Friday, March 30, 2012

Gay clubs enjoy freedom to emerge at military academies

Reuters reports: When Joshua Fontañez began training as a cadet at Norwich University in 2008, he kept silent about his sexuality for fear of being expelled from the military school's Reserve Officer Training Corps.

Now after the repeal of the U.S. military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, a gay pride group he helped found is staging a "Queer Prom" and a "Condom Olympics" as part of the first gay pride week at any of the nation's public and private military academies. Events kicked off on Monday.

"It really wasn't talked about," said the 22-year-old Fontañez as he stood before a rainbow flag and an information booth for the Vermont school's club that is aimed at lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders as well as those who are questioning their sexuality and their supporters.

The groups have sprouted up at academies in the wake of the repeal six months ago, decades after similar groups first appeared at civilian universities.

About 60 gay and straight cadets at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut have formed the Spectrum Diversity Council, while others at the Military Academy in West Point, New York and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado have applied to form similar clubs.

Cadets at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and two prominent state military schools, Virginia Military Institute and The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina have not formed such clubs, though all three have gay alumni groups.

Chip Hall, a senior at the Coast Guard Academy, said the clubs that are open now had their roots in an underground network of Facebook and online groups for gay military cadets prior to the repeal.

Hall said on Saturday he plans to don his dress uniform and bring his tuxedo-clad boyfriend to the academy's Castle Ball.

It's a far cry from his freshman year, when talking about his sexuality would have resulted in being expelled from school.

"I didn't know any gay people at the academy. It was pretty lonely," he said. "On top of that, being a freshman at a service academy is really very difficult. Now it's the opposite. All my friends know."

More here.

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