Disciplining Gender: Rhetorics of Sex Identity in Contemporary U.S. Culture

By John M. Sloop | Go to book overview

FIVE
In Death, a Secret “Finally and Fully Exposed”
Barry Winchell, Calpernia Addams, and the Crystallization of
Gender and Desire

If people insist on appropriating this corpse by locating it definitively within any particular identity category, they must explain away multiple inconsistencies, ambiguities, and ambivalences in self-identification, self-explanation, behavior, and presentation by using concepts of denial, repression, fear, and internalized prejudice and shame that all tend to dismiss the agency of the subject once animated in that dead flesh.

C. Jacob Hale, “Consuming the Living, Dis(re)membering the Dead”

The July 5, 1999, murder of U. S. Army private Barry Winchell at Fort Campbell, near Clarksville, Tennessee, seemed to provide the same narrative elements that surrounded the ongoing Brandon Teena story, at least as retold in Boys Don't Cry. Indeed, given the lengthy “true” accounts presented in Rolling Stone, Time, the Advocate, and the New York Times Magazine, in local newspapers, and on television, and given the film projects that were initiated by Turner Network Television, Showtime (Soldier's Girl), and a number of independent film production companies, 1 it seems clear that the “gender trouble” of this case, much like that of the Brandon Teena case, piqued the interest of a wide variety of people, raising multiple questions concerning gender and sexuality. That the story was indeed rehearsed through a number of different narrative frames, and that a number of sometimes contradictory positions emerged with regard to numerous elements of the case— especially the “meaning” of the two main characters, Barry Winchell and Calpernia Addams—makes this a story ripe for critical analysis. Again, in light of the obviously gender-troubling elements of the case, its wide coverage, and its partial location within the hypermasculine context of the U. S. Army, it is clearly a site for critical intervention, for

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