The U.S. Navy’s top admiral has defended a nonbinary service member against criticism from Republican politicians, and his remarks have been captured in a now-viral TikTok video.
At a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting Tuesday, Republican U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama took issue with statements made by Lt. JG Audrey Knutson. In an Instagram video shared by the Navy last week, Knutson, who is nonbinary, said the highlight of their deployment last fall on the USS Gerald R. Ford, an aircraft carrier, was reading a poem to all their shipmates at an LGBTQ+ spoken word night.
“Does it surprise you that a junior officer says the highlight of her deployment, her first and the ship’s first, was about herself and her own achievement?” Tuberville asked Adm. Michael Gilday, chief of naval operations, according to video shared by Vice News.
Gilday defended Knutson. “I’ll tell you why I’m particularly proud of this sailor,” Gilday said. “So, 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.”
“We ask people from all over the country, from all walks of life, from all different backgrounds to join us,” he continued, “and then it’s the job of a commanding officer to build a cohesive warfighting team that’s going to follow the law, and the law requires that we be able to conduct prompt, sustained operations at sea. That level of trust that a commanding officer develops across that unit has to be able to be grounded on dignity and respect, and so … if that officer can lawfully join the United States Navy, is willing to serve and willing to take the same oath that you and I took to put their life on the line, then I’m proud to serve beside them.”
In a recent viral video, a non-binary member of the US Navy, Audrey Knutson, shared that reading a Pride poem was their proudest moment to serve, which drew criticism from a GOP senator. The criticism was shut down by a US Navy admiral. #tommytuberville #alabama #usnavy #navy #sailor #usarmy
Although both Tuberville and Gilday used female pronouns for Knutson, the officer’s chosen pronouns are nonbinary, Navy officials told CNN.
Knutson had also been criticized by another Republican senator, Marco Rubio of Florida, who last week tweeted a clip from Knutson’s Instagram video with the comment “While China prepares for war this is what they have our @USNavy focused on.” Rubio received several negative responses, such as “Denigrating an active duty American? Really gross stuff little Marco.”
Meanwhile, the video of Gilday’s defense of Knutson, shared by Vice News, has received more than 90,000 likes.