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Dan Choi Reports on His Participation in the First Sanctioned Military Contingent in Amsterdam Gay Pride Canal Parade

Boat_choi

BY LT DAN CHOI

Guestblogger This weekend, in front of half a million Dutch families and revelers, the Amsterdam Gay Pride parade showcased a truly historic statement: 85 gay (including 2 transgender) servicemembers in full dress uniform with Dutch Defense Ministry officials in the first ever sanctioned military gay pride contingent. Three active duty gay generals were with us on the uber-gay float. We were literally floating, too: the canals that line the city of Amsterdam, built in the 17th century, were our parade route. Lots of saluting, lots of cheering, lots of dancing... lots of "IN THE NAVY" blasted over and over and over again.

Watch video of the float, AFTER THE JUMP...

Amsterdam-2-ribbon-PinkPaper.com British Lieutenant Commander Mandy MacBain, Chief Diversity and Inclusion officer for the Royal Naval Service joined me in officially opening "Canal Pride 2011" with an appropriate theme: "All Together Now."  In spirit of cooperation we held the scissors together while cutting the pink boa held by leaders of PRO-GAY, the group organizing the parade. Her partner Joanna joined us on the boat, and the three of us comprised the foreign contingent. They set up flags for us near the back of the boat but by the time the parade kicked off, the soldiers pushed us to the front, to stand with their generals. This was quite an unexpected honor. (Photo: Ribbon cutting with (L-R) Dutch LTC Sandra Keijer, British LCDR MacBain, PRO-GAY Chair Irene Hemelaar) credit: PinkPaper.com)

Amsterdam-3-police-Gerard-Rijkers The spirit of solidarity and inclusion was palpable, as the day prior, dozens of gay police officers from INTERPOL countries joined the Dutch LGBT Military Foundation (SHX: Stichting Homosexualiteit & Kriejgsmacht) in a tour including notable sites such as the city zoo, Rembrandt's tomb, and the world renowned "red light district." At the reception afterwards, Dutch Education and Cultural Ministry officials noted the historic nature of this pride parade, and I offered brief remarks about the Stonewall Riots and the success of community police liaisons in our shared duty to protect and serve. The irony was well received, that the only American representative in our group should invoke a violent uprising at a time when LGBT-Police relations were not strong, to put it mildly. On a personal level, the laughter allowed me to exhale a bit, knowing that these police officers were generally supportive of the confrontational activism that has always pushed American LGBT issues forward. (Photo: INTERPOL officers reception, credit: Gerard Rijkers, SHX)

Amsterdam-5-Newspaper I was surprised to hear reports on the progress of LGBT-Police relations all around Europe, particularly as reported hate-crimes have doubled in gay-friendly Amsterdam. Some point the finger at Muslim refugees while others laud the confidence LGBT Dutch have to report assaults and harassment. Either way, our work must focus on eradicating the source of bigotry while bridging gaps between oppressed communities. Returning violence for violence will solve nothing in our common struggle for justice.

It was also very enlightening to find there were 4 chaplains celebrating Pride with us, although they did not refer to their branch as The Chaplaincy. Calling themselves Moral Counselors, the Dutch military focuses more on the wartime need of soldiers to meet with a kind ear and warm heart in moments of despair. They still recognize denominations, but the Humanist variety was new to me. Indeed, when the majority of religious denominations expel and stigmatize their LGBT congregants, the state must find a way to provide equal dignity and counseling for those who would never return to a chapel. Especially if the chaplains are allowed to denounce minorities by way of religious protections, as they will in the US even after Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal. 

My presence at the festivities was poignant to many in The Netherlands who followed the Don't Ask Don't Tell debate closely this past year. One activist American general in particular drew the ire and ridicule of many when he contended last year before the US Senate that openly gay Dutch soldiers caused the massacre at Srebrenica (Kosovo). I am happy that our presence could serve as some repudiation of some American individuals who happily stir international uproar to satisfy their own selfish political motives. His bogus testimony and our first White House arrests were highlighted in the same news story along with the legacy of Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich on Dutch national TV. 

Amsterdam-5-Obama-Cake In my off time, I spoke at a meeting of the "Democrats Abroad" and met the Ambassador and some expatriates. Not surprisingly, many of these American-Dutch are gay and eagerly await immigration equality legislation and presidential action. While they live abroad, their influence does not end at the border or the absentee ballot: the perspective they provide Americans struggling for equality is critical. I learned that even I am complacent and too eager to celebrate partial equality as if it were the real thing. Seeing America from abroad usually makes us grateful to be American; it was certainly the feeling I got when returning home from Russia earlier this summer. But coming home from Amsterdam made the reality bitter: we have a long way to go before we can truly celebrate like the Dutch. The Democrats event was topped off with a Barack Obama birthday cake, topped with a dramatic Obama figurine. When I saw it I told myself "This has to be a practical joke." Well, I broke two gay activist rules: early celebration and dessert. I tried to resist, but my new friends decreed "let him eat cake."

