U.S. Representative Barney Frank Comes Out
Barney Frank was first elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1972 and served until his election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1980, but did not yet publicly identify as LGBTQ. Afraid that coming out might hurt his career, Frank lingered in the closet until 1987, when he became the first member of Congress to voluntarily come out publicly as LGBTQ+.
“For many years, I was ashamed of myself for hiding my membership in a universally despised group. I’d been afraid of exposure, and angry at myself for my self-denial. I’d felt shame as I watched younger gay men and lesbians confront the bigots openly with a courage that I lacked. After all those years, lying to people was much easier emotionally than finally admitting my lie,” Frank wrote in Politico on March 12, 2015, in an excerpt from his book, Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage.
But Frank received unexpected support and luxuriated in being an out gay representative. “I’m used to being in a minority. Hey, I’m a left-handed gay Jew. I’ve never felt, automatically, a member of any majority,” Frank said in a New York Times Magazine interview February 4, 1996. When Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey referred to him as “Barney Fag,” Frank refused to accept the right-winger’s apology, and the slur rebounded on Armey.
Over time, Frank would become one of the most influential members of the U.S. Congress, playing a key role as chair of the House Financial Services Committee. He would be reelected 12 times.