Lt. Dan Choi
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Lt. Dan Choi

New York City, New York, United States

New York City, New York, United States
Band Comedy


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The best kept secret in music


"Discharged Gay Veteran Gives Powerful Message at Ohio Union"

Everybody is a "somebody." That was the message Lt. Dan Choi had for students at Ohio State on Monday night.

Choi, a former member of the U.S. Army and an Iraq War veteran, was discharged from the military for breaking the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy when he came out on The Rachel Maddow Show.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell is the military's ban on openly gay and lesbian service members.

Choi spoke to a crowd of about 350 people about his activism in the gay rights movement, his coming out process and the need to stand up for those without a voice.
Choi spoke of his own struggle with being gay in the military, telling the audience that he occasionally made homophobic statements to try to hide it from his fellow service members.

He also shared stories about the inner conflict he faced while trying to create an open and accepting democratic society in Iraq but having to hide a large part of who he was.
Choi said he chose to come out when he did because he met his first boyfriend and fell in love.

"For a long time, I didn't think that romance was for me. That was for straight people," Choi said. He put a humorous twist on it by quoting popular music lyrics about love.
"I understood what Beyonce was saying! ‘Looking so crazy, your love's got me looking, got me looking so crazy in love,'" Choi joked, reciting the lyrics to Beyonce's song "Crazy in Love."

He talked about the challenge of telling his parents, a mother who was set on him marrying a Korean girl and a father who was a Southern Baptist minister. He told his mother first.
"I waited 28 years to say those three words to her: ‘I am gay,'" Choi said. He said he was sure to keep everything in the context of love, which was a focal point of his speech.

Choi encouraged attendees to get involved in the movements for gay and civil rights.
"It's not just about the legal rights," he said. "It's about your somebody-ness."
Choi encouraged the audience to stand and yell, "I am somebody. I deserve full equality right here, right now."

His speech was especially relevant at a time when bullying about sexual orientation has led to suicides and consequent media coverage. Choi addressed the need for acceptance, calling everyone present to act for change.

"How many more have to die?" Choi asked. "You have to show them love. You have to show them they're not alone. You don't have to be gay to do it."

Choi referenced the recent suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, along with several others.
"I wonder how many of the kids ever felt like they were trapped somehow into their own closet of shame. Wherever you are, you must stand up for other people and let it shine," he said, referencing the popular spiritual hymn "This Little Light of Mine."

The event, sponsored by OUAB, was held in connection with GLBT awareness month, recognized in October, said Daniel Walls, lectures chair for OUAB, in an e-mail.
Mary Jo Hudson, director of the Ohio Department of Insurance, presented a proclamation on behalf of Gov. Ted Strickland that Oct. 11 would be recognized as National Coming Out Day in Ohio.

Walls said OUAB felt strongly about bringing Choi because the organization wanted to "enrich the diverse campus atmosphere."
Choi's message seemed to resonate with audience members, who gave him a standing ovation at the end of his speech.
Jamie Gaynes, a third-year in psychology, said she was impressed by his sense of humor and dedication.

"He's definitely had it rough, and the fact that he's able to laugh on the other side is really inspirational," Gaynes said. "This is true activism, and it's not something you see all the time."

Elena Krupa, a third-year in chemistry, said she was impressed by his powerful message.
"It's one of the greatest speeches I've ever heard," Krupa said. "I think people are afraid to come to things like this and stand up for gay people because they don't want people to think they're gay."
But Choi said he feels it is his duty to speak out f - The Lantern

"Lt. Dan Choi Honored in The Advocate's Hall of Fame"

When "don't ask, don't tell" was finally repealed in 2011 and troops began serving openly, many thought of Army National Guard Lt. Dan Choi. For one thing, he'd already caused a ruckus when trying to reenlist.

Numerous soldiers had spoken out, groups had formed to fight for DADT repeal, but Choi knew how to make an impression, whether speaking at rallies or being arrested for handcuffing himself to the gates of the White House in protest. It began when he went on The Rachel Maddow Show in 2009 and came out.

