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LESBIAN, GAY, BI & TRANS GI'S--UP AGAINST THE BRASS (english)
by Workers World
Email: boston (nospam) workers.org
04 Jun 2003
WHY GENERAL FINALLY MET WITH GRIEVING PARENTS:
LESBIAN, GAY, BI & TRANS GI'S--UP AGAINST THE BRASS
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the June 5, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper
WHY GENERAL FINALLY MET WITH GRIEVING PARENTS:
LESBIAN, GAY, BI & TRANS GI'S--UP AGAINST THE BRASS
By Leslie Feinberg
Maj. Gen. Robert T. Clark finally deigned to meet with the parents of
Pfc. Barry L. Winchell on May 13--four years after their son was beaten
to death on July 5, 1999, at Fort Campbell, Ky., while Clark was
commander of the base.
Winchell had suffered six months of harassment after he began dating a
trans woman, Calpernia Adams. After months of national outrage over his
brutal slaying, a military court convicted and sentenced Pvt. Calvin
Glover of clubbing Winchell to death with a baseball bat. Glover
received a life sentence. Pvt. Justin Fisher, who reportedly cheered
Glover on, was sentenced to 12-and-a-half years for lying to
"In the wake of Winchell's murder," charged Servicemembers Legal Defense
Network Director C. Dixon Osburn, "Gen. Clark demonstrated the poorest
leadership, issued no statements against harassment, refusing to speak
with or meet the parents of Pfc. Winchell or to reassure base soldiers
that harassment would not be tolerated." SLDN assists lesbians and gays
in the military.
Reporting on their May 13 meeting, Winchell's parents Wally and Patricia
Kutteles said Clark proffered no apologies.
So why meet with the couple who charge him with allowing a "tyrannical,
homophobic atmosphere" at Fort Campbell? Protest about the murder has
persisted, and it is hampering Clark's military career.
Last fall, President George W. Bush nominated Clark for promotion to the
Army's second-highest rank of lieutenant general--a third shiny star for
his epaulet. Clearly the bludgeoning death of the young soldier hadn't
tarnished Clark's brass in the eyes of the commander in chief.
At that time, the Senate Armed Forces Committee refused to allow
Patricia Kutteles to testify against Clark. Facing angry protests by
trans, lesbian, gay, bisexual and women's rights organizations, the
Democrat-controlled committee voted to hold a closed-door confirmation
hearing. But the noisy controversy hindered the general's promotion;
another star wasn't on the horizon at that time for Clark.
In March, Bush renominated Clark. More protest forced Sen. John Warner,
who heads the Armed Services Com mittee, to table consideration of the
promotion in mid-May. News reports speculated that pressure for an open
hearing may have led the committee to backpedal.
As his third star was fading for the
second time, Clark met with the Kutteles.
"This meeting was clearly more important to Maj. Gen. Clark than to us,"
Patricia Kutteles observed. She said that Clark acknowledged that he
knew the meeting was necessary for his confirmation. "He felt that his
third star resided on that meeting."
Steven Ralls, SLDN communications director, emphasized that the Kutteles
have won a considerable victory whether or not Clark is eventually
boosted up another rung on the Pentagon ladder.
"This nomination should have been a rubber-stamped approval but it was
not. Gen. Clark was nominated eight months ago when he should have been
confirmed. But this case is a blot on his record and is stalling that
CLARK HOLDS THE SMOKING GUN
Clark's crime is not merely benign neglect.
The Kutteles have stressed that while Clark was commanding general at
the base he failed to limit anti-gay harassment or to instruct soldiers
about the Penta gon's policies. And, the parents charge, Clark
instigated an illegal investigation into Winchell's sexuality while
ignoring threats to the 21-year-old soldier's safety. (Washington Blade,
Clark did most of the talking in the two-hour May 13 meeting. Yet he
never once said he was sorry for the human toll of the terror or his
handling of the aftermath, according to an SLDN report.
In an interview with SLDN, Wally Kutteles said that even the way their
son's belongings were sent home showed disrespect. "The box that was
sent looked like it was trash. They didn't send any dress uniforms, only
fatigues--one boot. Everything was just thrown together. The inside of
the box looked like someone emptied their trash."
Wally Kutteles said he asked Clark, "Why wouldn't you want to meet us as
a sign of courtesy?" The general didn't answer, he recalls.
Kutteles persisted: "Why did you wait four years to meet with us?" The
Kutteles recall the general retorted, "Well, you could've called me."
It's not just the Kutteles who have been unable to reach Clark or other
brass. Calpernia Addams says neither "Gen. Clark nor anyone from the
military has ever acknowledged me in any way."
Addams concluded, "These failures [at Fort Campbell] allowed the murder
of Barry Winchell to take place."
