Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Soldier's Girl

I had dinner with my gay boyfriend, Aaron, on Monday night. I went to his place and he cooked a wonderful meal. I took some chocolate infused red wine and we enjoyed a gay movie during dinner, as we usually do. Most of the time the movie consists of bad acting, poor sex scenes and chemistry and little to no plot. Rarely does a gay man have a friend to watch a gay movie with so I suffer it for him. This time was different. So different that it has taken me 3 days and a call to my therapist to write this post.

This is the movie cover

Aaron rented Soldier's Girl (I posted a clip at the end of this post) from Netflix. My gay husband, Matt, who is a friend of both Aaron and myself, actually suggested that I watch this movie about a year ago when I house sat for him. He assured me I would love it but I never made it around to watching it. The film is a true story based in Fort Cambell, Kentucky on the military base. Aaron was a military man prior to coming out and was based at Fort Cambell so the story immediately struck a cord with him. At first, I could tell it was fun for him to see the places and things that he had done way back when. He said he had heard about a young gay man being beaten severely with a baseball bat prior to his coming to base. That story made him even more afraid of his comrades finding him out and he remained deep in the closet during his time on base. I have seen photos of him during his time at Fort Cambell and even my gaydar would not have sounded.

The movie started out easy enough. The main character is a straight man, Barry Winchell, who is doing his basic training at Fort Cambell. Barry goes out one night, at the urging of his friends, to a bar and meets a male-to-female transgendered performer named Calpernia Addams. The 2 began dating immediately. Barry has a roommate that questions his own sexuality while being disgusted with Barry for doing the same. The roommate starts to spread rumors, Barry is ridiculed on base and questioned by sargents. This is not a happy, feel-good ending wrapped up in 2 hours or less. Let's just say that Aaron's story of that poor boy who was beaten is explained when you see Soldier's Girl. Barry Winchell was that boy and he was not just beaten but beaten to death. We discovered after having watched the movie and seeing the dates and outcome at the end that Aaron was there when this horrible crime took place. He could have been Barry Winchell.

Troy Garity and Lee Pace posing as Barry and Calpernia

The real Barry Winchell

The Don't Ask, Don't Tell debate has been prevelent in the media again recently. Just last week I had a Facebook debate about this very topic. I know a young girl in Ohio who has a gay sister in the military. Her sister posted a headline: 'You don't have to be straight to shoot straight'. I like that a lot. The little sister liked it too, so much so that she reposted it. One of the little sister's friends, a man who happens to be active military, made a comment which made me furious. Here is our exchange:

bigot (to protect the guilty hater): i dont like the idea of a gay guy next to me in combat

me: I am not sure I understand why being a gay man has anything to do with saving a life or protecting a country. I say if (bigot name here) doesn't like the idea of going in with gay back-up then go in alone. It's your choice. And I hate to tell ya but gay men (and women) have been surving our military for years (all the while hiding who they are). They can get shot at protecting our country and the right of others to hate and degrade them but they can't and don't have the same RIGHTS that the rest of us do. It is a sick society when one person feels good to bring another down just because of what they do in their own bedroom. Homophobia is a disgusting and ugly trait born out of fear and ignorance.

bigot: well they belong in the chow hall cooking my food or behind a desk. its against my religion an i dont agree with it

me: I hope you don't ever have to live the experience of having someone close to you, whom you love very deeply, encounter the type of bigotry and hate that you are willing to opening display on the internet. Please don't use a loving God as your pulpit for hate. (I actually made this my FB headline for the day!)

At this point, little bigot's friend (our mutual FB friend) said: oh wow this is getting a little heated...the whole point in debate is the fact that people believe in diff things... just because we dont believe in the same things doesnt mean hes wrong that is his opinion (Did I mention she has a gay sister serving in our military?)

me: It is like the saying; What Would Jesus Do? I feel it is a disrespect to a loving God to use him as an excuse to hate. I have a gay sister, you have a gay sister, your Aunt Robin has a gay daughter. I think when your own family is hated on it makes you see more clearly. I was simply cautioning (bigot) on USING God and abusing others in his good name. I wish all the best for (poor little bigot) and I truly hope he never has to witness his own hate being taken out on his family or friends. I woudln't wish that upon my worst enemy. It hurts more than he will ever understand.

