BOULDER – Prominent gay rights activist Lt. Dan Choi delivered an impassioned speech to hundreds of CU students on Thursday, offering his personal story on the military’s “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” gays in the military policy.
“The transition from a military leader to a gay activist leader is not something everyone gets to experience,” said Choi. “Although my journey has not been easy, I have never felt more free than I am now.”
One month after Choi publicly announced his homosexuality on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show in March 2009, the military began formal discharge proceedings against him, resulting in his expulsion from the military in June.
Choi is a West Point graduate who is fluent in both Arabic and Korean. Choi is one of 59 Arabic translators who have been discharged from the military under DADT from 2004 to 2009, according to Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
“We could sit here all day and talk about the numbers, 13,000 that have been kicked out, and so many more who leave each year because they can’t deal with lying. We could talk about $1.3 billion dollars,” said Choi. “We could talk about the entire waste of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell but I think it’s a little boring to talk about numbers.”
The majority of Choi’s speech centered not on politics or numbers but rather on the key events in his life that landed him where he is today.
CU Cultural Event Board Chair Caroline Clark helped coordinate the event in order to “raise awareness on campus and provide an educational forum so that students can form their own opinions.”
After speaking to audience, Choi held a Q & A with students in which he criticized both major parties and prominent politicians for not repealing DADT.
Sen. John McCain received strict condemnation from Choi for his shifting positions in blocking repeal.
“McCain is dishonoring our country,” said Choi.
The event came as the repeal of DADT is picking up steam in the Senate after a Pentagon report concluded that allowing gays to serve in the military presents a low risk to military effectiveness.
Today Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., became the second Republican to announce his support for the conditional language in the defense budget bill legislation that would repeal DADT.
Openly gay Colorado Representative Jared Polis who has been a strong supporter of repeal, went on the Ed Show Thursday to criticize McCain and other GOP senators opposing repeal.
“I hope we can get this thing done and I hope McCain doesn’t stand in the way,” Polis said. “This is just a stigma that maybe just a few old white senators have but the men and women of the military are long past this.”
At the event, Choi also spoke to the wave of homophobic bullying that has resulted in suicides during the past year and connected them to DADT.
“Our courage is the only thing that can stop these suicides from happening and that courage is saying something.”