"Only an unflinching commitment to improve the lives of others can determine the nature of one's service," Choi said after the military announced it would honorably discharge him 17 months later. - The Advocate

"Lt. Dan Choi on his arrest in Moscow while protesting the ban on a gay rights parade"

In March 2009, Lt. Choi announced that he was gay on a cable-TV news program and one month later, he was notified that the Army had begun discharge proceedings against him. He was one of only eight soldiers from his graduating class who majored in Arabic. A military board discharged Lt. Choi for violation of "Don't Ask Don't Tell." He had served openly in his infantry unit for over a year while publicly pushing for the repeal of the policy.

On March 19, 2010 Lt. Choi handcuffed himself to the White House fence with fellow gay veteran Captain James Pietrangelo II. The two were arrested and spent the night in prison. They repeated the action on April 20, 2010 with four other veterans including a transgender Navy veteran, Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen. After release, Choi and Pietrangelo pleaded not guilty and a White House stay-away order was imposed until trial. In July 2010 they stood trial and all charges were dropped.

Lt. Choi has served as Grand Marshal of the San Francisco, New York City, Miami, and Wichita LGBT (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender) Pride Parades. He serves on the boards of Marriage Equality USA and the American Foundation for Equal Rights. He is a graduate of the US Army Scout Leaders Course, Air Assault School, Parachutist School, and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Harvard University.
Dan Choi

On Saturday, May 28, 2011, you and other gay rights leaders staged a rally near the Kremlin in response to the Russian government banning a gay pride parade. First, why did the government ban the parade?

Well, I don't speak for Putin or Medvedev as much as they don't speak for my community or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Russian government's decision to silence a peaceful, non-violent expression by their citizens for six years now sends a loud message to the entire world that they oppose the openness and freedom invoked in their official speeches.

There were Russian citizens opposed to the rally. One person ripped up a picture of Elton John?

The week before our planned pride rally, a group of hateful citizens, allied with neo-Nazis, held an anti-gay demonstration in Moscow.

Their messages of homophobia spurred a small group of extremists to violence and remind the Russian people of a bygone era when Nazis turned groups of citizens against each other and sent many communities to death camps.

The several times I was punched in my face I saw both civilian and uniformed agents throwing the punches. When I was kicked I couldn't see the perpetrator. At one point I fell and temporarily lost consciousness but I remember thinking, "These civilian thugs look a lot like military dudes." It is common practice for the police to use civilian agitators to do their dirty work and it is no surprise the anti-gay demonstration had full government support.

So you and others were arrested and detained by Moscow police. What happened? Will you face charges?

No. Unlike in Washington DC, I was not charged, handcuffed, or forced to relinquish my personal effects. In the Washington DC jail, I wasn't able to keep my phone, I couldn't call a lawyer, they confiscated my West Point Ring, they tore off my American flag insignia, and they taunted me.

The Moscow police were physically harsh, and the 18 of our community members have bruises and bleeding to prove it, but the legal penalties were not as harsh as the charges I face in US federal court this summer. The Russians arrested with us will not face charges either.

You're calling on Hillary Clinton to say something about the Russian ban on this freedom of expression. Given all of the international problems the U.S. is facing at the moment, what do you want from the Secretary of State?

I demand consistency. I denounce hypocrisy. We as Americans cannot pretend that our particular form of democracy is perfect while we silence ourselves on matters of basic human dignity in Russia.

When we protest injustice abroad, we show a mirror to the foreign government in order that they might better understand the ugliness of their actions. We also show the ugliness reflected by our own government, as if the mirror were two-sided.

Our democracy is not perfect, and I am mindful that flying back toAmericadid not renew any sense of full citizenship or equality under American law for me. But I am honored to stand with Russians in solidarity against our shared oppression because our battle is for justice, and "justice is not just us."

How repressive or open is Russia to LGBT life today?

On Monday morning, while waiting at downtown Moscow intersections, five guys gave me thumbs up with broad smiles. All of a sudden I didn't feel my bruises and scars but felt a sense of great dignity.

