Former Army 1st Lt. Dan Choi stressed the necessity for independent creation of one’s identity, especially for those of the LGBT community, during a speech Thursday night at Mitten Hall.
“It’s not for a politician or nine judges to decide who I am,” he said. “I am the one who gets to define my identity.”
Choi, a West Point graduate who’s fluent in Arabic and served in Iraq, said that after announcing he was gay on national television, he was discharged from the Army due to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in place at the time.
This federal government policy was started in 1993 and prevented gays from serving openly in the military. It was repealed in December 2010 and eventually took effect in September 2011.
Choi spoke of his activism and protesting to help bring about this change. Throughout the speech, he repeated the phrase which he and other supporting activists chanted during their protests outside the White House: “I am somebody.”
Multiple times during these protests, Choi was arrested, but was recently found guilty for one of these arrests for “failing to obey the order of a law enforcement officer” on Nov. 15, 2010. He said he plans to appeal the verdict.
“It’s unfortunate it had to happen that way,” Choi said, “but it takes a fight to change things.”
He broke down the challenges he sees ahead including a cultural and mental change which needs to happen in America to reach true equality. He also said that policy protecting transgender soldiers is the next step, following in the model of foreign militaries.
Choi later explained his biggest challenge wasn’t coming out on national television, but was telling his parents, who he described as strongly against homosexuality. However, he is still optimistic.
“Love will always be worth fighting for,” he said. “Let it shine.”
Marcus McCarthy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.