**UPDATE:Lt. Dan Choi has been invited to be among the witnesses as President Barack Obama signs the DADT repeal on Wednesday morning at the Department of Interior in Washington, D.C.
Lt. Dan Choi, one of the nation’s most vocal gay ex-Army soldiers, tells dot429 about his reaction to the repeal of DADT (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell), the new age of gay activism, his recent hospitalization and his future.
Choi’s face and name have become nearly synonymous with the fight against DADT. Choi emphasizes that the repeal of DADT is not simply a triumph for the LGBT community, but for civil rights. He says, “there are few people who get to put in all this effort and see the benefit from the rewards of their labor. We know that it’s a civil rights historic event, not only for gay civil rights, but for overall civil rights. Our work is not just for us, but as we take down the wall of our oppression, it really lowers the walls of other people’s as well.”
While Choi admits that he will not be invited to the White House bill signing and has never been asked by SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network) to speak at a press conference, he explains, “I prefer not to be there at this point. It is not out of bitterness; it is really out of my soldier’s instinct. To seek recognition and fame is counter to the ideals of service.”
There are many opinions surrounding Dan Choi’s role in the repeal of DADT. As a grassroots advocate, Choi believes his role is integral to the cause. “My role has changed a lot and it has confused a lot of people… my activism has turned into something of being a lightning rod for the attention to DADT nationally and internationally. I saw myself and my role as a media whore.” That is not far from what Choi aspires his legacy to be, telling dot429, “I would like to be seen as somebody who made enough trouble and agitated enough that people could not ignore the situation anymore. That would be the feather in my cap.”
Despite being a central public figure in gay activism, Choi, who came out of the closet two years ago, suffers from the same issues that plague many people when they come out. “I’m not fully part of the gay community. I am very new to the gay community. As a military person, it was very difficult for me to embrace the diversity of our entire movement, but I quickly had to because they were embracing me. At the same time, I am not fully there as far as feeling as if I am a solid part of the community. I feel like I am a solid part of the movement, but not the community.”
While Choi believes the repeal is great news, he insists there is still a lot more work that needs to be done. He says, “If this certification drags, I have no problem starting a Supreme Court case. I intend to go on the Federal level and augment the other cases. We cannot let up on the pressure.”
Last Friday morning, Choi was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with Combat PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). He explains, “I was suicidal and I finally dealt with it. I finally said that it got to be too much.” According to Choi his suicidal thoughts are a composite of coming out to his family and the world, not having people he can trust, and not seeking therapy when he returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. “I am medicated,” Choi says, “I am on a medication to help me sleep and to deal with my anxiety attacks.” He further explains, ” I have a recurring nightmare of Iraqi men with no hands and no heads asking me to help them out.”
As the movement propels forward and the LGBT community continues to push towards equality on all levels, Choi is trying to “learn to balance [his]fervor with [his]human needs.”
“I found a truth throughout this year that I might not have seen when I first started: action and sacrifice speaks much more loudly than the best crafted, eloquent speech.” With that said, Choi offhandedly mentions, “the Libertarian party has asked me to run for Senate, because I am old enough in 2012.” While Choi will not confirm whether he will run, he reiterates his dedication to equal rights, stating, “success for me would be to deeply fall in love again, have a family, and really become something of a professor without portfolio for equal rights.”