The thousands of gay Russians who filled the Moscow clubs and bars the night we were released form jail might confuse the outside observer: most members of our community in Russia are not openly gay and they avoid controversy for fea - CNN

"Ten Questions for Dan Choi"

Gay rights activist Dan Choi believes the leaders of his movement have been too soft on the President.

During his campaign, President Obama promised to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, the 1993 military law that bans gay troops from openly declaring their sexuality while in service.

But after delaying action on the issue for a year, the President has instructed the Pentagon to take another year and review the implications of a repeal.

In the meantime, the Pentagon has backed off from kicking out soldiers who declare they are gay. Lawmakers too have started conducting hearings about the repeal.

While groups like Human Rights Campaign have applauded these steps, they aren't enough for Choi, who chained himself to the White House fence last month demanding an immediate repeal.

In an interview with, Choi explained why he decided to take a stand now.

What are you hoping to accomplish?

It's very obvious right now that the President is ambivalent. We're making the message absolutely clear that the President must show leadership. Most substantively, the fact is the time for his leadership is right now to put repeal language into the Defense authorization bill.

It is quite clear that if he wants to make good on his promise, the only way to do that is to show that resolve so that it requires any opponents of Don't Ask Don't Tell — opponents from both parties — to garner 60 votes in the Senate to strip it out.

What is it about the stand-alone bill in Congress and the current Pentagon review that are unsatisfactory to you and your group, GetEqual?

You're still going to have people kicked out every day that we wait for this process to continue. There are many problems that we see with just being satisfied with the prospects just because we have a bill now. Many people would have you believe that should be enough and that we should be placated just by the fact that it's there.

For me as a soldier, as long as there are people who are still suffering under Don't Ask Don't Tell and are having to get fired, how can I be satisfied and still consider myself a moral person? How can the President be satisfied either?

With several military leaders backing the repeal, what do you think is stopping the President from taking this step?

I find it very devastating to see that there are people who would even consider political timetables, as it is very clear that this one-year study will delay it just so conveniently to the point that the 2010 elections can happen and then we can see some sort of action.

It's absolutely an insult to the very nature of American society and the fabric of our morality.

As a military officer, you were well positioned to appear as a moderate voice in favor of repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell. Why did you risk seeming like an agitator by chaining yourself to the White House fence?

It's interesting what people would call agitators throughout our history particularly with people who are in the military.

You can certainly take a look at those in the American Revolution and those military officers who perhaps would have been called agitators. [They were] well-respected people who could have easily been basking in the simplicity and the comfort of being a moderate.

Power concedes nothing without a demand. Freedom is never given by the oppressor voluntarily. It must be demanded by those who are oppressed. We as gay soldiers or as gay Americans are at the point of immense frustration. Our demands for equality are not taken seriously.

Groups like Human Rights Campaign and Center for American Progress have been working on this issue for a while. What are those groups not doing that you can provide?

Every group has their what we call in the military their constraints, restraints, capabilities, and limitations.

The role that everybody plays must be founded the unequivocal goal and shared belief that we all deserve full equality now. It’s more than a talking point to me. These are things that all of the soldiers, gay or straight, are willing to give their lives for.

We need to show that these are not simply words by activist groups, that they are not another bullet point on a legislative agenda. It must show really clearly through direct action that we are willing to sacrifice to the point of even giving up our jobs and our benefits and comforts and livelihoods in order to do that.

Our demand as an equal rights movement is missing that strength and resolve in our messaging to the President. For whatever reason, we have been allowing the President to remain silent on this and I think that is an absolute slap in the face to what your country stands for.

Some activists have criticized your tactics, saying that they detract from the progress that has already been made. How do you respond to that?

