Meet Tammy Smith, America’s First Openly Gay General Officer

Brig. General Tammy Smith and her wife Tracey Hepner

Tammy Smith has been promoted to the rank of brigadier general in a private ceremony today, making her the first openly gay flag officer to come out while serving in the U.S. military. Less than a year after the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Smith — who served in Afghanistan last year — is now the most senior openly gay public military figure.

Smith discussed her promotion with Stars and Stripes, focusing on the honor of the opportunity rather than her sexual orientation:

“All of those facts are irrelevant,” she said. “I don’t think I need to be focused on that. What is relevant is upholding Army values and the responsibility this carries.” […]

Stars and Stripes interviewed Smith last summer before the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal was finalized. Speaking under a pseudonym, she said she had no plans to come out to her colleagues, but was looking forward to the relief of knowing that her career wouldn’t be threatened if she was found out.

Finally my partner and I will be able to go out and have drinks together without worrying,” she said then.

Smith’s promotion marks an important milestone, and while the fight for equality continues, the future is bright for the LGBT military community: The Air Force Academy graduated its first openly gay cadets this past May. For her part, Smith has been extremely humble: “For me, the story is about the promotion and the opportunities it brings.”

Steven Perlberg