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social sciences

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Gingrich-Jones, Candace (b. 1966)  
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The half-sister of former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, whose record on glbtq rights is abysmal, Candace Gingrich-Jones is an out and proud lesbian activist who serves as a spokesperson and Senior Youth Outreach Manager for the Human Rights Campaign.

In 1942 Kathleen Daugherty and Newton C. McPherson, Jr.--both in their teens--were wed. The unhappy union lasted only a few months but produced a child, Newton Leroy. Two years after the divorce, Daugherty married Robert Gingrich, who adopted her son and gave him his family name. Newt Gingrich has chosen to pronounce it with a final "ch" sound (to avoid having to correct constituents), whereas the rest of the family uses a "k" sound that is closer to the authentic pronunciation of the German name.

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A career Army officer, Robert Gingrich took his growing family with him to postings in the United States and Europe. Daughters Susan and Roberta were born in 1948 and 1950, respectively. The baby of the family, Candace, came along much later, on June 2, 1966.

Shortly after Candace's birth, her father was deployed to Vietnam. On his return, the Gingrichs continued the typically peripatetic life of a military family, including a stint in Panama from 1972 to 1974, after which Robert Gingrich retired from the army. The Gingrichs settled in Dauphin, Pennsylvania, just outside of Harrisburg, where their two older daughters were already living.

Young Candace Gingrich was a tomboy, disdaining dolls in favor of sports. She played softball and golf and "dreamed of playing middle linebacker in Pop Warner football, knocking running backs to the ground with well-timed hits," an aspiration that was, of course, not realized.

Although Gingrich was a bright child, she was, by her own admission, "a disaffected student" who "failed to make the most of [her] ability in the classroom." Nevertheless, she did well enough in high school to earn admission to Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), where she majored in sociology.

Gingrich "had been inching out of the closet since Girl Scout camp a decade earlier," when she, at the age of ten, was attracted to a tent-mate but "lacked the information to understand what [she] had felt for another girl."

A few years later, at a field hockey camp, she again felt attraction to a teammate, but by then she "was painfully aware that to let on about [her] secret crush would be a kind of athletic suicide."

Gingrich continued playing sports and discovered her athletic passion when she went out for the IUP women's rugby team. By the end of her collegiate playing days, she no longer feared coming out to friends and teammates. In her sociology classes she not only met out and confident lesbians and "reveled in the nonjudgmental manner with which the rest of the class handled the women's disclosures," but also grew increasingly secure in her own identity.

She had already spoken the word, but in a paper in her last semester at IUP in 1989, she wrote it, identifying herself as a lesbian and saying, "It has been one of the best feelings in the world knowing that I'm comfortable with myself."

Gingrich's coming out to her family was somewhat awkward, as it was occasioned by her mother's discovery of a lesbian publication to which she had subscribed. Kathleen Gingrich was initially distressed and thought that her daughter's sexual orientation was somehow her "fault," but her love for her child and her wish to see her happy won the day: "Though I'm still not sure she understands exactly what it means to be a lesbian, she has been very supportive," wrote Gingrich in 1996.

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