Schock’s sexuality — if anything ever does — let’s not base it on his physique and sartorial choices. That would be the ultimate insult to Larry King, and the thousands of other bullied teens who have to fear for their lives every time they pull a shirt out of the closet.
Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments section.