I find it difficult when people would consider I am on the outside looking in. I am serving currently in the U.S. Armed Forces. I am curr -

"Lt. Dan Choi on His Arrest over DADT"

Lt. Dan Choi, a West Point graduate and fluent Arabist being discharged from the Army for being openly gay, was arrested last week along with former Army captain Jim Pietrangelo II, after handcuffing themselves to the White House gate in protest of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. They were handcuffed with the help of Robin McGehee, a former PTA president turned activist who last week cofounded GetEQUAL, an LGBT activism group inspired by civil-rights organizations and gains made through civil disobedience. "We've held marches, lobbied, manned the phone banks," says McGehee. "The last resort is to rumble." - Newsweek

"Forces Pushing Obama on Don't Ask Don't Tell"

WASHINGTON — President Obama and top Pentagon officials met repeatedly over the past year about repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the law that bans openly gay members of the military.

But it was in Oval Office strategy sessions to review court cases challenging the ban — ones that could reach the Supreme Court — that Mr. Obama faced the fact that if he did not change the policy, his administration would be forced to defend publicly the constitutionality of a law he had long opposed. - New York Times


Still working on that hot first release.



On March 19, 2009, Lt. Dan Choi, a West Point graduate and Iraq veteran fluent in Arabic, announced that he was gay on The Rachel Maddow Show. Because of three words – “I am gay” – Lt. Choi’s life changed forever. Despite his extreme value as an Arabic speaker able to communicate quickly and clearly with the Iraqi people, one month after his announcement Lt. Dan Choi was notified that the Army had begun discharge proceedings against him. He was one of only eight soldiers from his graduating class who majored in Arabic.

At West Point, Lt. Choi recited the Cadet Prayer every Sunday. It taught him to “choose the harder right over the easier wrong” and to “never be content with a half truth when the whole can be won.” The Cadet Honor Code demanded truthfulness and honesty. It imposed a zero-tolerance policy against deception, or hiding behind comfort.

Following the Honor Code isn’t always easy, but honor and integrity are 24-hour values. That is why Lt. Choi refused to lie about his identity.

Lt. Choi served for a decade under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: a policy that forces American soldiers to deceive and lie about their sexual orientation and forces others to tolerate deception and lying. These values are completely opposed to what he learned at West Point. Deception and lies poison a unit and cripple a fighting force.

On June 30, 2009 Lt. Choi stood trial for telling the truth. He appealed (unsuccessfully) to his Commander in Chief, President Barack Obama. At trial, prosecutors presented videos of his public appearances as evidence while Lt. Choi gave his testimony in Arabic. When asked for a translation he wrote his statement in Arabic and English for court record. He also presented over 260,000 support statements from soldiers, citizens, members of congress, Iraqi friends, and his boyfriend. The military board decided to discharge Lt. Choi for violation of "Don't Ask Don't Tell." While the case was appealed to the Secretary of Defense,

Lt. Choi served openly in his infantry unit for over a year while publicly pushing for the repeal of the immoral policy. In October 2009 he was a national co-chair of the March on Washington for LGBT Equality, and laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

On March 19, 2010 Lt. Choi handcuffed himself to the White House fence with fellow gay veteran Captain James Pietrangelo II. The two were arrested and spent the night in prison. They repeated the action on April 20, 2010 with four other veterans including a transgender navy veteran, Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen. After release, Choi and Pietrangelo pleaded not guilty and a White House stay-away order was imposed until trial. In July 2010 they stood trial and all charges were dropped. A week later, Lt. Choi and seven other activists blocked traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard in a protest to secure Employment Non-Discrimination for LGBT Americans. Following his release from prison, he received notification of his honorable discharge under "Don't Ask Don't Tell." He wrote a letter to the Senate Majority Leader, relinquishing his West Point class ring.

Lt. Choi is committed to applying the leadership lessons he learned at West Point. He helped form Knights Out, an organization of West Point alumni advocating for the rights of gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.
Lt. Choi is an inspiration to soldiers and veterans who feel isolated, alone, and even suicidal because the torment of rejection and discrimination. His leadership training taught him that soldiers cannot feel alone, especially in combat. Leaders must reach out. They can never diminish the fighting spirit of a soldier by tolerating discrimination and isolation. Leaders respect the honor of service. Respecting each soldier’s service is his personal promise.

After a final arrest at the White House on November 15, 2010, Choi attended the bill signing that would repeal "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and restore the honor of service to millions of American veterans.