DADT: Dan Choi Back on Active Duty, Lissa Young Talks to AS, Black Women Disproportionately Affected

DAN CHOI: Queerty reports that our BFF Dan Choi has been called back to service:

Los Angeles-based photographer Jeff Sheng, who shot Choi for a photo series (and took this picture), spoke with the lieutenant to find out what the deal is. He relays: “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.”

Well! This is, without question, a significant development in the DADT battle. Choi is arguably the most public face of the policy, and his name is well known to Pentagon officials and White House advisers; even President Obama would recognize his face. And that there’s been no top-down effort to keep him from serving — no “let’s wait and see” approach from publicity-minded military leaders above Choi’s commander — is indeed a nod toward Obama’s push to repeal the law.

Wow! Don’t you almost feel like you just got your job back? We’ve been following Dan since Day One — btw, did you know he’s only 28? So he’s very close in age to most of us — his personal, social and political evolution since that fated moment when he came out on The Rachel Maddow Show. Although we’ll miss his impassioned speeches and charming personality, it’s f*cking awesome that he’s going back to work! Yay Dan! Go linguist it up!

A brief moment to remember the beginning of Dan Choi’s fight for equality (Dan’s interview and his expectations for DADT start about halfway through)

After last week’s hearing, we caught up with Lissa Young, the DADT discharge Natalie interviewed for Autostraddle back in September, to see what she thought about last week’s announcement. As you may recall we felt the discussion on DADT was dominated by male voices. Lissa, another member of Knights Out, who was discharged from the military after 16 years of active duty.

Lissa Young says:

I watched the entire senate armed services committee hearing, and was stunned to hear Admiral Mullen make a statement that queer activists and loyalists have been saying for 50 years. This policy raises issues of integrity by forcing gay soldiers to lie about who they are! That moment was both exhilarating and infuriating. Exhilarating, because it marks the beginning of the end of an era, and it is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Mullen) who has to take the lead in making any change – and now he’s finally done so. Infuriating, because somehow queer equality is validated and more palatable when it comes out of an “official’s” mouth.

As far as Gates maintaining that this had to be “studied” for a longer period of time – that is a stall tactic if I’ve ever seen one. The issue doesn’t need to be studied. The forces simply need to do exactly what they did for African Americans, and just eliminate discriminatory policies. The issues raised are utterly irrelevant, and spring from the deep seeded fears of straight men — that they will become the objectified prey of gay men. I see Gates honoring that fear by saying “We must take a year and study these issues thoroughly”. If you’re a human being, then you already know everything you need to know about how to integrate straight and gay people. Again, these were the same stall tactics used by the forces when we were trying to integrate African Americans. Men were all up in arms about having to shower and sleep near black men. So, I say “drive on” and everything will work itself out.

The issue is really and truly about command climate. If the leadership leads, and ensures their units have healthy climates, then there won’t be any issues with either straight or gay men being afraid. As a matter of fact, a healthy, well run organization creates cohesion and camaraderie, not fear and distrust.

One thing that hasn’t been discussed enough about the recent report on DADT discharges: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been used to kick Black women out of the military at a much higher rate than other groups. In fact, Black women are discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at three times the rate that they serve in the military. Although Black women make up less than one percent of servicemembers, they comprise 3.3% of those discharged under the policy.” [On a more optimistic note, blisted celebrates last week’s announcement that Colin Powell is coming out against Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, in opposition to his previously stated position on the matter.]

The Colorlines article also links to a 2004 Task Force report you may already be familiar with which pointed out, in line with the gaping gulfs of inequality that have yet to be rectified or fully addressed in this country, that anti-gay marriage amendments will negatively affect black same-sex couples [more than white same-sex couples] because they are more likely to work in the public sector, relying on domestic partner health insurance, and serve in the military, where they could lose income and benefits for serving openly. Furthermore, Black same-sex couples have more to gain from legal recognition of their relationships and more to lose when states pass amendments banning marriage and other forms of partner recognition.

Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic, in response to Rich Lowry’s debate with Anna Marie Cox:

“Rich says that it’s no big deal to live hiding one’s sexual orientation. If you’re straight, try it for one day. Try never mentioning your spouse, your family, your home, your girlfriend or boyfriend to anyone you know or work with – just for one day. Take that photo off your desk at work, change the pronoun you use for your spouse to the opposite gender, guard everything you might say or do so that no one could know you’re straight, shut the door in your office if you have a personal conversation if it might come up.” (you should read the whole thing)

The Wall Street Journal has a middle-of-the-road analysis of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. I, for one, am encouraged by his conclusion: DADT is a non-issue. He cites anecdotal evidence from countries (like Israel!) that have already allowed gays in their armed forces. I wonder, once again, why the US military can’t just use data from other countries for their study, but I guess they know more about the logistics than me.

HATERS WANNA HATE: Gay rights groups say the bill singles out gay students for harassment Your parents are getting married so now we’re going to have to make sure no one else grows up gay and gets married:“Two Iowa legislators are getting heat from the gay community. The lawmakers want to remove protection to lesbians, gay and transgender students from the Safe Schools Law, in and effort to reverse the Iowa’s Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage.” (@wheotv)

WALKER: We told you about Judge Walker, of Prop 8 trial fame, being gay. Turns out there’s even more to his story, including the fact that he was almost not confirmed as a judge because he was seen as anti-gay, which is debatable. The San Francisco Chronicle makes a good point: “Today, at age 65, Judge Walker is presiding over the challenge to Proposition 8, which may well determine how quickly gays and lesbians achieve full marriage equality in this country. We now know what Walker never bothered to reveal when he was being castigated as anti-gay: He is gay, which changes neither his legal history nor his fitness for this assignment.” (@sfchronicle)

IOWA: Iowans continue to be awesome! A new poll shows that a majority of the state doesn’t think the legislature needs to discuss gay marriage this year. They’re just fine, thanks! (@iowaregister)

GRAVY TRAIN: The largest gay rights group in New Jersey has asked members to stop donating to the major political parties in reaction to their disappointment with the gay marriage vote earlier this year.

