by Rep. James Gregoire
As you may have read in a news article or online, as part of my weight loss journey in which I have lost over 80 pounds, I have done multiple photoshoots that highlight my progress and share my transformation with those who wish to see it. Over time I have moved more into the artistic realm of photography thanks to numerous requests from photographers who have seen my work. The shoot in question is what is commonly known as a couple’s fitness shoot. These types of shoots highlight the human form, agility, strength and grace. Holding another person in a pose where you’re shaking from the effort while making it look effortless is a cornerstone of these types of shoots. From the time of the Greeks the human form has been celebrated in art.
Someone who was among a small number of people on my private Instagram chose to track down the photographer’s site and then set about sharing the link with as many others as they could in an effort to create harm. This took the photoshoot out of a place where only those who wanted to see them would and placed them in front of unsuspecting people who were forced to view them. There is nothing salacious about these photos but there is in what was done by these people.
Everyone has a right to an opinion. It does not bother me that some people find the photos inappropriate due to nudity. The reality is that people’s level of appropriate varies significantly. For some a bikini photo or a fitness competitor’s minimal attire would be considered inappropriate while for others they are not. For some the appropriateness depends upon who the subject is. I find this to be the most curious position. Some of these photos aren’t shaded as much as I would have preferred but I do not own them and at the end of the day they aren’t harming anyone.
Like many people I have spent most of my life struggling with issues of self-worth and body image. Both of these issues are extremely difficult to overcome as many of you can attest to yourselves. To finally be strong enough and accepting enough of myself to push out of my comfort zone took a lot of time and effort. It is a journey that is nowhere near done. Even today when I look in the mirror and I can see the definition of my abdominal muscles or the striations in my legs I pick my body apart just like many of you. For people to body shame in the year 2021 shows how little progress we have made in certain areas. This same phenomenon holds true with education, skill and other issues where we don’t feel as qualified as we are while others seem to greatly overvalue what they bring to the table.
The photographs are not an issue that I am going to beat to death because to me they are a non-issue. They are not shameful, they’re not pornography, they are artistic and beautiful. My mother has seen them and did not disown me. I have made plenty of mistakes in my life thanks in no small part to the aforementioned issues of self-worth and quest for external validation but these photos are not in that category.
The only real issue in the story is that someone chose to take these photos and fill other peoples’ inboxes with them in an attempt to hurt me personally. Everyone knows that if someone had a legitimate issue or was concerned about my thought processes, they would’ve come to me personally. They would not have launched a smear campaign that only serves to make them look petty. As I’ve stated in a different letter addressing the issue, we pretty much know who did it and I forgive them. I don’t forgive them because it is right, I forgive them because they are clearly insecure and struggling to find purpose and joy in life. I was mad but realize that staying mad only surrenders my power. I was mad about the gossip and attempt to hurt someone personally which I believe is beneath our community.
The last thing I’m going to talk about is how the news article removes context from a couple statements that I made. I’m disappointed that a local newspaper chose to write an article in a sensationalist TMZ style rather than a professional and accurate article. In the article it’s mentioned that I said no one cares that another representative performs at drag shows as an emcee. This individual happens to be a very good friend of mine who I support fully. My point was not to cut this person down but to point out that in 2021 none of it should be an issue for either of us or anyone else. Most people don’t care about it as it turns out. The other comment was that if I was a Democrat, they would circle the wagons rather than attack me. That is not an attack on them. It was more statement that many Republicans tend to eat their own because they are so afraid of controversy.
The majority of the feedback I have received was about how disappointed people are in how the article was presented and how angry people are that someone would try to smear me or any member of the community. There absolutely will be people who do not approve of the photoshoot and that is fine. However, I am thankful for the massive support I have received from the community and my colleagues from conservative to liberal.
Now it is time to go back to doing the important work of trying to make Vermont the best it can be for all Vermonters. I’ve been a public servant for 20 years and my record stands on its own. I have worked tirelessly to forge strong working relationships and even friendships all across the political spectrum. In my experience the only people that dislike me are the ones I wouldn’t let break rules or wouldn’t let bully me or others. There is nothing I like less than a bully or person who thinks they are above others. I’ve forged a reputation as someone who will bend over backward to help those in need and as one or the most bipartisan legislators in the chamber. I will continue working for the people of my district while being a representative that listens to ALL voices not just some. Not only will I continue to work hard for my constituents, I will continue to put smiles on people’s faces every morning at the store when they don’t want to face the day (even when I don’t want to face it). My belief is we can bring joy or misery to those around us and I choose to spread joy.
Thank you all for the overwhelming support I have received. There is hope after all.
The author is a Republican member of the Vermont House of Representatives, representing Fairfield.