Naked: An EXCLUSIVE Interview with Gay Hero Daniel Choi


When President Obama took office, he did so with the high expectations of his supporters in the LGBT 10182008obama_stonewall_poster community...and with the equally low expectations of his detractors among us. While the acknowledgment he has given to our issues may have surpassed that of previous presidents, it's fallen short (so far) of satisfying any of his major LGBT campaign promises. Worse, a number of questionable signals have been sent, the most controversial being the Department of Justice memo on same-sex marriage, which has been widely interpreted to compare marriage equality with incest in its defense of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Perhaps most surprisingly, President Obama has shown a troubling lack of resolve in repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell—he insists it is something he wants gone, but also insists that it be done via a bill that arrives on his desk from Congress, refusing to exercise his apparent authority as Commander-in-Chief to put a stop to any expulsions while the law is being reviewed and eventually, we presume, rescinded.

If it sometimes feels like you're either a Kool-Aid drinking apologist about to be excommunicated from the LGBT ranks (a literal ex-gay) or a histrionic, tantrum-throwing child with no regard for the president's full plate—you're not alone. The middle ground is rapidly disappearing.

PH2009062903402 As a big supporter of President Obama's (full disclosure: I've cut off the DNC but would have attended the Stonewall event), I've been disappointed by and at times angered over his inactivity on gay issues. It's not that I don't have patience, but when he is taking a passive approach to even a slam-dunk issue like Don't Ask, Don't Tell, it's impossible for any thinking person not to begin to worry that all those anonymous, seething Internet commenters claiming that Obama will be all talk and no action will have the last laugh. It doesn't matter if the more far-fetched accusations of the LGBT people who despise this president the most ("he's a lying closet bigot who hates us!"), those whose vehemence, if not related to, certainly matches that of the right-wing birthers and conspiracy theorists and racists, are never proven true.

But what will matter to all of us is if the president fails to make progress on our issues, because that will be not only his failure, it will be ours if we allow it to happen.

Danchoi Speaking to Daniel Choi—the now-famous Arab linguist and Iraq War veteran with a distinguished career in the New York Army National Guard who on June 30 was recommended for discharge after coming out as gay earlier this year on The Rachel Maddow Show—it is very hard to think in terms of pro-Obama or anti-Obama. His approach to the DADT issue is as pure as it gets and does not take politics into consideration.

For Dan, it's simply about telling the truth.

When I first called him, I was a bit nervous. I don't know too many army guys and this one has become a gay hero for bucking a wildly unpopular policy and a wildly popular president, all in the name of what is right. The first thing he told me is that he was naked, which broke the ice (shattered it, really), but which later seemed so appropriate to me even if it was a joke, because at no time during our interview did I get the impression that he was feeding me talking points or that he had any agenda outside of the one that all of us, the nutty Obama lovers and the nutty Obama haters, should embrace come what may: It's wrong to discriminate against LGBT people, and it has to stop.


With a grace the Obama haters should study, a resolve the Obama lovers should adopt and with a surprising sense of humor, Dan spent just over 40 minutes making nothing but sense.

I've uploaded my interview to YouTube in 18 separate files so you can hear Dan in his own voice as I heard him earlier today. He tells a great story about coming out to his West Point roommate, stresses he's coming out "for the next guy," says he's not angry at the military, wonders aloud where he's going to live and speaks of how his first real relationship taught him the importance of doing what he's been doing for the past several months.

All of Matthew Rettenmund's interview after the jump...

1 What drew you to a career in the military?

2 Did 9/11 strengthen your resolve to serve?

3 Dan's emphasis: The truth.

4 Why is it important for gay people to be honest about who they are?

5 How do you react to being called a hero?

6 Son of a minister, Asian-American, military…not a recipe for an easy coming-out?

7 Why would a gay person join the military under DADT?

8 You had a religious upbringing…what do you tell religious, anti-gay people?

9 Do you mind my asking if you voted for President Obama?

10 How do you react to the "let's give it time" argument?

11 Where are YOU with this president right now?

12 What did you think of the White House Stonewall event?

13 "We're going to get this done"…encouraging, or hollow?

14 How does DADT hurt military preparedness?

15 What did you make of Defense Secretary Gates's "humane" DADT comment?

16 Is there a "generational gap" in the military brass?

17 Have you considered running for office?

18 Does your "heartthrob" status give you helpful visibility?