When Republican congressmen tried to argue that the U.S. Navy is weak because a nonbinary officer, Lt. Audrey Knutson, read a poem on a ship, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday stood up for Knutson.
At issue was a video of Knutson that was shared on the U.S. Navy’s Instagram last week where they said that they were proud to join the Navy and serve on the USS Gerald R. Ford because of their grandfather, who was gay and had a “difficult service” during World War II. They said that one of the best moments of their first deployment was reading a poem during an LGBTQ+ spoken word night.
This went viral on the right. “While China prepares for war, this is what they have our US Navy focused on,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who never served in the military, tweeted.
Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) – despite Rubio’s complaint that the poetry reading was a waste of time – brought up the video in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday, saying he had “a lot of problems” with the video.
“I hope we train our officers to prioritize their sailors, not themselves,” he said, as if there’s something bizarre about a military officer doing something they want to do. “Did it surprise you that a junior officer said the highlight of her deployment – her first, and the ship’s first – was about herself and her own achievement?”
“I’ll tell you why I’m particularly proud of this sailor,” Adm. Gilday responded. “Her grandfather served during World War II, and he was gay, and he was ostracized in the very institution that she not only joined and is proud to be a part of, but she volunteered to deploy on Ford. And she’ll likely deploy again next month when Ford goes back to sea.”
“Sir, we ask people from all over the country, from all walks of life, from all different backgrounds to join us, and then it’s the job of a commanding officer to build a cohesive warfighting team,” he continued. “That little trust that a commanding officer develops across that unit has to be grounded on dignity and respect.”
Transgender people have been allowed to openly serve in the U.S. armed forces since 2021, when President Joe Biden’s Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ended the previous administration’s ban on trans people in the military.
“If you can meet all the other requirements, physical fitness and your academics, and all the other requirements to enlist in a branch of the armed forces, transgender identity will not be a bar,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said at a February 5, 2021 press conference.