Calpernia Addams was onstage at the premiere of "Soldier's Girl"--based
on the lives of Winchell and Addams--at this year's Sundance Film
Festival. The Advocate magazine reported that the film "played out to
its inexorable ending as a sold-out crowd gasped with fear, sympathy,
revulsion, anger. When the lights came up the audience jumped to its
feet, clapping until hands were sore and arms were tired. Winchell's
parents were in the audience."
Showtime Network will premiere "Soldier's Girl" on May 31 at 9 p.m. EST.
The Kutteles have been supportive of Addams. Winchell's father recalls
the first time he and his wife saw Addams perform at Nashville Pride in
June 2000. "Oh man, was she beautiful. And what a dancer. She put on an
They met again at Sundance. Wally Kutteles recalled, "I'll never forget
it, but in the auditorium she leaned over and said to me that she was
nervous and hoped that we weren't mad at her because of who she was."
The Kutteles explain that they understand that the relationship was not
a gay one, but that they are not anti-gay, either.
Patricia Kutteles, a registered nurse, said her son would have known
that he could come out to her and find acceptance. "He knew, by the work
I did, how I felt about gay kids."
Her husband added, "My wife and I are not anti-anything."
NOT AN ABERRATION
The brutal bigotry that fueled the fatal bashing of Winchell is not an
aberration in the U.S. military.
In the months after the horrible slaying, SLDN reported scores of calls
from gay GIs at Fort Campbell who feared for their own lives. More than
200 soldiers were discharged from the base over the rest of that year--
many voluntarily because they were terrified. (Gay & Lesbian Times, Oct.
Investigations turned up a pattern of anti-gay harassment, including
graffiti, verbal and physical abuse at the base.
Along with letting an anti-gay climate flourish, SLDN charged in a
letter to the Armed Services Committee in early January, under Clark's
command soldiers and their families received inadequate health care and
the brass condoned widespread underage drinking of alcohol in the
barracks. (New York Blade, May 16, 2003)
Gay bashing is an intrinsic component of Pentagon culture, as is racism
President Bill Clinton had to surrender to the admirals and generals
after he had made ending the ban on gays in the military a campaign
promise in his 1992 election race.
Clinton backed down and proposed a "compromise"--don't ask, don't tell.
That emboldened the brass and resulted in stepped-up witch hunts against
lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans GIs. Both houses of Congress at that
time were controlled by Democrats.
When the dogs of war unleash military aggression, discharges of LGBT
soldiers often all but stop, "only to pick up again as soon as the
fighting is over," SLDN reports. "During the 1991 Persian Gulf War,
discharges of gay military members were put on hold, only to be started
again when the fighting was over."
Lesbians are much more likely to be expelled than gay male soldiers.
While reports of harassment declined in fiscal 2002, the conscious
incitement of bigotry makes life for gay and lesbian GIs a living hell.
One soldier, Spc Brad Powell, related to SLDN that where he was
stationed a non-commissioned officer instructed his unit during hand
grenade exercises to visualize "blowing up a gay bar."
Powell added that he heard NCOs tell soldiers, "The only way to decrease
our nuclear arsenal is to put all f-gs on an island and nuke it," and,
"The only thing a good f-g needs is a good f-g bashing."
GIs remain fearful and closeted. "The goodbyes to loved ones sent
overseas to fight and die are not the hardest part," says Brian, whose
last name is withheld for security reasons. "It's the hellos. The first
time you see your partner in five or six months, it's very emotional.
And you have to shake hands." (Los Angeles Times, April 17)
It's important to protest that the country's largest employer wages war
on its own rank-and-file employees. But take a look at the "job." It
requires being a foot soldier for an army of conquest.
The Pentagon, Washington and big capital had no problem with sending
lesbian and gay, bisexual and trans people to kill or be killed in a
murderous siege against the Iraqi people. Money that should be spent on
social services, health care, funding for AIDS treatment, research and
education, are squandered on the war and the colonial occupation in its
The chauvinism, jingoism and Rambo mentality that the right wing is
trying to foment intensify racism, the oppression of women and trans
people, and lesbians, gays and bisexuals.
Every attempt is made to break down solidarity and sow division. That's
the basis of the racist profiling that is being used to justify the mass
round-ups of Muslim, Arab and South Asian people.
The Pentagon portrays its racist war to recolonize Iraq as the
humanitarian act of a "liberation army."
But the brass hats would like people in this country to forget the
thousands and thousands of Iraqis who are dead or wounded as a result of
This June, lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans activists are organizing
contingents in major Pride marches across the country to say: "No pride
in war! No pride in occupation."
They will march in solidarity with the people of the world who are
resisting the Pentagon--as the left-wing of the LGBT movement has since
the Vietnam War.
As all the lives lost to Pentagon genocide are recalled and honored,
remember Barry Winchell.
- END -
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