DADT: Dan Choi Discharged Today Because He’s Gay

Lt. Dan Choi has officially been discharged from the U.S. military under the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy. He got the news of his fate this morning via phone call from his old commander. (Yeah, we thought that had already happened, too, apparently he was just on hold, being investigated, and could appeal his release.) (@newsweek)

Earlier this morning he got the call. It was from his commander at the 1/69 Infantry Regiment of the New York Army National Guard, and it was bad news. Choi had also just learned from another source that a letter had been received some time ago, with confirmed receipt by his father in Orange County, Calif., officially declaring him kicked out of the Army. “But my dad and I are not on speaking terms,” says Choi, who had not been informed of the letter by his family.

Here is the official reason for discharge, from a letter addressed to Choi from General Patrick Murphy:

“Based on the approved board findings that 1LT Choi did publicly admit, on more than one occasion, in person and through the media, that he is a homosexual, such conduct being in violation of [military and National Guard regulation], I direct 1LY Choi be discharged from the New York Army National Guard with an Honorable characterization of service.”

Choi says he might spend more time in California now, reconciling with his parents. He and his father are currently not on speaking terms. “I haven’t done a lot to hold my parents’ hands through all of this. My inclination right now is to go home.”

His activism won’t stop any time soon. While the discharge is probably painful, Choi said “a piece of paper doesn’t define my worth or honor.” And he might even keep using his uniform in protests, even though it is illegal to do so after discharge. His response was: “I still own it.”

Dan has become the leading activist in the U.S. fighting for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. This all started over a year ago, in March 2009 when he came out on Rachel Maddow‘s show. That sparked an investigation into his conduct, and he was relieved of active duty. We noticed some changes in Dan even last year as he became more entrenched in activism, which Riese mentioned in her essay about gay marriage in Maine from November:

When we interviewed Dan Choi again at the National Equality March in October, I said to Alex & Brooke afterwards that he seemed much angrier than when we’d first met him, right after he’d come out on the Rachel Maddow show and was at the anti-equality counter-rally in NYC.

A few weeks after the NEM, Brooke ran into Dan at a Gay & Lesbian Task Force event in Florida. He actually asked her, out of the blue, if he seemed angrier now, because this was something he was noticing about himself. He told her that he felt angrier.

And I get it now. This is what happens when you’re out there being an activist every day or even just absorbing the news.

Dan was put back on Active Duty in February of 2009:

“Apparently, Lt. Choi’s commander has always been in full support of him, and even after Lt. Choi came out on The Rachel Maddow Show, his commander did not press for his discharge. The military did eventually serve Lt. Choi a discharge notification – essentially firing him from his job, but he was allowed to fight this at trial, and as it currently stands, the discharge has not been finalized. Given the current state of how DADT is in such flux, and also, in my opinion, the prominence and celebrity of Lt. Choi, his discharge might never be fully enforced.”

Since that time, Dan has become increasingly active in political demonstrations.

Dan now works with GetEqual to overturn DADT and has been arrested at protests around the country, including at the White House.

Here’s a look at the evolution of Dan Choi, via YouTube Video:


May 2009
Dan Choi with Rachel Maddow on the day his DADT investigation began,
with clips of when he first came out on her show


May 2009
At a counter-protest in support of gay marriage in New York City:


October 2009
At the National Equality March:


March 2010
Dan Choi handcuffs himself to the White House fence:


May 2010
Dan Choi being awesome on the bullhorn at a rally:


July 20, 2010
Dan Choi was arrested at a GetEqual protest of Sen. Harry Reid’s
lack of action on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act:


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Sarah lives in Chicago with her partner and her big white Great Dane. She is a lawyer by day and a beer brewer/bread baker/knitter by night. She & her partner are currently learning how to grow their own food, and eventually they hope to move to a small farm outside the city. In 2009-2010, before jetting off to law school, Sarah was Autostraddle's Managing Editor.

Sarah has written 127 articles for us.


  1. I would argue that Dan Choi was discharged because of the failed policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, not because he is gay. In all actuality he could have continued to serve while gay as long as he didn’t reveal his gayness. Now isn’t that a great example of the stupidity of the policy? I hope that he continues to fight for all of us, but I do not want him to defame the very uniform he wore so proudly. One day he will be celebrated for the brave, visionary man that he is, I hope it isn’t tarnished by his disregard for the military he chose to serve.

    • You don’t have to say your gay to be discharged. Most who are discharged haven’t come out. People have been discharged because the military found out about it.

      Maj. Michael Almy was discharged after the military wen through his personal emails. Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach is facing discharge because he was outed by a third party civilian.

      Lesbians are often discharged due to lesbian baiting–a male soldier will come on to them and report them for being a lesbian if they say no. At that point proving you’re not gay is pretty difficult unless you’re hetero-married.

      I do not see how he defamed the uniform. Like many who sign up when they’re 18, he realized he was gay after he joined.

      • I served during the witch-hunt era so I am very familiar with all the ways they can “find out” or accuse you and unlike civilians the burden of proof is on you.

        I am surprised that he has not already been counseled about the rules governing when and where you can appear in uniform. I am almost certain that he violated several regulations by wearing his uniform to protest. There are also regulations about how/when you can wear your uniform after discharge. All I am saying is that if he continues to wear the uniform inappropriately he will only give fuel to those that wish to sidetrack the issue.

        I am so proud of him and his unwavering commitment to ending DADT. To sacrifice a career you love so that others may flourish is truly to be honored.

        • Yes, he did violate several regulations. He is aware of it. Agitation is the effect GetEQUAL is going for. We’re looking for a fight. The issue has already been sidetracked by people who would rather ignore it.

  2. yes everything you say is true and i agree. but also the headline rhymes! get it? it rhymes!

  3. Somehow the inevitability of it all makes it hurt that bit more. The nice thing is, there will be a day when that statement doesn’t apply to every piece of horrendous homophobic-centric news, or at least I long for that time and I fight for that time. I couldn’t wish for a nicer crew of brothers, and sisters, in arm with whom to do so.

  4. At least he received an Honorable Discharge? I was under the impression that most DADT discharges were General Discharges or Dishonorable Discharges, which affect the servicemember’s access to GI Bill benefits.

  5. I hope he and his folks are able to reconcile, this must be so, so difficult and painful, however one might try and prepare themselves for it. I can’t even imagine trying to go through it alone.

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