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H/T to Mysteron for sending me this story, which I'd somehow missed. I took a look, and it seems it was covered in yesterday's Cheers and Jeers, but I think it deserves its own diary, because it's a pretty big deal.

Last Friday, Tammy Smith made history. After a 26-year military career, including a tour in Afghanistan, the Oakland, Oregon, native was promoted to brigadier general. Her wife, Tracey Hepner, pinned the star on her uniform, making Smith the first openly gay general in American history.

But her identification as lesbian, to Smith, is irrelevant.

All of those facts are irrelevant. I don't think I need to be focused on that. What is relevant is upholding Army values and the responsibility this carries.
She's right, of course. But, on the other hand, it is a big deal, and a tangible reminder of the sweeping progress made in the military after the repeal of DADT.

When Smith joined the military 26 years ago, it was obviously completely out of the question for her to be out. This moment must have seemed impossible to her. That all changed when President Obama signed the repeal of DADT and the military finally did away with its ban on openly gay and lesbian service members. From the NPR story on Smith's promotion:

But she explains the historic moment by focusing on its simplicity.

In an interview with Talk of Nation guest host Lynn Neary, she said the moment has been spun as her coming out. But she says that when the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" came down on Sept. 20, she didn't run out to tell everyone she was gay.

The moment, she said, "doesn't even feel to me as I came out ... it was more about the recognition of family and that Tracey is in fact my family."

Smith explained that before the repeal of DADT, she had compartmentalized her family life and her work life. When she was promoted to colonel, she held a separate, smaller celebration in which Tracey could be present without the fear that her relationship could get her discharged from the Army.

That changed with this promotion. There was one celebration, and all of her family was present. Says Smith:
I felt full, authentic and complete performing that ceremony with my family.
The Douglas County, Oregon, News-Review story linked above also notes Smith's double-minority status as a lesbian general in the Army:
Smith was already a minority within the general ranks. Among the nearly 500,000 men and women in the Army, there are 115 active-duty generals. Only 10 are women.

Smith told The News-Review in May that she never expected to reach the rank of general.

“The statistics are against a person getting selected,” she said. “I feel honored the Army is entrusting me with this position.”

Good on Smith for this honor. This is what progress looks like. It might be fitting to end with what Bill in Portland Maine had to say in his Cheers and Jeers write-up of this story:
For those of you keeping score, the number of dire predictions made by conservatives in the wake of Don't Ask, Don’t Tell's demise that have come even partially true: zero. Well, except for LESBIANS BECOMING GENERALS BWOO HA HAAA!!!

Originally posted to Chrislove on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 02:29 PM PDT.

Also republished by Angry Gays, Milk Men And Women, LGBT Kos Community, and Military Community Members of Daily Kos.

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