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The Totally Frightful Issue: Reichen

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We have to admit: we were a little scared to interview Reichen Lehmkuhl about his new book, Here’s What We’ll Say.

Our fear stemmed not from nerves over interviewing a so-called “celebrity,” nor did they come from some deep-seeded attraction to the former Amazing Racer turned activist.

We were actually afraid that we’d end up offending him. Much to our surprise, however, we didn’t. In fact, we weren’t even tempted. Shocking, right?

As we made our introductions, touching on the fact that Reichen’s from Cincinnati (love the 513) and a mutual love for The Grateful Dead, it occurred to us that maybe we were wrong to criticize him: maybe Reichen’s actually a really nice, sincere guy whose using his elevated social status for good.

And, you know what, we were right: he’s nice, he’s informative, and he’s nothing if not passionate.

Did the entire experience make us want to worship him? We’d really rather not say.

What we can say, however, is that Reichen made a point of mentioning he was going to “Justin’s” fashion show later in the evening (Timberlake, that is: apparently they’re on a first name basis, which is good, because Reichen basically only goes by his first name).

Anyway, after the jump, read what Reichen had to say for himself, including his opinions on Christianity in the armed forces, the very special message he has for his critics, and how he’s already started his second book.

Queerty: What was your motivation for writing Here’s What We’ll Say?

Reichen Lehmkuhl
: First, [it] was kind of therapy for myself, to go back into my childhood and recall all the things that threw out a lot of my life I was afraid to talk about with anybody.

The second reason was to expose the horrendous system of abuse of gay people – not just in the US armed forces, but in particular at our nations service academies. For me, I had my own reasons to make a lot of my personal life public. My main reason was to take my personal life and make it public to teach people [about] what’s happening behind closed doors, so we can all get a view of it and start to act up on our own to try and make it better.

QT:: Have you gotten word from your old comrades and teachers?

RL: Yeah, it’s amazing. I’ve received so many emails from people who have come out of nowhere: people that I’ve lost touch with, old supervisors who are still on active duty… The reaction has been a mixed bag. Some of them say to me, “You know, if you had ever told me you are gay while you were in, I would have protected you, I would have kept it secret, you never had to hide that from me.” Others, you know, have a different view on things…
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QT: One thing that you mention in the book is that you had worked in the ROTC admissions office. You write, “…As an officer, I worked with ROTC admissions, and realized how much of an advantage minorities actually have in the ROTC and academy admission processes.” How do you think the admissions process should work?

RL: I never said in the book that the admissions process was faulty or wrong. I basically pointed out that minorities in the admission process had a great advantage. We would go to admission meetings as officers and be told, “Hey, we are actively looking for minorities out there that are qualified.” We were actively going after different races of people so that all races are represented within the air force, because there are lots of minority groups in this country that are not able to be represented, simply because they do not have the means to communicate through their school systems and through their governments and to win and be exposed to scholarships and be exposed to scholarships and ROTC scholarships.

QT: Do you think the personal should be the political? That is, do you think that everyone should mine their personal experience to steer their political views?

RL: Absolutely. I think that we’re a country that’s made up of individual voters – we vote individually on what we see is wrong or right in the environment that is around us. So, if we see that something’s wrong in our personal life, we have the benefit and the privilege in this country to vote to make something better that we see that is not right around us. So, yeah, I think that is very important to bring your personal experiences into a political landscape by being a voter or being an activist.

QT: That said, how can people with different personal experiences and thus different politics work together?

