Lt. Dan Choi salutes sexual diversity

The University welcomed Lt. Dan Choi on Monday to speak at the Illini Union. Choi is a West Point graduate who received a discharge letter from the military after he announced that he is gay.

In March of 2009, Choi “came out” on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” which is a talk show on MSNBC. Soon after his announcement, he was notified by the U.S. Army that it had begun discharge proceedings against him. A final decision on his status as a member of the National Guard is still pending.

He served in Iraq with an infantry unit and said that during his entire time in the military, he felt like he was lying.

He also spoke against the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, saying that it forced individuals to hide their sexuality. He added that his reason for coming out was to be honest to his family and to his fellow soldiers.

“At the core of all of this for me is the honor code,” Choi said. “You don’t worry about politics or elections; you don’t worry about being politically correct. You worry about following your values.”

He said that the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy undermines the commitment and the mutualism that soldiers value. He said the policy’s explanation that unit cohesion would be interrupted if men were to announce their sexuality is immature and untrue.

“There is no religion that says you must lie or hate yourself for who you are,” he said.

Rebecca Woerner, junior in ACES, said she enjoyed Choi’s speech and was alarmed by some of the statistics Choi presented at the start of his presentation.

“The most shocking was the statistics he read in the beginning,” she said, referring to numbers that Choi brought up at the beginning of the speech.

He said 13,500 soldiers have been kicked out, and $1.3 billion has been lost because members of the military have admitted their sexual preference. He did not say where he quoted the numbers from.

Peter Groch, member of the LGBT group PRIDE and freshman in LAS, said as someone who is gay, he wanted to hear more about “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and thought Choi’s speech would be informative.

Choi said since his announcement, none of his fellow soldiers have treated him differently. He also said that not having to lie about his identity is a relief.

“That kind of lying and creativity it takes to lead a double life, I don’t think that’s worth it,” Choi said.

Choi said that he is standing on the right side of history and will continue his fight to end the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

“They might ask me to sit down, but I will not,” Choi said.