The Air Force Academy today pushed back on some of the bad press it’s been getting lately over its employment of a man with an extensive history in the ex-gay movement. In a conference call arranged by the academy, three gay or lesbian cadets told reporters that while they have experienced some homophobia from other cadets, they don’t see it as a widespread problem.
“Things are not as bad as people are making them out to be,” said William, a cadet who, like the others, did not give his last name.
Carol, another cadet, said that some cadets have expressed to her their beliefs that homosexuality is wrong. But she said she has never been passed over for any jobs or opportunities at the academy because she is a lesbian.
“Being gay in any position, in any walk of life in society, military or civilian world, is hard,” Carol said. “You want to know why that is? Because we are not a majority. We are a minority, and people still have views about us that are from the Dark Ages. There are still people who do not like gay people, and you’re going to encounter that wherever you go. However, at the academy, there is an environment of professionalism in which your personal views are not put on other people. And you cannot expect that everywhere else in society.”
William also said that every instance of homophobia he has experienced has been cadet-on-cadet, not from faculty or staff at the academy. He said that in his experience, academy leadership has stepped in when they have learned about instances of homophobia and stopped it from happening.
Carol, William and the third cadet, Stephanie, said they have never encountered Mike Rosebush, the controversial academy official, and said they had never even heard of him before news broke earlier this week about his employment and history with groups such as Exodus International and Focus on the Family. They called his background and views “disappointing” and “regrettable,” but agreed that as long as he doesn’t try to influence others at the academy they are not bothered by his employment.
Capt. Michelle Reinstatler, the officer in charge of Spectrum, the academy’s affinity group for gay and lesbian cadets, said she has directly worked with Rosebush and found him to be a kind and caring man, and is good at his job. Reinstatler is straight.
After the call concluded, however, the Human Rights Campaign — an organization that advocates for equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people — issued a statement blasting the academy for continuing to defend Rosebush’s hiring.
“It’s stunning that Air Force Academy officials think it’s even remotely appropriate to have someone like Mike Rosebush in a leadership position,” HRC spokesman Fred Sainz said. “While it’s positive that some cadets feel the culture at the academy is welcoming to openly [lesbian, gay and bisexual] people, it’s undeniable that Mike Rosebush’s toxic views send a harmful message that there is something fundamentally wrong with being gay. That is irresponsible, and his junk science has no place at the United States Air Force Academy.”
If you are a gay or lesbian cadet at the Air Force Academy, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the culture there. Do you feel it is accepting of gay and lesbian cadets? Or do you feel unwelcome, or that you can’t come out of the closet? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts. Any statements will remain anonymous.