RL: Do you mean as far as Republicans and Democrats?
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QT: It could be that, or it could be black people and gay people, queer people and gay people…

RL: I think that [with] the ban on gays in the military, there’s an incredible similarity between gay people and minority populations, such as black people or American Indians or women. It’s documented in the Civil War is that the reason commanders didn’t want black people to serve in the [same] unit was because Black people may lower the morale of the people in the military unit who were already serving. So, in other words, let’s not bring black people into the unit, because it might offend the people who are in the unit who are prejudice against black people – that was ridiculous. We’ve evolved as a population and we’ve evolved as a society. Now we allow minorities in the military and we tell the people who are prejudiced within the military of those minorities to deal with it…

We did the same thing to women: we told women they couldn’t come in the military, because they might offend the men in the military who didn’t want women there. Now we bring them into the military and we council the men and we say, “Okay, these are the needs of women, this is what women contribute to the armed forced.” There is zero tolerance for discrimination in that area. Now, we have military commanders who are at the forefront of our government using the excuse of, “If we let gay people in, they’ll lower the morale of the troops.” Are you kidding me? I mean, isn’t it obvious that we’re repeating history and using the same lame excuse that we’ve used to keep minorities and women out of the military in the past. It’s an abomination. It’s time that we wake up and look that we’re repeating history. Minorities and women can band together with this agenda to lift the ban on gay people in the military, because as a society, it’s really taking us out of the realm of first world country. We need to be able to answer to the prejudice that we [do] have and it’s time! And that’s what I want to do! Sorry, I get really upset…

QT: No, no, it’s good to be passionate.

RL: But, did you get my logic?

QT: Yes, [we] definitely get your logic, of course. Thank you. Do you think we’ll ever see an end to don’t ask, don’t tell?

RL: Absolutely. If I have it my way, it’s going to come very soon. I want to bring as much light upon the subject as possible, especially in this time of the upcoming election. I want the next presidential candidate to answer to the issues that I have in my book about the way that people are treated at our nation’s service academies. These are young men and women who have been appointed into government positions by US Congressmen, by US Senators, and by the Vice-President of the United States. You can’t get into any of these institutions without a personal nomination from one of these political people. Not only that, these young men and women – if they’re not valedictorians, they’re on the verge of being valedictorians, they have SAT and ACT scores that are through the roof. They have displayed leadership in their high schools that is unprecedented in the population of kids today. So, you’ve got these kinds of kids [and] when they’re being found out as being gay, they’re being treated like crap. We should be completely ashamed of what we’re doing!

QT: Your nomination for school came from Barney Frank…obviously you’re not anti-gays in politics. Let’s talk about Mark Foley for a second: have you been following [the scandal]?

RL: Very minimally.
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QT: Well, there’s a debate about whether people in the public eye, specifically politicians, but also celebrities should be outed. Do you think if someone’s in the closet, they deserve to be outed?

RL: Absolutely not. If someone wants to live their life in complete privacy or in partial privacy, that’s their choice… I don’t think that anyone should be forced to disclose [his or her] sexual orientation at anytime to anyone, unless it’s a voluntary choice. I think that – as far as the gentlemen you’re talking about, this was related to criminal activity, am I right?

QT: Um –

RL: I don’t want to blend the issues here, I believe that if we were to allow homosexuals to the military, if they bring sex to work, they should be punished just the same as a heterosexual person who brings sex to work in the military. I think it should be equal for both. Whenever there’s criminal activity that is not in line with the mission of military service, then there needs to be rules and regulations that are followed. However, I do not believe that being able to be out in the military and tell someone, “hey, I’m gay, or tell someone, I’ve got a boyfriend or a girlfriend, just the same as straight person can say, “hey, I’m straight and I have a boyfriend or a girlfriend and we’re getting married or we went camping this weekend, or anything. I think that gay people in the military should be able to be honest about their lives.
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QT: Let’s shift gears here for a second and talk about the chapter “Schooled” in your book. You talk about how the Air Force has many vocal Christian “adherents.” How do you feel about such a strong link between religion and the armed forces?

RL: In my own experience, the armed forces [were] predominately Christian. The values that the military held when I was there were heavily backed up by Christian principles. I happen to know that many Christians feel that they should interpret The Bible as being gay is an abomination. Therefore, there are going to be policies enacted within the military that’s very much based on the Christian principles that people misinterpret that are going to have the same sentiment: that homosexuals should even be allowed to be there. So, yeah, I definitely think there’s a correlation between the two. To sum it up, I say – not that there’s a correlation between Christianity and the military discriminating against gay people, I think there’s a correlation between the misinterpretation of Christianity causing discrimination against gay people in the military. Because I am in no way against Christianity or many of Christian principles people speak of, I am very much against people’s misrepresentation and misinterpretation of Christian ideals. That’s what makes me the most upset.

