Winchell first visited The Connection on a Sunday night in March with his roommate, Fisher. Fisher had been to the bar the previous night and returned to Fort Campbell talking about female impersonators who performed at the club.
On his first visit, Winchell met Cal Addams, a performer who dresses as a woman in everyday life, goes by "Calpernia." and is a pre-op MtF (a pre-operative transsexual from male to female). The two immediately "hit it off," Addams said in an interview, in part because Addams had served in the Navy in the early 1990s. They began dating.
Addams said Winchell was kind and calm and a credit to the Army. "He'd won many awards for marksmanship," Addams said at a memorial service for Winchell last month in downtown Nashville. "He spent hours on his uniform and studied military manuals constantly."
Addams said Winchell told her that he had always struggled with his sexuality and found the gay community in Nashville to be "a place where he could feel comfortable and feel supported."
After Winchell began frequenting the Nashville bar, several of his fellow soldiers began asking him, " 'Is it true you are gay? Is it true you are going to that queer club?' " Addams said.
Winchell never felt threatened, Addams said, but he was uncomfortable with all the questions.
Barry had been dating a pre-op MtF for four months and frequented a gay nightclub in Nashville.
Details of Winchell's last four months also troubled Calpernia Addams, who was Winchell's lover at the time of his death. "Barry endured a lot more harassment than I ever imagined," Addams said. "I wish I could have comforted him and helped him through it."
"Barry had been looking his entire life, he told me, for a way to feel comfortable with himself," Addams said. "He had only just begun to find that."
Winchell's friends also mourn the tragedy that he died just as he was accepting that he was gay.
"Barry was not pretentious or cruel, and Barry was always just a kind, calm gentleman," Addams said, leaning forward slightly at a microphone on the stage of the Centennial Park band shell. "Barry was very new to our community," Addams said of Nashville's gay community. Addams said the slain man told her he "had felt some gay feelings throughout his entire life" but hadn't explored them.
When Winchell began to date Addams and get to know members of Nashville's gay community, Addams said, Winchell "felt like he had finally found a place and group of people that was safe and supportive of him in exploring himself."
It was Fisher, the soldier accused of encouraging the beating who first introduced Winchell to The Connection, a gay nightclub in Nashville, Addams said. Addams said Fisher had already been to the club and talked to his buddies about a female impersonation act Addams performs on stage there.
The next night, Fisher, Winchell and two other soldiers came to the club, Addams said. Addams said she and Winchell hit it off. Winchell had said it was his first relationship with a a pre-op MtF, Addams said.
"Barry told me he assumed that everyone in his company knew that he was involved in a gay relationship."
Then came the harassing questions from other soldiers. "Asking him, are you gay? are you going to that gay bar in Nashville." "The guards would ask him, so have you been to that queer club? Is that where you're coming back from."
Addams says Winchell was worried that so many of his fellow soldiers seemed to know about their relationship. "He didn't tell me what he feared might happen, but he was concerned."
But Addams is worried the military will try to cover up why Winchell was killed. "I don't think the military is investigating every possibility that this could be a hate crime."
Army investigators have questioned Cal Addams. But the army still says there is no concrete evidence the murder of PFC Winchell was an anti-gay hate crime. They do say however that their investigation into every aspect of this crime is continuing.
There is indication that more soldiers were involved in Winchell's murder?
Cal Addams says she has heard from other soldiers on post, that more soldiers
in the barracks heard the beating and did nothing... and may have even egged