Choi is a native of Orange County, California, the son of a Korean-American Baptist minister. He graduated from Tustin High School then attended the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Choi was very active with extracurriculars during his high school years. He served as student body president, was on the varsity swim team, and was the marching band drum major. During his senior year, after watching Saving Private Ryan, he decided to attend West Point.
Choi graduated from West Point in 2003 with degrees in Arabic and environmental engineering. Choi served as an infantry officer in Iraq with the 10th Mountain Division in 2006 and 2007. In June 2008, he transferred from active duty Army to the New York National Guard. Choi served as a National Guardsman with the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry, based in Manhattan.
Choi received a discharge letter following his coming out on The Rachel Maddow Show. In response, Choi penned an open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama and the United States Congress. In the letter, Choi challenged the morality and wisdom of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, writing that the policy is "a slap in the face to me. It is a slap in the face to my soldiers, peers and leaders who have demonstrated that an infantry unit can be professional enough to accept diversity, to accept capable leaders, to accept skilled soldiers."
Despite his appeal and a Courage Campaign petition signed by almost 162,000 people, on June 30, 2009, a panel of New York National Guard officers recommended that Choi be discharged from the military. As of February 2010, Choi was serving again in his National Guard reserve unit, the discharge having not yet been "finalized". On June 29, 2010, Choi's discharge was finalized.
Choi is among 59 gay Arabic linguists, along with nine gay Farsi linguists, who have faced a discharge from the U.S. military from 2004 through 2009, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
Since Choi's coming out, 38 West Point alumni also came out and announced the formation of Knights Out, an organization of West Point alumni who support the rights of LGBT soldiers to serve openly. Choi was one of the founding members and is the spokesperson for the group. The organization offers "to help their alma mater educate future Army leaders on the need to accept and honor the sacrifices of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender troops."
Choi has also spoken at numerous gay rights events, including a march in Los Angeles following the California Supreme Court's affirmation of Proposition 8. On May 27, 2009, he addressed a demonstration of gay activists outside the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where President Barack Obama was speaking at a Democratic National Committee fund raising event. In addition, Choi spoke at the 2009 Pride Rally in New York City and served as a Grand Marshal alongside Knights Out in San Francisco's 2009 Gay Pride Parade.
On July 16, 2009, Choi was in Culver City, California, to introduce the premiere of Abe Forman-Greenwald's documentary called Silent Partners. The documentary is the fourth episode in the In Their Boots series, with the episode focusing on the partners of LGBT soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. In the episode, Choi criticizes the U.S. military's neglect of the partners of service members.
In February 2010 Choi was selected to be a Grand Marshal of the 41st Annual New York LGBT Pride March by its producers, Heritage of Pride. At the event, Choi led the Pledge of Allegiance at the New York City Council Chambers.
In March 2013, Outright Libertarians announced that Dan Choi was joining the GLBTQ caucus of the Libertarian Party as an honorary board member.
In June 2013, Choi and numerous other celebrities appeared in a video showing support for Bradley Manning.
Fighting to Serve: Behind the Scenes in the War to Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" by Alexander Nicholson
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Chicago Review Press; 1 edition (September 20, 2012)
Amazon: Fighting to Serve: Behind the Scenes in the War to Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
Amazon Kindle: Fighting to Serve: Behind the Scenes in the War to Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
Discharged in 2002 from the US Army under the provisions of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Alexander Nicholson was shocked to learn there was no group advocating DADT’s repeal that was reaching out to active military or veterans organizations. Nicholson believed the repeal effort needed spokespersons who understood military culture, who could talk about DADT’s impact on those who serve to those who serve and served. Someone like him.
From this idea Servicemembers United, the largest organization for gay and lesbian servicemembers, was born. Nicholson and several others who had been discharged under DADT toured the United States, where they spoke at American Legion posts, on radio talk shows, and at press conferences across the South and on both coasts. Surprised at the mostly positive reception that the tour provoked, Nicholson and Servicemembers United were propelled to the forefront of the DADT repeal fight.
In time Nicholson became the only named plaintiff in the successful lawsuit that ordered the policy overturned, forcing the US Congress to act. Fighting to Serve gives a no-holds-barred account of the backstage strategies and negotiations, revealing how various LGBT organizations, the Congress, the Pentagon, and the White House often worked at cross purposes. But in the end, it was the pressure brought by active veterans, a court ruling out of California, and a few courageous senators, representatives, and military leaders that brought the destructive policy to an end.
More LGBT History at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Persistent Voices
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