QT: [In the book, you discuss] how you didn’t have that many peers that you hung out with when you were a kid. How much of your decision to go into the air force was motivated by a desire to fit in, blend in?

RL: Actually, going into the air force academy was more of a challenge for me… The reason that I wasn’t very friendly with other kids when I was a child and the reason that I didn’t have a lot of friends when I was a child was that I myself held back from getting involved in different kinds of social groups within my neighborhood because I lacked the confidence to do it. So when I went to the academy to join such an institution that has so much camaraderie, it actually scared me to death. What I found, though, was that I was pleasantly surprised by the cool group of people that I ended up meeting.

QT: And what do you have to say to people who doubt your sincerity [in writing this book]?

RL: I didn’t know people did.

QT: Everybody has critics…

RL: So, are there people that doubt it?

QT: If somebody were to doubt your sincerity…

RL: I would have to say: you know, um…“What’s going on in your life to make you doubt what I’ve written in a book like this?” This is a book where I’ve let it all go, and I let myself go and I let everyone know about all the things that I never wanted to admit about myself or admit about the way I was brought up. For a while, what I didn’t want to admit was part of an institution that I admired so much: the Air Force Academy and the other being the Air Force. So, I let it all go. If there’s someone who doubts my sincerity, all I can say, I’m sorry [they] feel that way, but it’s based on nothing. Your doubt of it would be based on nothing.

QT: Do you have any plans to write more books?

RL: Yes, I just started my next one. I’m really excited. This one’s going to touch very lightly on my personal life. You’ve read my book, so you know it touches a lot on my childhood and one of my biggest self-critiques of my book is that I focused a little too much on the negative of my childhood. I didn’t express a lot the non-tragic things that happened to me as a child. I had millions of very, very happy moments in my childhood and I didn’t focus on that. In [the next] book, I’m going to touch on some aspects of my childhood, but then the book is really going to be about how to survive in this new world of being gay in a world where we no longer have the need to separate ourselves from the rest of the community and the rest of the population. We don’t have to do that anymore. More than ever, the straight community is opening their arms to the gay community, to gay people, to gay rights. My next book is really going to focus on how we can forge that relationship with the straight community and not separate and section ourselves off so that we can more easily get along in a world where we all understand each other.

By:           Andrew Belonksy
On:           Oct 25, 2006
Tagged: , , , , , , ,
  • 12 Comments
    • Brandon
      Brandon

      Well…he sounds very articulate and intelligent….and damn handsome too!

      Oct 25, 2006 at 2:07 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jack e. jett
      jack e. jett

      great interview. good looking guys are easy to bash because of our own personal insecurities.
      in any interaction i have had with reichen, i have found him to be kind and smart. more importantly he seemed to me to be very grounded.
      has the book been reviewed yet?
      jack jett

      Oct 25, 2006 at 2:41 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Richard Homes
      Richard Homes

      You are one sexy beast and I can’t wait to put my new and improved man breast all over you and while we are at it we could probably have oral sex all night and I mean that sincerly and the last person who didn’t do it with me well let me just say I haven’t seen them since they had that big fall you understand and now that I know almost everything about you you can’t hide. love you

      Oct 25, 2006 at 3:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Richard Homes
      Richard Homes

      It’s me again just wanted to say I was just playin about everything I just said it was all just a joke. Hehe

      Oct 25, 2006 at 3:36 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • grammerpol
      grammerpol

      “…they come from some deep-seeded attraction…”

      the expression is “deep-seated,” dearies

      Oct 25, 2006 at 3:45 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Brandon
      Brandon

      I suspect the queerty boys were playing with words when they used ‘deep-SEEDED’ grammarpol….

