Lt Dan Choi Evokes Love, Courage for National Coming Out Day

PFC Hugo Valencia and Lt. Dan Choi

Lt. Dan Choi spoke at Cal State Northridge Tuesday night for National Coming Out Day. Wow. Wow. Wow. His speech took us from the Triangle of Death in Iraq to his parents’ home in Orange County, California and back again, through his falling in love for the first time at age 27 to his split with his Southern Baptist parents; heart wrenching stories, witty asides, skillful humor and pop culture references aligned alongside the poetry of al-Mutanabbi and quotations from the Bible and Christian scholars, giving the audience a full look at Dan’s life during and after his coming out, his experiences under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and since its repeal, as well as orating with beauty and grace the reasons for coming out as LGBT. Or as a straight ally.

I was typing as fast as could–no video was allowed, though CSPAN did record the event. The president of CSUN’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Alliance, Hugo Valencia introduced Lt. Choi. A private first class in the National Guard who joined at 17, Hugo who stood proudly on stage last night in his uniform, came out when DADT was repealed.

Lt Choi began his speech by telling us that he was proud to stand before us in his uniform

to tell all of you this uniform is now the uniform of all Americans.

He also honored the memory of activist Frank Kameny, who served in World War II and led the fight for gay rights since the early 1960s,  who died yesterday, but lived to see the repeal of DADT.

Lt. Choi’s wry exhortation to the non-LGBT in the audience was met with laughter and applause:

It’s is time for all you straight people to come out as allies. Gays wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for heterosexuals. You literally gave birth to us!

Lt. Choi’s skill as an orator and his roots in the Southern Baptist Church (his father is a minister who started several congregations and worked as missionary) shone as he took us through the six months he spent living with his parents after coming out, his father repeatedly telling him that homosexuality was the number one sin. Lt. Choi countered with:

Love they neighbor as thyself.  Love they neighbor as you love yourself.  Gay people are blessed to be able to show how important love is…

Honor thy father and mother, honor them by telling them the truth, do not bear false witness…I am not going to let someone I love die being a homophobe. Love them to teach them. Under all that hatred is a loving spirit.

Lt. Choi then lead us in a powerful call and response:

I am somebody! I am somebody! I am somebody!  I deserve full equality! Now!

and referenced the Occupy movement as an example of people who are standing up and saying

I am somebody!

After his speech, Lt. Choi took questions from the audience, responding to one

Prince William invited his best friend from his unit to his wedding. His best friend who is transgendered and undergoing gender reassignment paid for by the British armed forces…I am queer inclusive. That is what America fights for, freedom and justice. Yes, I am a queer activist. I learned as an activist why I fought. These skills are transferable. My being a soldier has made me a better activist, and my being an activist has made me a better soldier.

At the reception afterwards, Lt. Choi spoke with students and faculty members, posed for photos with veterans and active members who attend CSUN, as well as with members of Gamma Rho Lambda, the campus’ queer sorority.

This was one of the most inspirational and profound speeches I have ever heard. As soon as I get the link from CSPAN I will post it up.

Lt Choi poses with CSUN veterans.

With Gamma Rho Lamda members

 

Photo 1 courtesy of PFC Hugo Valencia, photos 2 & 6: John Saringo, CSUN

Dan Choi, Constance McMillen, Judy Shepard: NYC Pride Grand Marshals

(photo: kurafire)

Three faces of Pride will ride as Grand Marshals in this year’s New York City Pride March, June 27:

Judy Shepard, mother of hate-slain gay teen Matthew Shepard, co-founded with her husband Dennis the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which is dedicated to working toward the causes championed by Matthew during his life: social justice, diversity awareness and education, and equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Lt. Dan Choi, West Point graduate and Iraq veteran fluent in Arabic, received a notice of  discharge from the United States Army for announcing “I am gay” on the Rachel Maddow show, a direct challenge to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. (That discharge is still classified as “pending.”) A  tireless champion of equal rights, Lt. Choi was recently arrested for chaining himself to the White House fence during a demonstration for LGBT rights.

Constance McMillen, who wanted to wear a tuxedo and take her girlfriend to the prom at her Mississippi high school. When those rights were denied by the administration at Itawamba Agricultural High School, McMillen’s case was taken up by the ACLU, and a federal judge ruled that Constance’s rights were violated. While the school went ahead and organized a prom, the majority of her classmates attended a private “dance party” several miles away. Previously, Constance had stood up for the rights of trans classmate Juin Baize.

Dan Choi, Others Arrested at White House DADT Protest

Lt Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo both of whom campaigned againt Dont Ask Don’t Tell were arrested–in uniform–as they were chained to the White House’s north fence. Also arrest was Robin McGehee, co-chair of GetEqual.org.

Towelroad reports:

According to Tweets from Robin McGehee at GetEqual reporting from the Kathy Griffin – Human Rights Campaign “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rally, McGehee, who is traveling with Lt. Dan Choi, asked Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese if Choi could speak at the rally and he rebuffed her, telling her it was Kathy Griffin’s rally. Choi took the stage anyway, told Griffin DADT is not a joke, and announced that he was marching to the White House. Choi then began leading hundreds on a march to the White House.

DC Agenda takes up the story from there

Choi encouraged Griffin and Joe Solmonese, HRC’s president, to join him as he and others walked to the White House to protest the law against open service. Neither Griffin nor Solmonese joined him, but part of the rally crowd followed Choi to the White House.

Shortly after Choi and Pietrangelo arrived at the White House, they chained themselves to the fence, an action that drew a fast response from Secret Service personnel. Some agents quickly pushed the crowd of about 50 protesters away from the White House fence and into the street, and others erected yellow police tape around the area. About seven agents stayed behind the tape with Choi and Pietrangelo.

At around this time, McGehee was arrested near the White House fence. The basis for her arrest was not immediately clear.

The agents cut Choi and Pietrangelo free after an hour and arrested them.

I wish Kathy Griffin had the guts to chain herself to the White House fence…

There’s more at Pam’s Houseblend.


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