'Ex-Gay' Therapist Leading Air Force Academy's Cadet Counseling

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com November 19 2013 4:36 PM ET

LGBT advocates are calling for the removal of a therapist set to lead the Air Force Academy's cadet counseling program, citing the shrink's two-decades long advocacy for the unscientific and harmful practice of "reparative" or "ex-gay" therapy, which aims to turn gay people straight. 

John Aravosis at AmericaBlog broke the news today that the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., had hired Mike Rosebush, Ph.D, to serve as the chief of character and leadership coaching at the academy. Aravosis and other LGBT advocates were quick to highlight Rosebush's long-standing advocacy of so-called reparative therapy. In the position, which he has held since 2011, Rosebush oversees a team of counselors who work with cadets to develop strong character and leadership attributes. 

According to Rosebush's own website, he successfully underwent "reparative therapy" to rid himself of unwanted same-sex desires. Rosebush has spent the past two decades "helping" other men "overcome" their homosexual desires. Aravosis reported on Rosebush's numerous ties to virulent antigay and "ex-gay" advocacy groups, including as a clinical member of the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, an organization about which the Southern Poverty Law Center published a lengthy, revealing exposé last year. Rosebush is also a former vice president of the antigay organization Focus on the Family, which has its headquarters in Colorado Springs, just a few miles from the academy's entry gate. 

Rosebush's "ex-gay" ties extend back to at least 1995, reports Aravosis, noting that Rosebush served as director of the professional counselors' network for the now-defunct Exodus International, which was, until its shuttering and "rebranding" earlier this year, the nation's most vocal supporter of "reparative therapy." Rosebush  also co-authored a "handbook" on "Therapy for Unwanted Homosexual Attractions" with disgraced former researcher George Rekers and NARTH founder Joseph Nicolosi. 

While Aravosis exposed Rosebush's pseudoscientific past, pro-LGBT organization Truth Wins Out called on the Air Force Academy to remove Rosebush from his executive position unless he proves he no longer believes in the scientifically discredited and harmful therapy he's spent his professional career advancing. 

"The repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' sent a message that the United States military will no longer be a home for antigay bigotry and discrimination," said Truth Wins Out's executive director, Wayne Besen. "Hiring a counselor like Dr. Rosebush sends a message that perhaps the Air Force Academy isn't serious about creating an environment where all cadets are treated equally."

"All cadets in need of counseling are vulnerable, whether they're gay or straight," said Truth Wins Out associate director Evan Hurst. "The fact that Dr. Rosebush has so little regard for best practices on issues of human sexuality and so-called reparative therapy begs the question — how can any cadets trust such a man to be on their side when that man has proven over the course of his career that his ideology always comes before his clients' needs?"

So-called ex-gay therapy has been discredited by every major medical and psychological organization in the country, disavowed as unscientific, unsuccessful, and even harmful to the mental and physical well-being of those undergoing treatment. Both California and New Jersey have passed laws barring state-licensed therapists from using the unscientific practice on minors — and both laws have subsequently been upheld in state court. 

The American Psychological Association declares, "To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective. Furthermore, it seems likely that the promotion of change therapies reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay and bisexual persons. This appears to be especially likely for lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals who grow up in more conservative religious settings."