Views & Voices

Gay cadet group leader responds to Air Force academy controversy


Editor’s Note: Last week, LGBTQ Nation reported on news that the U.S. Air Force Academy had in its employ Dr. Mike Rosebush, a former conversion therapy counselor and long-time proponent of the “ex-gay” movement.

On Friday, the Academy’s public affairs and information office provided reporters with access cadets who are members of Spectrum, a club for gay and lesbian cadets and their allies. In this Views & Voices column, USAF Capt. Michelle L. Reinstatler, the Spectrum group’s faculty advisor, and an instructor of English and Fines Arts, expounds on her views of the controversy brought about from the resulting publicity:

625px-US-AirForceAcademy-ShieldMost of the “reporting” on the recent “scandal” at the Air Force Academy, regarding the employment of Dr. Mike Rosebush, refuses to quote the cadets that spoke openly in a conference call last week, but continues to quote their cadet sources.

I find the absolute disregard for a discussion with all the voices represented increasingly interesting.

Why are these other cadet sources to be considered real and truthful but the cadets on the call thought of as liars? And truly, if one thinks cadets are afraid of speaking frankly in the face of rank, one must not know very many cadets.

Cadets have regular contact with Colonels and Generals so the “shock and awe” effect is practically a non-factor during interactions; before the meeting with Gen Johnson last week I spoke with the cadets and reminded them that Gen Johnson was interested in genuine and honest feedback.

I asked them to please be as frank as possible because if leadership is unaware of any issues, then they cannot address them. The cadets did in fact express concern about how high school LGBQ juniors and seniors would view the Academy in light of the false reporting about the environment here. Several cadets even volunteered to speak about their positive experiences to the press.

As far as problems for LGBQ cadets at the Academy, ignorance and not maliciousness from other cadets was cited. As such, the Cadet Wing is considering adding diversity training to its requirements. LGBQ cadets from Spectrum have spoken to me about private issues regarding the behavior of other cadets. These LGBQ cadets engaged the leadership in their squadrons and the private issues were mitigated much to the cadets’ satisfactory.

I am sure there are cadets here at the Academy struggling with their sexuality and the difficulty of “coming out.” I urge them to find support where they can and Spectrum is a great place to get it. Spectrum has many “closeted” members as well as allies and those who are openly gay.

According to the club president, about 80% of the approximately 95 members are athletes on intercollegiate or club teams. There are several of the openly gay members of Spectrum holding high positions in the leadership of the Cadet Wing.

One of the cadets in the press conference call last week even stated the Academy is a safer place to be LGBQ than “the outside” because here respect for human dignity and integrity are a way of life. “The outside” has no such guarantee.

I have never had a cadet ask me for help in regards to an institutional policy they felt was anti-gay or an issue with discrimination from a permanent party member.

I am not the kind of person or officer that keeps my opinions or concerns to myself (ask anyone for whom I’ve worked). I am a terrible politician; I have little patience to brown-nose; and I do not believe I have EVER reiterated “the party line” when I thought it was a load of nonsense.

I am also quite nosy and regularly ask my students and cadets in Spectrum how everything is going for them. I care so much about my cadets that I will gladly “go to the mat” for any one of them. I want my LGBQ cadets to be able to marry here in Colorado if they so choose and then easily gain join-spouse and other rights that heterosexual couples have.

There are plenty of LGBQ identified faculty members at USAFA, but I believe these are some of the reasons I was asked to be OIC by the cadets of Spectrum.

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