Do Ask, Do Tell

Lt. Daniel Choi Speaks for National Coming Out Month

So many gays packed into one church, and the only one on fire was Lt. Daniel Choi.

The walls of Hendricks Chapel echoed with the rallying boom of Choi’s voice on Thursday for the Syracuse University LGBT Resource Center’s annual Coming Out Month lecture.

The Army lieutenant shared his comical yet heartwrenching “coming out” story from his experience with his Korean American family, along with his announcement as a gay soldier on the Rachel Maddow Show last March, which eventually led to his discharge from the Army. After two standing ovations and audience questions from a former lesbian soldier, a gay Iraqi and others, the silent crowd still hung on his every word. By the evening’s end, I was ready to march into battle with him – not to war, but to Washington.

Choi packed a powerful message: members of the LGBT community must stop waiting for the right time to come out and claim their rights. He said he is tired of people arguing that since the government is busy tackling bigger issues, gay rights can quietly take a back seat.

“I believe that we have a mindset of slavery within the LGBT community,” Choi said. “Why should we wait and how can we wait when there are partners of lesbian and gay soldiers right now who don’t know if their partner who is deployed overseas is going to survive until tomorrow? And if they don’t survive, who will notify them?..How can we wait when more than half of all the homeless youth are LGBT youth who have been kicked out of their families?”

Overturning Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the government’s policy concerning gays in the military, is a major issue for Choi. He recently helped form Knights Out, an organization of West Point alumni advocating for the rights of homosexuals to serve openly in the military. During the lecture at SU, Choi was quick to point out the hypocritical values of the Army, which teaches before anything else, “a cadet never lies.” Unless of course that cadet is gay – then by all means, lie.

To further illustrate how important it is that gays and lesbians stop waiting, the West Point grad told a personal anecdote, recalling a meeting with his father just three weeks ago. He thought it would take decades for his parents to accept his homosexuality (and his own sister had suggested he wait until his parents’ deaths), his father came to terms with it in only 10 months.

“He said, ‘I love you, and you are my son, and I accept you as my gay son,’” Choi said. “What if I’d taken my sister’s suggestion and waited a decade? Would we be here right now?”

Since his coming out, Choi has continued to speak against the heteronormative establishment and recruit his own army of determined followers. And damn it, where do I sign up? Image courtesy of

Meghan Russell is a regular web contributor to Pride Fever