Now the bigot of the day didn't respond and clearly his friend felt the need to defend him but not her sister. Maybe I was over the line. I was a gay defender before my sister came out. I was loving Matt and Aaron and had my very own gay following by the time she told me she was gay so I hate it when people say the that my gay sister is the reason I love the gays so. It is just NOT true. I believe things happen for a reason. This correspondence with the little bigot happened just HOURS before I saw Soldier's Girl. I had just witnessed out and out bigotry displayed openly on the internet for all to see. This boy had no shame in his opinion and that is a problem for me. As you can imagine I was completely fired up by the movie's end. Aaron was visibly devastated by the story and the closeness to home, if you will. He didn't sleep that night much and has brought it up to me a few times since then.

How is it that we have the Matthew Shepard Act but no Barry Winchell Act? Is it the military involvement? Is it all just a secret, swept under the rug? This incident did force then-President Bill Clinton to review the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy but it is still in place today as I type this. Barry was not a "gay" man. He fell in love with a woman who had not yet completed her trans "process". Calpernia Addams has since completed her gender reassignment surgery and now lives in LA. She has an on-line diary and remains active in gay rights issues. Reading her words over 10 years after Barry's death you can still feel her pain.
Calpernia Addams as she looks today

I don't understand how someone can serve in our military and defend the rights of others to hate on them but they are not entitled to all of those rights and priveledges themselves. I don't understand how this happened 11 years ago now and I am just now hearing about it. I don't understand how this could happen with so little media attention. I don't understand how my flamingly homosexual friend was there during this time and did such a good job of hiding who he is that he is alive today but Barry was straight and now he is dead. There is so much about this crime that we will never understand. The imporant thing here is to educate ourselves and others against hate and discrimination to that no one ever has to endure what Barry did.

Here is a link to Soldier's Girl:

Click here if you would like to see what happened to the animals that did this to Barry. I caution you, it was not enough.

I am off to write the president...


  1. You know that I agree with you wholeheartedly. And I also don't think you were over the line. (I'd tell you if I did think so.) This is so sad, and I just plain don't get it. Even my right-leaning husband is pro-gay-marriage. I simply can't wrap my head around opinions that disagree with it. I personally think that individual churches should be able to make their own decision. I know lots of churches and religions that would allow it if it was possible. If other religions don't want gay people to get married in their church, that's their choice, but banning all gay marriage is just beyond me. Whoops...I know this post wasn't totally about gay marriage but whenever I get the opportunity to step up on my soapbox about it, I can't help but jump up!

  2. What I realized when I was doing my own soul-searching when it comes to religion and God and sexuality and everything else... but let me back up - when I was in Catholic school we were taught to fear God. That at the age of five we needed to write a prayer asking God to forgive us of our sins. When dad heard this he said "what sins? You're five, you haven't committed any sins. Pray for the starving people in China." So I did.
    As I grew up and asked questions, at one point mom said "I believe in a loving God." I've been questioning everything since I was a kid, because nothing really seemed accurate. Now I know how I feel about it all.
    I believe in a higher being that I call God because nothing has told me what else to call it. I believe that "God" is loving and wants us to live a good life. I believe that people are born who they are - someone is gay, someone is straight, someone may be a woman born in a man's body - sometimes God does make mistakes - 'he' has a lot of souls to manage, it wouldn't surprise me if a soul or few get put in the wrong bodies...
    Anyway - this could be another whole blog post, but yes it's a soapbox for me too Gina! :)

  3. I don't think you were over the line either. I see no reason why we should not upset these homophobes and bigots. Their anger and fear is completely irrational. Mostly it comes from never being around gays.

    I think what they're most afraid of is being wrong. They're afraid that if they're around gays they might actually like them and find that they aren't "icky" or "gross" or any kind of a threat at all.

    I have lots of family and friends in the military. Most of them support repealing DADT, but a few of them worry about the whole process and how disruptive it will be. Understandable, but that process will have to take place at some point, and it's never going to be "the right time" for a lot of these people.