Military Academy Has its First Gay Pride Week Celebrating ‘Condom Olympics’ & ‘Queer Prom’
NORTHFIELD, Vt. (The Blaze/AP) — At the beginning of the school year, gay pride events at a military academy with titles like “condom Olympics” and “queer prom” would have been unthinkable. This week, they’re a reality.
Cadets in uniform at Norwich University, the nation’s oldest private military academy, participated Monday in sessions about handling bullying and harassment as part of the school’s first gay pride week. The events are believed to be the first of their kind on a military campus.
These developments follow the official end last year of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule that prohibited gays and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces. Less than a year later, it’s a different — and less secretive — world.
Until last year, only a select few at Norwich knew of the sexual orientation of Joshua Fontanez, 22, of Browns Mills, N.J., a past president of the student government who quietly laid the groundwork for the school’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Allies Club, which held its first meeting the day the law ended.
He had always wanted to be a soldier but figured he’d have to keep his sexuality a secret.
“The aspects of my sexual orientation, how that played in the military, that was something I was willing to sacrifice, being open versus serving my nation,” Fontanez said. “It’s something I feel I was truly called toward and truly loved, so it’s great that I don’t have necessarily to make that sacrifice.”
In December, a group of students at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., formed a group called Spectrum, which has many of the same goals as the Norwich club. A similar organization with the same name is being formed in New York at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
For many of the newly open student leaders, the changes brought by the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” haven’t overwhelmed, despite the years-long political wrangling that culminated in the policy change.
“It was definitely a big change, but it happened over such a long period of time for me that it didn’t seem like that big of a deal,” said Coast Guard Academy Senior Chip Hall, 21, of Monterrey, Calif.
The West Point Spectrum, modeled after the Coast Guard organization, is being formed with little fanfare.
“Everyone has been very professional here at the academy,” said West Point Cadet Andrew Fitzsimmons, 19, a sophomore from Algonac, Mich. “It’s been a very positive environment.”
A group of alumni called Knights Out will hold a campus dinner this weekend and is expecting at least a dozen cadets to attend, said the group’s director, Sue Fulton, a 1980 West Point graduate who was among the first women admitted to the academy.
“The official status has changed dramatically, in that public events that would have been prohibited are happening; but in terms of attitudes, I think cadets and midshipmen have long been supportive of their gay and lesbian classmates,” Fulton said.
Norwich, established in 1819, has about 1,300 cadets and 1,100 civilian students. About 115 of the 200 graduating cadets plan to be commissioned in the armed forces through ROTC.
The gay student club is believed to be the first of its kind in the country on a military campus, Norwich officials said. Thirty to 35 people attend meetings.
The events this week — held at a different time of year from many other gay pride events, which usually are observed in June or October — include discussions of HIV testing; the “condom Olympics,” in which prophylactics are given as prizes; and a dance at which same-sex partners are welcome.
As an institution, Norwich never banned open homosexuality in the corps of cadets, but because many of its students were destined for the military, which prior to the end of “don’t ask don’t tell” the law served to keep people quiet, said Norwich spokeswoman Daphne Larkin.
Some members of Norwich’s Christian Fellowship have been uncomfortable with gay student club, but the two organizations have worked together, with members of each attending some of the other’s meetings, said biology emeritus professor Carlos Pinkham, the Christian group’s faculty adviser.
“We make it clear to them that we use the bible as our guide and that as a result we can’t condone the stuff they do,” Pinkham said. “But the Bible is also equally clear, in fact, even more clear. … Being judgmental about the sin without extending love to the sinner is another form of sin.”
The groups are a consequence of changing times, said Norwich Vice President Michael Kelley, a 1974 graduate who spent 27 years in the military before returning to academia. He noted the school was among the first to allow female cadets.
“It’s saying that we as a military community are looking to more to the future, that we’re not quibbling about the past, what was or what wasn’t,” he said, “that we can take a leadership role to help move our students to a more enlightened future.”
Benghazi, IRS, AP...What's next? Only TheBlaze TV offers the truth from Glenn Beck, Andrew Wilkow, and Real News from TheBlaze. Get instant access and a free trial here.
- Obama Doesn’t Return Marine’s Salute, Shakes Hand Instead — Is This a Protocol Misstep? 439 Comments
- Game-Changing Bombshell? There’s a Major Twist in the Story About a High School Student’s Lesbian Relationship With a Minor 382 Comments
- Is the Boy Scouts’ Gay Amendment the ‘Beginning of the End’ for the Group? (Plus: Tell Us Where You Stand) 363 Comments
- Church vs. State Complaint Leads City to Remove Christian Crosses on Water Tower — Now See What They’ve Been Replaced With 312 Comments
- ‘We Ain’t Scared of Nobody!’: New Documentary Claims to Show the KKK Thriving in Deep South 303 Comments
- Priest Gunned Down by Italian Mobsters Now Beatified Read More
- MSNBC Hosts Martin Bashir and Chris Hayes Claim London Machete Killers Aren’t Terrorists: ‘These Are Just Murderers’ 163 Comments
- Did You Catch the Possibly Policy-Changing Ft. Hood Reference in Obama’s Terror Speech? 102 Comments
- Have You Had Scotch at a NJ TGI Friday’s Lately? You Might Have Been Drinking Rubbing Alcohol Read More
- Venezuelan President Blames Toilet Paper Shortage on the Rich Read More
- This Terrible Chart Shows the Change in Food Stamp Participation Over the Last 10 Years Read More
- Disney Makes Absolutely Mortifying Photoshop Mistake Read More
- Trey Gowdy at It Again — This Time with a Jack Bauer Reference! 121 Comments
- LOOK: Woman Claims to Have Photographed UFO in California 114 Comments
- Lion Named ‘Bonedigger’ and Small Dog Make Most Unlikely Companions Read More
- Rocket Bike Sets Land Speed Record — and Uses a Fuel You Wouldn’t Expect Read More
- How 3D Printing Technology Created a Special Part for Baby’s Windpipe and Saved His Life Read More
- 6 Fascinating Spy Gadgets You’ll Probably Want (and Can Have) After Seeing Read More
- Millions march against Monsanto in over 400 cities
- Giffords, husband address graduates at Bard
- Kuchar still leads at Colonial after long Saturday
- Tornado victims include animal lover, man in truck
- Red Sox rally for 4 in 8th to beat Indians 7-4
- Bayern beats Dortmund 2-1 in final on Robben goal
- Anti-Muslim actions rise in UK over slain soldier
- San Antonio flooding kills 1; dozens rescued