North Texas Daily

LGBT activist Dan Choi engages audience of 300 at UNT

LGBT activist Dan Choi engages audience of 300 at UNT

LGBT activist Dan Choi engages audience of 300 at UNT
February 11
16:05 2014

Steven James // Staff Writer

Veteran Dan Choi visited UNT on Monday night to give a lecture about his personal experiences as a gay man in the U.S. army and his work to help remove “Don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) from military policy.

As part of UNT’s Distinguished Lecture Series, the LGBT rights and veterans’ health activist talked to an audience of about 300 people in the Gateway Center Ballroom, focusing on his years in the military and his personal views on issues many LGBT people face today.

Choi, a West Point graduate, served as an Arabic translator in the U.S. Army in Iraq from 2006 to 2007. He announced that he was gay on a March 2009 episode of the Rachel Maddow Show and received his discharge policy one month later.

Choi began by describing missions in Iraq and what he heard and saw while serving in the military. He then talked about his main concern regarding DADT.

“If gay people are not equal in this country, then straight people are not equal in this country,” Choi said. “Thus, the American Dream is not realized.”

Choi said falling in love made him realize how DADT threatened commitment and the concept of intimacy, which he did not previously understand.

“I finally got what the songs on the radio were about, with Beyoncé singing, ‘Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh,’” he said. “This love was for me too.”

Choi said his decision to come out as a gay man was because of his mother, who would often ask him about marriage plans. He stayed home for six months after making the announcement to his parents, helping them properly deal with the news.

Before he told his parents he was gay, Choi’s sister told him to wait a few years and ease them into it, instead of shocking and possibly angering them — something he strongly disagreed with.

“Nobody tells you what time you are equal,” Choi said. “It’s not nine robes at the Supreme Court telling you at what time you are equal. That time doesn’t start until you tell them.”

Choi concluded his speech with his hopes for future LGBT activists.

“The young, gay people in colleges are not just doing the foot soldier thing, they are creating the philosophy and the vocabulary for other people to come,” Choi said.

The speech was followed by a question and answer session where audience members told Choi about their personal LGBT experiences and asked for his views on LGBT rights in other countries.

Emergency administration and planning sophomore Savanna Depew said she enjoyed the speech.

“I feel like gays in the military are not only good on a personal level, but a political level as well,” she said.

Biology freshman Eric Duran said he thought Choi was “amazing.”

“I loved all his viewpoints,” Duran said. “This is a good take on activism.”

Feature photo: Lt. Dan Choi speaks to students about his experience of coming out in the military before “Don’t ask don’t tell” was revoked at the Gateway Center Ballroom on Monday night . Photo by Dana Pisciottano / Intern Photographer 

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