The cliche applies. Reichen Lehmkuhl is a Renaissance man. And this openly gay superstar is in town for Telluride Gay Ski Week, Saturday – Saturday, 2/25 – 3/2 and hosting a bash. Read on for details…
A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a former Captain in the Air Force, Reichen Lehmkuhl has worked as a flight instructor, physics teacher, author, public speaker, TV, stage and film actor, and model. He is also a jewelry designer. His line, “Flying Naked,” is composed of flight-themed pieces made of titanium steel. Items from the collection are sold at loveandpride.com, and a percentage of each sale goes to the Service Members Legal Defense Network.
Reichen Lehmkuhl became a reality TV icon after winning “The Amazing Race 4.” He went on to appear on “Frasier,” “The Drew Carey Show,” “Days of Our Lives,” and “The Young and the Restless.” There was a subsequent reality series from MTV/Tru Entertainment, “A-List: New York,” which premiered on the Logo network in 2010. His off-Broadway debut was the lead, Andrew, in “My Big Gay Wedding.” But being in the military was the role of Reichen’s life.
Not wanting to face a court martial for being gay while serving under the the Department of Defense’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, Reichen had to live in two different lives in two different worlds. While completely open with his family and friends, he faced the very real possibility of UCMJ punishment for being gay and had to hide that part of his identity in the shadows. He explains:
“The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was contradictory to that which the Air Force and our Armed Forces represent: Honor and Integrity. The policy had forced men and women to lie about their lives, and kept very much alive a terrible fear and misunderstanding of gay people, in general, that hurts military morale and LGBT service members’ lives and ability to perform their duties. It was a clear policy of ruthless workplace discrimination.”
The contradiction inherent in this (now defunct) policy led Reichen to opt out of military service at the end of his active duty service commitment. Once out of the Air Force, he wrote and published “Here’s What We’ll Say”, an autobiography telling the story of his time as a gay cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy. The book also serves as an expose of what really happens to LGBT military service members behind the closed doors of the U.S. Armed Forces’ thousands of training and mission-critical institutions.
Reichen continues to speak around the country at colleges, universities, and companies who can benefit from listening to his experiences and advice. While here for Gay Ski Week, he hosts a party at Hotel Madeline‘s Bar M in Mountain Village: “Do Ask, Do Tell.” The event takes place Tuesday, February 28, 9 p.m. – ?, and celebrates the fact that as of September 2011, when DADT was repealed, gay men and women can serve openly in the military. At the party, an exhibition of photographs by John Ganuum of well known LGBT figures, including Reichen, will be on display, part of the series, “We Can Do It!” (The images are a play on the “Rosie the Riveter” series from WWII)
To learn more about Reichen, click the “play” button and listen to our chat.