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News > LGBQ cadets discuss Academy climate
LGBQ cadets discuss Academy climate

Posted 11/27/2013   Updated 11/27/2013 Email story   Print story

    


by Don Branum
Academy Spirit staff writer


11/27/2013 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- It's never easy to be a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning community. But the Air Force Academy's climate of professionalism does give lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning cadets a chance to feel supported and cared for, a group of cadets said during a media roundtable Nov. 22.

Carol, Stephanie and William, three cadets in the Academy's Spectrum club for LGBQ and allied cadets, spoke to reporters with both local and national newspapers and blogs to talk about their experiences and the support they've received from the Academy's senior leaders.

The Academy's climate toward LGBQ cadets became a topic of national media attention after news broke that Dr. Michael Rosebush, previously an "ex-gay" counselor and a former vice president at Focus on the Family, had worked here since 2009.

"Frankly, I didn't know he existed until his name showed up in the press," William said. "My personal opinion is that he's been here long enough, he's shown he can work here without pressing his views on other people. If he does his job and does it well, and he's not trying to influence or treat people differently than anybody else, then personally, I don't care."

Capt. Michelle Reinstatler, an English Department instructor and the officer in charge of Spectrum, said she has worked with Rosebush in her capacity as a coach within the Character Coaching program.

"I have never had any negative experience with him at all," Reinstatler said. "He is very kind and caring, as far as I can tell, and very good at his work."

Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson met with members of Spectrum shortly after the news broke. Carol said cadets had discussed their present concerns regarding the media attention as well as past negative experiences that they had resolved through their chain of command.

"No current, outstanding issues were raised, as in, no one raised an issue they were having at that moment with a faculty member, a cadet or a permanent party member," she explained. "It was all, 'This is what happened to me; this is how I used my chain of command, and this is how the issue was resolved.'"

The cadets' chain of command resolved the issue properly and respected the cadets throughout the resolution process, Carol said.

"Being gay in any position, in any walk of life ... is hard," she 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.

"... 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."

Carol said Spectrum club members' experiences do not reflect a perfect climate at the Academy, nor do they represent every cadet within the Cadet Wing.

"We don't have an accurate representation of every LGBQ cadet at the Academy," she said. "That's because we don't know every LGBQ cadet at the Academy. Spectrum is comprised of both cadets who are out and those who are still in the closet. I do know their interests and how they think the Academy treats them, but that doesn't mean we know everybody, because we don't have access to people who are not in Spectrum or people who are completely in the closet."

William said he's received opportunities as a cadet that he couldn't get anywhere else, and that his sexual orientation was never a factor.

"It doesn't play a role," he said. "I've done some amazing things that some of my peers haven't been able to do, and I don't regret that at all."

Johnson and her senior staff personify a climate of caring and support, Stephanie said.

"If I had to describe the encounters I've had with General Johnson about this issue ... she cares so much," she said. "She's really genuine and really capable of taking care of us cadets. She really cares about how we feel and what we think."

" She's been to multiple events for the LGBQ community, "Reinstatler said. "It's very obvious to me that cadets are her number-one concern."

Any LGBQ or allied cadets who are having trouble should seek out Spectrum, Stephanie said.

"It's a support group. If anyone has any problems at all -- not just problems with Academy life but home problems, academics, anything ... it's a support group," she said. "We're helping each other out, and that's what we like to do as cadets."

This article refers to cadets pseudonymously because, while they said they are out with their fellows in the Cadet Wing, they may not be out to their families or members of the public at large.



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