Actor and model Reichen Lehmkuhl, who won season four of The Amazing Race and dates Lance Bass, was sexually assaulted while in the U.S. Air Force, he says.
Lehmkuhl, 32, tells ABC News that when he entered the Air Force Academy, he had to hide his homosexuality under the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. But his sexual orientation was the subject of speculation until one night, he says, when he was sent a message.
“A bag was put over my head,” he says. “I was stripped of my clothes. I was forced to do things sexually with two other male cadets.”
He hit rock bottom after the incident. “That’s when you start having suicidal thoughts,” he says, “and that’s when you start saying, ‘Oh my God. I am so stuck in this situation. I can’t go to anyone.’ ”
Lehmkuhl talks about his experiences as a gay man in the military in his new book, Here’s What We’ll Say: Growing Up, Coming Out, and the U.S. Air Force Academy. He’d always wanted to join the Air Force, he tells ABC: “It was a childhood dream to fly, and then it became more of an adult dream to be an officer, to be a leader.”
But he knew he’d have to hide his sexuality. “And I remember the panic that came over me at that moment realizing, ‘What am I going to do? Am I going to be able to change this? How can I admit this?’ ” he says.
Although he reached the rank of captain, he still faced “an institutionalized acceptance of people being homophobic and telling gay jokes and making homophobic remarks – really, really mean homophobic remarks to the point of, ‘Kill gay people.’ ”
After he was assaulted, he kept silent about the incident and served out his commitment to the Air Force, which he completed five years ago. He says he hopes his story will push the military to re-think its policy toward gays.