General: Gay Pride is About Authenticity, Meritocracy
An official Navy article documented a US military “gay pride” event at Patuxent River, Maryland, on June 2nd that was hosted by BrigGen Tammy Smith — the “first openly gay US general.” While some have said the concept of “gay pride” celebrates sexuality by its very nature, BrigGen Smith said it wasn’t about people’s personal lives [emphasis added]:
Pride is not about anyone’s personal life; it’s a celebration of authenticity. We celebrate pride because we value being a meritocracy, because we want to be an organization that attracts and retains the best talent…We celebrate pride because no one has the right to tell others who they should be or who they should not be.
Gen Smith did not elaborate, so it’s unclear how she views “lesbian, gay, and bisexual pride” correlating with the military’s emphasis on merit.
Her final sentence was somewhat ironic, because the US military is one of the only US government agencies that can explicitly tell people “who they should be or who they should not be” — at least, if they want to serve in the military.
In her outreach work, Smith speaks to people at the installation level and sometimes at commands and other agencies.
Her audiences learn the observance of LGBT pride isn’t about orientation, the general said. It’s about “who we are and who our families are,” she said, noting that she tells her personal story so others know what it was like to live under DADT and how the repeal changed her life.
“I hope it validates individuals who have lived through it,” she says of her work. She also hopes her outreach work will help DoD keep up with the rapid pace of change, she added.
As an interesting aside, it is worth noting that General Smith’s speech about her sexuality and her career garnered essentially no notice, and certainly no criticism. By contrast, when another General spoke with “pride” about his Christian faith, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s call for court-martial was loud enough to be picked up by the national media. In that case, the Air Force finally issued a statement that General Craig Olson was expressing his personal opinions, as he was allowed to do. Interestingly, the Air Force made a point of adding that Olson’s opinions on his Christian faith
do not represent the views of the United States Air Force.
Photo caption: Addressing an audience of approximately 150 employees across NAVAIR, Brig. Gen. Tammy Smith…spoke as part of NAVAIR’s first Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Month event June 2. (U.S. Navy photo)