Gay Activists Hunger Strike for DADT Repeal – Good Idea/Bad Idea?

DON’T ASK DON’T TELL:

We’re all still processing the news on the DADT repeal, and the White House’s maybe more encouraging stance. There are plenty of people who feel like this gesture on Obama’s part isn’t enough; as Autumn at Pam’s House Blend says, “This compromise worked out by the White House, members of Congress, and Gay Inc., doesn’t actually guarantee that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people will ever be able to openly serve in the U.S. Military. Instead, it gives we in the LGBT community a promise of process to repeal of DADT without a guarantee it actually will ever result in LGB servicemembers being able to serve openly. “ Clearly Lt. Dan Choi doesn’t feel very good about this either.

A new statement from Dan Choi announces his intent to hunger strike.

“Immediately following congressional mark-ups on the National Defense Authorization Act 2011, Captain James Pietrangelo and I will commence a fast in pursuit of Equality and Dignity. We have three demands of President Barack Obama -

Demand #1: End the Comprehensive Working Group “Study,” which insults the dignity of all Americans.
Demand #2: End “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” discharges forever.
Demand #3: Replace all discriminatory regulations in the military with a comprehensive non-discrimination policy.”

Queerty thinks it won’t end well:

“We love ourselves some civil disobedience, but from the evidence this week about how the DADT is (unceremoniously) moving forward, either Choi and Pietrangelo are going to die trying, or their hunger strike will end prematurely, and long before gays can actually serve openly in the military.”

Wikipedia has a look at the history of the hunger strike and the fate of hunger strikes including those of the Tibetian Freedom Fighters , Cuban Dissidents, Turkish Political Prisoners, Guantánamo Bay prisoners and our bro Gandhi. Hunger striking was also engaged as a tactic for suffragettes in the early 20th century in British and American prisons. Slate’s 2004 piece Hunger Striking 101 describes from a scientific standpoint how long persons can survive without food.

The ladies at Sisters Talk have declared Dan’s decision an Epic Fail:

Seriously? This is a slap in the face to millions of Americans who – due to the current economic climate – are starving through no fault of their own. Two gay men who have homes and jobs and the ability to purchase food are willingly starving themselves because they oppose the current DADT compromise. Let’s ponder that for a moment.

How is this move supposed to make Americans sympathetic to the gay community’s cause when too many people are personally associated with people who are homeless and struggling to feed themselves and their children? This move wreaks of gay privilege because if anyone can CHOOSE to starve themselves it must mean they’re not that hard up economically. The same person who can choose to starve himself can also choose to eat whenever he wants.

We consulted our Radical Lesbian Correspondent, Up Popped a Fox, who wrote a fantastic article about her time with The Lesbian Avengers for Autostraddle last year, for her thoughts on the matter:

I think hunger strikes tend to be grand gestures that are largely ineffective in actually bringing about desired change. Civil disobedience that creates visibility and brings people’s attention to an issue is admirable. Hunger strikes take the issue into zealot territory for most people.

We’ve been fans of Dan Choi from the get-go and recently wrote a significantly long piece about his recent activism. But what do you think? Is this getting OOC?

Regardless of the future of this hunger strike, there’s still a vote that has to take place on the issue, and there’s honestly no telling what the results of the DoD’s ten-month review will be. Although the White House’s support of this compromise was probably a good move, tensions are still running high; more acts of civil disobedience are rumored to be planned, and Obama already seems pretty annoyed. Anyways, you can hear Choi’s feelings here, and form your own opinion.

Also, in addition to John McCain’s bizarre obsession with maintaining DADT, we have more idiots on the other side this week coming from The Family Research Council. The FRC (in case you forgot) is a group of “humans” who do “studies,” collect money, make shit up and talk crazy. Now they’re saying that the End Of DADT Means More Gay Rape In The Military. EEK! Well, there you have it. Read the article and you’ll see that they aren’t even using good science to make this point. So.

KAGAN:

Elena Kagan has just received support by the former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first ever lady to serve on the SCOTUS. (@velvet park)

INDIA:

A new bill being introduced in India will prevent gay and lesbian couples in India from bearing children with a surrogate mother.“…though homosexuality has been decriminalised in India, it has not been made legal. Till gay and lesbian couples get legal status in India, they can’t avail surrogacy,” Dr Sharma said.” (@timesofindia)

VETERAN:

Laura Rae Bush served the US military for 24 years, but because she was born a biological male her local VFW chapter won’t let her attend meetings unless she’s wearing slacks. “For what it’s worth, the VFW doesn’t have an official dress code, but the post’s Commander Joseph Brady says he can make the demand since he’s in charge, which means forcing Bush to dress in pants, not skirts, to attend post events. Though “no one had questions for Bush during the meeting when he made the announcement, nor raised concerns, some members approached the post commander later. They found the news and the way in which Bush chose to present it jarring.” (@queerty)

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Rachel is Autostraddle's Senior Editor and the editor who presides over books and news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy."

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17 Comments

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      This idea is beyond the scope of “good or bad,” it is STUPID. Childish and stupid.

      GetEQUAL has co-opted Dan Choi and convinced him to do this stunt. Like all their other stunts this does not change any minds or garner any support.

      One thing to be thankful for is the fact that the Media has ignored this band of self-described “activists.”

      If you care about Dan Choi, get him to a shrink or a buffet.

  1. Thumb up 0

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    To quote a friend of mine on it all: They hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us they hate us. They hate us.

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    I don’t get the point of interrupting Obama during a speech at Barbara Boxer’s dinner or Dan Choi saying he is going to do a hunger strike. Why not take more effective steps toward civil disobedience?

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    Hunger strikes scare me. The historical lack of benefits/results from doing them mean that people end up incredibly unwell or dead. God do I understand the need for change but really? I would rather activists stay alive than become martyrs.

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      The second sentence didn’t make sense because I missed a bit..I meant to say “The historical lack of benefits/results from doing them that people end up incredibly unwell or dead and nothing has changed”. Or something.

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        yeah reading about hunger strikes i did not see that these things often work. also i feel like i would prefer a hunger strike to re-direct the strikers potential foods towards those who need it

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          Nope, they don’t. Generally, politicians don’t like being guilt tripped into changing legislation/jail terms/residency status’. I think it’s a step too far.

          And yeah I agree, if they’re going to do it the food that they don’t eat could be passed on to those who are hungry and don’t have a choice about it.

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      What if no-one notices? What if the politicians, as they are known to do in these cases, turn their backs and still plod on with no urgency to change anything? What if they die? I think it would be a DAMN waste if they died.

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    While I’m pretty sure that the hunger strike is Not Going To End Well… that whole thing turning hunger strikes into class warfare has me feeling a bit -_-

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      Totally. Regardless of the effectiveness of hunger striking, I’m baffled by the attempt to invalidate it because of any perceived offensiveness to those on the breadline.

      Surely the whole point is that you need to be in a position of comfort so that there is meaning to your choice to deprive yourself?

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    THANKFULLY this STUNT is being IGNORED.

    Dan Choi needs medical attention – a Psychiatrist. He should stop listening to the misfits at GetEQUAL – they are an embarrassment.

    These attempts to get 15 minutes on MSNBC don’t change any minds or build any support for our movement. They just make us look desperate and stupid.

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