Barry Winchell was 21 and an infantry soldier in the U.S. Army when a fellow serviceman murdered him for dating his transgendered significant other.
Prior to the brutal slaying, Winchell was called a “faggot,” a “queer,” and “homo” frequently by his fellow soldiers.
But the harassment escaladed into murder on the Fourth of July weekend of 1999. Winchell was fast asleep in his in his barracks when Pvt. Calvin Glover began to beat Winchell to death with a baseball bat.
According to the New York Times, “Winchell’s face was unrecognizable, with his eyes swollen shut and his head cracked open.”
Glover was 18 at the time, but will serve a life sentence behind bars.
Winchell was certainly not the first person to die due to intolerance, and regrettably, he won’t be the last.
Since 1999, society has not changed its stance on the transgendered community, and neither has the U.S. Army, which despite the recent appeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), does not allow transgendered individuals to openly serve in the military.
Section 35 of the Standards of Medical Fitness for the U.S. Army prohibits any individual from serving who has “transsexual, gender identity disorder to include major abnormalities or defects of the genitalia such as change of sex or a current attempt to change sex.”
The document justifies the Army’s position: “These conditions render an individual administratively unfit rather than unfit because of physical illness or medical disability.”
Previously, the Standard of Medical Fitness classed transsexualism as a paraphilia. According to a study from 2007 by Dr. Tarynn M. Witten, this fallacy “further stigmatizes those individuals who do so identify, and perpetuates the military’s rigid sense of binary sexual difference and idealization of the masculine body.”
This was an important correction in military standards, but much more change is needed.
Yes, the acceptance of transsexuals in the military would require restructuring, but according to Witten, other countries including Canada, Israel, the Czech Republic, Spain and Thailand allow transsexuals to serve in the military.
Rather than accept all people who are willingly and eager to serve their country, the U.S. army simply classifies transsexual as “administratively unfit.”
This should not be tolerated, and some institutions aren’t tolerating it anymore.
Previously at Brown University, “no ROTC officer could hold faculty status and that no ROTC units could carry Brown credit.” This ban was in part due to the discrimination of the LGBT community by the military. After the repeal of DADT, a community at Brown reviewed its position.
In an open letter from Brown University President Ruth J. Simmons stated, “We must do all in our power as an institution to carry the message to Congress, the executive branch and the military establishment that the policy barring transgender individuals from military service must be changed.”
Other institutions need to do more for the equality of the transgendered community.
While not every institution should bar the ROTC, more institutions need to embrace awareness weeks like the one held at Western.
The more people talk about the injustices faced by transgendered individuals, the less likely it is that another person will get beaten to death out of hate.