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Openly Gay Lt. Dan Choi Invades Key Conservative Conference

Openly Gay Lt. Dan Choi Invades Key Conservative Conference

Of the many eccentrics wandering around the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this year, few were more wide-eyed than Lt. Dan Choi- the former Army infantry officer who outed himself on the Rachel Maddow Show and was then discharged under the military’s near-defunct “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. As he traversed the hotel grounds, Choi resembled a journeyman exploring uncharted territory- fully aware of the slight absurdity that his presence represented, but perfectly willing to soak in the atmosphere.

For almost two years, Choi’s activism has meant he’s been associated primarily with the political left. Last summer at Netroots Nation, the closest progressive equivalent to CPAC, he gave his West Point graduation ring to Harry Reid, telling the former majority leader that he’d only accept its return after DADT was finally repealed. Choi indeed got his ring back in December, so with a short-term political objective accomplished, he told me some ideological experimentation was in order.

“We should take a look at where we can go, not where we have been,” Choi said of the gay rights movement’s political allegiances. “For me, as somebody who has been just recently turned into something of a political activist, or a political entity, I think it’s important for the education of the gay community that they don’t have to lock themselves into one ideology or one political organization.”

Asked of the reception he’s found at CPAC, Choi said “People don’t think it’s me. They don’t think that I’d want to come here.” He polled his Twitter following on the wisdom of attending, and received a largely negative response. “If you take a look at my feed, a lot of people did not want me to come. There were a lot of incendiary comments as to why I’m hanging around with skinheads or white supremacists, why I’m palling around with terrorists.”

“But I think that being here is so important,” he continued, “because when they do recognize that it’s me- even people at Focus on the Family- they say, ‘Thank you for your service, are you going to try to go back in?’ and ‘I’m so glad you got your ring back.’ There’s a personal identification that transcends any of the political dogma.”

Choi was in part motivated to attend CPAC in response controversy generated by GOProud, the pro-LGBTQ rights Republican organization that prompted several socially conservative lawmakers and think tanks to boycott the conference.

“I think they’re American heroes,” Choi said of the group, notwithstanding their lack of an official position on same-sex marriage. “There are two kinds of people in the world- those that go into hostile territory and make a safe space, and those that wait for that safe space to be formed for them.”

Choi was among the melange of characters who attended a party thrown by GOProud on the second night of the conference. “It was hilarious,” he said. “It was great; it was very gay. But we throw the best parties, don’t we? So many people were there. I met with former [Republican National Committee] Chairman Michael Steele- we talked about being tokens. He’s a very honorable man, always willing to make dialogue with others, and he’s followed my case.”

Choi encouraged young gay activists to expand their political purviews. “Our friends are not the people who are in power,” he said. “I don’t call up Harry Reid and say, ‘I’m lonely, let’s go have a drink.’ They can be your allies, but the moment they leave your cause, you have no political benefit to being pals with them.”

This post was originally published by Campus Progress.

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Photo courtesy of essygie
Written by Michael Tracey, a Campus Progress blogger

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32 comments

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1:22PM PST on Mar 4, 2011

Kudos to Daniel for his boldness!

12:07PM PST on Mar 4, 2011

The regressive Republican Party of No is mean-spirited, thuggish, religiously fanatical, scientifically ignorant, corrupt, hypocritical, xenophobic, racist, sexist, homophobic, evolution and global warming denying, authoritarian, selfish, greedy, lacking compassion, warmongering, and otherwise dangerous.

NEVER vote for Republicans.

4:16PM PST on Mar 3, 2011

Sounds to me like he first outed himself as gay and now he's outing himself as a republican. The former I respect, the latter not so much. Hope I'm wrong because we need brave people like him to align themselves with the liberal/progressive agenda for taking this country back from the oligarchs, religious fundamentalists and the corporate teahadists before it's too late; if it's not already.

1:34PM PST on Mar 3, 2011

Making a hero of a man who lied regarding his service application to make a political point AND claimed he had widespread inhouse support is wrong.

Regardless DADT seems to be ended. If this former officer had any clue of what that means to those actually in service, he might be walking and talking quite differently. Maybe he's forgotten how hard those junior officers/NCOs jobs are in the best of times or far more likely he was one of those officers who didn't get involved in such dirty work, letting others take up his slack.

6:59AM PST on Mar 3, 2011

People are people no matter who they are.....

Keep up the great advice, too many people are being told how to live, by the government... people are people, did you read about the Corp having to comply with what the public has to comply with.. there private issues are now public.....

3:50AM PST on Mar 3, 2011

Thanks for the article.

11:29PM PST on Mar 2, 2011

Brave man!

9:16PM PST on Mar 2, 2011

You go guy!!!

6:47PM PST on Mar 2, 2011

Thank you for this article.

6:07PM PST on Mar 2, 2011

Choi is awesome!

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