Garden State Equality Chairman Steven Goldstein said the decision to stop donations was made to tell political parties they can’t take for granted the support of the state’s gays and their allies.

“No political party has a record good enough on LGBT civil rights that it can rightfully claim to be entitled to our money on a party-wide basis,” said Goldstein. “No longer will we let any political party take our money and volunteers with one hand, and slap us in the face with the other when we seek full equality.” (@njstar-ledger)

RHODE ISLAND: Three of the candidates for Rhode Island governor have pledged to sign a gay marriage bill if it were to cross their desks after a gay rights group posed the question to the field. The Republican candidates have not responded, surprisingly enough. (@bostonherald)

SWEET VIRGINIA: The Virginia Senate voted through a bill barring discrimination based on sexual orientation in government positions. It probably won’t have as much luck in the conservative House. (@washingtonexaminer)

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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. Learning that Dan Choi is being called back to active duty gave me goosebumps all over, I’m so happy for him and proud that more officials are standing up to DADT!

    • Agree! Also, everything Lissa Young said was so smart/true/awesome, it’s like she’s an incredibly intelligent expert and educator who could contribute a great deal to the American military if she were allowed to serve or something

  2. Those haters make me f*cking insane! They really are upholding their oaths to serve the state … by taking away protection from KIDS. And to top it off, they get awesome health care. Even though they are dickheads.

  3. Well, now we know the greatest threat to our military. Black lesbians. Glad we figured that out in time! Now we can go back to worrying about more important things, like if advertisers can outdo themselves in misogyny and sexism in time for next years Superbowl! I suggest a commercial about how black lesbians are less valuable then Doritos, beer, tires, and possibly a Snickers bar.

  4. I tell you everyday I love you ladies more and more. If there ever was a living breathing statistic on how horribly affected black same sex couples are. Try being a black lesbian couple one Navy Veteran (her) and one former public attorney (me). And we live in the south (NC). I can’t count the problems that we have had and continue to have based on homophobia, racism, and sexism. The real problem is that we a really really hot! So of course we should be with dudes, right? Wrong, we love each other and we love autostraddle just about as much. So thank you ladies for your very awesome and informative site. You ladies rock!

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  6. Even the anti-gay-marriage protesters in that video made me feel good. I guess I’ve been seeing too much tea party craziness lately, the toned argument of those ministers (and you guys on the other side) actually gave me warm fuzzies, even though I of course disagree with their point (and the faulty logic used to arrive at it – at least they /try/ to be rational).

    • Yeah we gave them a lot of encouraging “yes” and “absolutely”s that they didn’t deserve ’cause we got into the “press area” by claiming to be college sociology students covering religious issues or something AKA NOT GAYS AT ALL, and I was surprised they said what they said, I thought it would be worse. But then I realized that that’s sort of what they’re all saying now, it’s the new lingo. I love when Brooke calls him out for saying “we already lost 5 states” and she’s like, “you lost them? what did you lose?” and he has to clarify that he just called what we call gaining equality, “losing” a state. ah well hopefully this position is one step closer to all the way; I feel like things have even changed since then … dan is back to work! and he totally talks about that guy, the one who spoke out against DADT last week! I love that at least that story is moving forward positively. Makes my heart warm.

      and yeah defo better than any teabaggy sarah palinish nonsense

      • Ahh yea, reconnaissance work can be fun but also damn stressful. I had to scout an anti-abortion rally here in Berlin once to figure out the parade route for the protesters who wanted to disrupt it. I infiltrated waaaaay to early and had to stand through about 2 hours of speeches and songs (oh god the songs) dedicated to the unborn children… in German of course. Then to build rapport, I had to clap and talk to the people around me and say “oh yes, I’m from the US… yes, there the movement is VERY strong, most people are pro-life…” and other stuff that really made my guts turn. Going the student doing research route is better for the soul, but sometimes harder because you can’t get into the act as much, and have a harder time staying in character as someone who isn’t particularly vested in the issue, beyond a grade for a class.

        rock on, Lt. Choi.

  7. 62% of Iowans say gay marriage does not deserve time for debate in the legislature, while only 36% say it does. ROCK THE EFF ON IOWA!

    This gives me a whole lotta hope and happiness about the US of A.

    Also, important related to hope for the US and the legislators who are trying to amend the Safe Schools Act: see how much more intelligent the kid quoted in the article sounds than the Rep? Lots of people are better served to be in government than many of our politicians. I know, I know, we have a certain attitude that politicians are dirty and have loose morals etc, but that doesn’t have to be the case! Please consider doing your part to change that attitude by being running for local elected office (assuming you’re a good person).

    • I was in Iowa visiting the fam over the holidays and the overwhelming sentiment amongst people seemed to be a sort of “as long as it doesn’t hurt me, what’s the problem.” Even those that may have religious or moral convictions otherwise didn’t seem to think it much of an issue. Of course, the detractors are always louder, but the numbers favor living and let live.

  8. ZOMG DAN CHOI I love that guy!

    At some point I would like the chance to point out to the haters that Dan Choi is precisely the kinda guy they’d want their daughters to marry. I mean, srsly, I would let him marry my daughter, but really, I’d rather have him defend my country whilst marrying my son… If only I actually had kids to marry off to Dan Choi-esque Knights(Out) In Shining Armour, just like in the olden days.

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