Retiring Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank believes being gay almost lost him his first congressional race.

The 72-year-old Frank has the distinction of being the first openly gay member of Congress and the first to enter a marriage with a member of the same sex.

In an exit interview with The Washington Post, Frank recalled coming out to House Speaker Tip O'Neill in 1986.

Frank explained to O'Neill that a soon-to-be-published book titled The Gentleman from Maryland by former Republican Rep. Bob Bauman would indirectly imply Frank's homosexuality.

“His response at first was, 'Hey don't worry about it pal, they spread those rumors about a lot of people,'” Frank recalled. “And I said, 'Well in this case it's true.'”

O'Neill expressed disappointment at the news, saying: “I thought you might be the first Jewish speaker.”

Frank added that he considering announcing his sexual orientation when he first ran for Congress.

“When I decided to run, I said either you come out and become an activist and have a major role there, or I run for Congress,” Frank said. “There was no way I could have been out and won. In the end I almost lost on suspicion.” (The video is embedded on this page. Visit our video library for more videos.)