Barry Winchell

barry-winchell.jpgBarry Winchell was born on August 31 1977 in Missouri. He was an infantry soldier in the United States Army, whose murder by a fellow soldier, Calvin Glover, became a point of reference in the ongoing debate about the policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell”.

Winchell enlisted in the Army in 1997 and was transferred in 1998 to Fort Campbell, Kentucky. As a Private First Class, he was assigned to the 2/502nd Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division. While stationed there, he received a Dear John letter from his high school sweetheart. Winchell later accompanied his roommate, SPC Justin Fisher, and other soldiers for an excursion to Nashville's downtown bars. In 1999, Fisher and others took Winchell to a Nashville club, The Connection, which featured transgender performers, where Winchell met a male-to-female transgender showgirl named Calpernia Addams. The two began to date. Fisher began to spread rumors of the relationship at Ft. Campbell. Winchell then became a target of harassment which his superiors did little to stop.

The harassment was continuous until the Fourth of July weekend, when Winchell and fellow soldier, Calvin Glover, fought after Winchell accused Glover of being a fraud. Both were drinking beer throughout the day. Glover was soundly defeated by Winchell, and Fisher harassed Glover about being beaten by "'a fucking faggot'.  Fisher continued to goad Glover. Subsequently, in the early hours of July 5, 1999, Glover took a baseball bat from Fisher's locker and struck Winchell in the head with it as he slept. Winchell died of massive head injuries on July 6 at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Glover was later convicted of Winchell's murder. Fisher was convicted of lesser crimes regarding impeding the subsequent criminal investigation, and both were incarcerated at the United States Disciplinary Barracks. The murder charges against Fisher were dropped and Fisher was sentenced in a plea bargain to 12.5 years, denied clemency in 2003, released to a halfway house in August 2006, and released from custody in October 2006. Glover is serving a life sentence.

Winchell's murder led Secretary of Defense William Cohen to order a review of  "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", which some asserted was a significant factor in Winchell's harassment and murder.

Winchell's parents, Wally and Patricia Kutteles, continued to press for a re-examination of the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy. Lieutenant General Timothy Maude, a point man on LGBT issues for the U.S. Army, visited with Patricia Kutteles. Despite campaigning by the Kutteleses and LGBT activist groups, the Commanding General of Fort Campbell at the time of the murder, Major General Robert T. Clark, refused to take responsibility for the purported anti-gay climate at Fort Campbell under his command. In May 2003, he met with Patricia Kutteles, who opposed his promotion saying: "He doesn't have the command authority or responsibility. The promotion would be another obstacle in the way of everything we have tried to do to honor our son." His promotion to lieutenant general was delayed in October 2002 and May 2003. After being exonerated, he was nominated and approved for promotion to lieutenant general on December 5, 2003.

The 2003 film Soldier's Girl is based on Winchell's murder and the events leading up to it. The film received a Peabody Award and numerous Emmy and Golden Globe nominations and sparked renewed debate of the effects of DADT during Clark's promotion hearings.

LGBT History Month celebrates the achievements of many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who have contributed significantly in several ways to the advancement of our community. Limited by the number of days on the calendar, showcasing every individual who has made a major impact would be difficult. Yet, across decades and eras, revolutions and wars, and discovery and enlightenment, SPART*A honors past and present LGBT figures in our history this month.

 


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