      Oct 25, 2006 at 4:04 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Leland
      Leland

      Intentional play on words or not, we have it on good authority that Reichen could not have deeply seeded you nearly as much as Chip did him, but we digress. Too bad, more lip service [absolutely no pun intended] to the contrary, or should we just start calling it “Reichen Speak,” there is still no evidence that Arndt successfully planted any genuine activism in his former husband whereas his “Amazing Race” cowinner has been very politically active ever since. http://www.freedomdems.org. Nor any evidence I’m aware of since the book’s appearance or his Human Rights Champagne fund award that he intends to actually DO anything more now to overturn DADT than he has since he first promised to fight it with every breath he had three and a half years ago.

      The interview revealed none of his ten point ACTION plan [five points? one?]. Was a lot of progress made at the mass circle jerk, excuse me, book party, at The Abbey Monday night? Or did the US Joint Chiefs of Staff pow wow with him at Justin’s fashion show?

      Every narcissist is “sincere” and extremely “passionate” about themselves, though the prettier ones make it easier to confuse their talking about issues when they’re really just talking about themselves. “Reichen, the Sequel”? Can’t wait–particularly if it has a lot more of his military porn writing.

      But how “intelligent” is it to write about somebody forcing you to let THEM give YOU a blow job and expect anyone not drunk on your looks to agree with you that it was an “anti-gay sexual assault”? An ability to sell yourself, literally, or in calendars and books, despite one being stuffed with fake basket shots and the other being stuffed with incidents that he admitted actually happened to others [he's just trying to protect their identies, of course]–yes, that takes a certain kind of intelligence. “Reichen Savant” anyone?

      “Nice”? Well, maybe his three last husbands, and at least one woman he dated in 2004, have a better perspective on that than someone he wants to make another uncompensated cog in the Reichen publicity machine. Until they come forward, let’s revisit someone who experienced a single Reichen hit and run: http://www.singlechickentheory.com/columns/columns_amazingrace.htm

      But my biggest disappointment was that you didn’t ask him one question. No, not THAT one. But: what did Nancy Reagan wear to the Lehmkuhl-Arndt wedding that she did not attend?

      Oct 25, 2006 at 4:49 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • FizziekruntNT
      FizziekruntNT

      I am in LOVE with Leland. That was the best reading ever. Thanks so much for the link to single chicken theory. HILARIOUS!

      Oct 25, 2006 at 5:10 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Laura
      Laura

      Poor Leland, criticla much?

      Hey, Leland, yeah…bitter much?

      Sound jealous..sorry this type of handsome guy never ever laid a hand or weye one you..too hideouss.

      And enought with the bitter, teeth-clenched homo!

      Oct 26, 2006 at 11:57 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Leland
      Leland

      Hey Laura: spell much? One realizes the standards are pretty low for admission into the Reichen Trolls Association, but we’re speechless. No, we’re not. Just seeing if you were paying attention. But why start now, right Laura? Further evidence that Reichen actually enjoyed having that bag pulled over his head at the Air Force Academy is that he seems to require his acolytes to pull figurative bags over their own heads to avoid the possibility that they might apply some critical thinking, or thinking of any kind, to his campaign for sainthood. You clearly got the second of Reichen’s Rules down: “Accuse my critics of jealousy!” But the problem with that is that you must assume that I’m a gay male and would actually want him to lay his “weye” on me. Perhaps I am and perhaps I would—if you’d tell me what a weye is. Or you must assume that I’m one of those gullible species of females that he periodically seduces. You don’t know that I’m not, in fact, one of his serial ex’s (of either gender), or his countless one night stands, or Ptown restroom tricks and have, therefore, already seen his weye. The only certainty is that you know no more about me than you do about Reichen. Big hug!

      Oct 26, 2006 at 1:19 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • zee
      zee

      The academy and DADT is a promotional tool for Reichen.

      Oct 26, 2006 at 3:13 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Kenny D
      Kenny D

      Now, now children lets act our age and not bicker. Laura, how did you get out of grade school with that kind of spelling? Oh maybe you haven’t yet.

      Oct 30, 2006 at 9:23 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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