Barry Winchell (31 August 1977â€”6 July 1999) was a soldier in the United States Army, whose murder by fellow soldiers became a point of reference in the ongoing debate about the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy enforced by the military regarding sexual orientation.
Life and Murder
A native of Missouri, 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 heavy gunnery. While stationed at Fort Campbell, he would go to Nashville with his roommate, Justin Fisher. In 1999] Fisher took Winchell to a Nashville club featuring transgender performers, and Winchell met a male-to-female transgendered showgirl named Calpernia Addams. The two began seeing each other regularly, and Fisher began spreading rumors of the relationship on base. Winchell then became a target of ongoing harassment, but he was afraid to report it out of fear that he would be perceived as homosexual.
The harassment escalated until Fourth of July weekend, when Fisher goaded another soldier, Calvin Glover, into beating Winchell with a baseball bat as he slept in the early hours of 5 July 1999. Winchell died of massive internal injuries on 6 July. Both Fisher and Glover were later convicted for their roles in the crime and are currently incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth. Fisher was sentenced in a plea bargain to 12.5 years (and was denied clemency in 2003) and Glover is serving a life sentence.
Winchell's murder led President Bill Clinton to order a review of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which many believe contributed to Winchell's being killed by other soldiers. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network was a prominent critic of how the policy was implemented, and they demanded to know who, in higher ranks, was responsible for the climate on base.
Winchell's parents, Wally and Patricia Kutteles, as well as Addams, continue to press for a re-examination of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Despite campaigning by the Kutteleses, Addams, 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 anti-gay climate at Fort Campbell under his command. He was nominated and approved for promotion to Lieutenant General on 5 December 2003.
The 2003 film Soldier's Girl is based on Winchell's relationship with Addams and the events that led up to his death. It went on to receive a Peabody Award and numerous Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, and caused some people to discuss the effects of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
- Barry Winchell memorial page
- Thomas Hackett. The Execution of Private Barry Winchell: The Real Story Behind the "Donâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tell" Murder. Rolling Stone, 2 March 2000.
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