While the weekend was a well-needed break for me, I also learned that the Dutch, even with their advances that put America to shame, are not satisfied with their equality struggle. Pink and Purple buttons carrying the new platforms: Gay History Education in Schools, and Everyone Officiate Gay Marriages (including religious bigots). The two slogans were prominently displayed on just about every bridge and in the sky-messaging carried by four "Pride airplanes." The Amsterdam Mayor and Justice Minister reminded me that they are not happy with political speeches alone, and their work reflects a true desire for justice. As their national government was unveiling a first-of-its-kind coalition platform for LGBT Equality with full cooperation from every ministry and government sector, I knew they were putting their money where their mouth was. The budgets for every state project and government ministry took a cut this year: all except one. The LGBT education project, intended to help international progress on LGBT equality actually received a budget increase. I know we can expect great things from this country for years to come.

Amsterdam-7-Crowds

Overall, I did not expect the kind of welcome we received. For whatever reason, I'm always looking for the one opponent in the crowd nowadays. Only one was visible, flipping us the middle finger from his stoop. It wasn't that we was anti-gay though. He carried a peace flag and shouted something about war, according to the soldiers I asked. Among the hundreds of thousands, not bad to have only one detractor. I suppose it is safe then to say this country loves its soldiers and its gays.  [Photos: Dutch National Paper 8/5, Amsterdam Pride credit: AP]

Watch a video of the float Choi rode on, AFTER THE JUMP...

 

 

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Comments

  1. ugh why is he still "relevant"?

    Posted by: reality | Aug 8, 2011 8:00:07 AM


  2. Was there at the canal parade. I knew I recognized him on the float. If you guys have never been to Amsterdam pride you missing out. It's one of the best prides I've ever been too. The whole city celebrates it.

    Posted by: Frank | Aug 8, 2011 8:08:48 AM


  3. When will he go away? NOT a good face/personality/person for our cause...

    Posted by: Aaron | Aug 8, 2011 8:14:05 AM


  4. Dan Choi should come with a caveat like a DVD commentary:

    "The bitter, self-aggrandizing views expressed by Mr. Choi do not represent the views of Americans, gay men, lesbians, transgendered persons or the US Military."

    Posted by: Dxx | Aug 8, 2011 8:24:50 AM


  5. Does anyone with current knowledge of his military status and current regulations know if Choi's wearing of his US Army uniform is legal, and compliant with the UCMJ?

    Or, is he just parading aground in a fake Army costume?

    Posted by: Ted B. (Charging Rhino) | Aug 8, 2011 8:45:08 AM


  6. Why is Dan Choi still wearing a uniform? I don't know if that's legal, but it's definitely fraudulent.

    He's done some good for our cause, no doubt about that. But his inability to control his hot head has also harmed us on a few occasions. And going abroad and posing as a current American soldier does no good for our still-closted troops, for our country, or for our cause.

    All it does, really, is get Dan Choi some press coverage (in Europe, at least). Or was that, really, his real aim?

    Posted by: K in VA | Aug 8, 2011 8:58:53 AM


  7. The most dangerous place to stand is between Dan Choi and any camera.

    Posted by: Jim | Aug 8, 2011 9:01:14 AM


  8. I hope he is having sex everywhere he goes... I hate him for having fun all over the world... protesting with russians... blah blah... he is everywhere.... hahaha.

    Posted by: Roberto | Aug 8, 2011 9:02:57 AM


  9. I was all ready to defend Dan Choi from the bitter queens here... but as I thought about it I realized that I'm getting tired of his divisive reactionary politics too. Until Dan Choi comes up with some new material, or at least some fresh rhetoric, I've had enough of him for a while.

    Posted by: Tone | Aug 8, 2011 9:06:17 AM


  10. Enough. . . .try counting the pronoun 'I' in that statement.

    Posted by: Christopher | Aug 8, 2011 9:16:29 AM


  11. It's interesting that a few bloggers still think Choi has the support of our community.

    Posted by: JoshG | Aug 8, 2011 9:17:14 AM


  12. Where does he get the money to travel to all of the international events he goes to...I have a tough time getting to New Jersey, and I live in NYC. Does he have a job now? Who is paying for all of these trips, and also keeping up his domestic bills at home...has anyone followed the money?

    Posted by: Rational | Aug 8, 2011 9:26:11 AM


  13. Dan Choi reports on Dan Choi. Really. Don't. Care.

    Posted by: Mike in Houston | Aug 8, 2011 9:34:49 AM


  14. Sometimes I prefer Dan Choi's direct approach as opposed to... Joe Solomnese and his band of privileged uber-white hetero-normative protege's seeming inaction. I think that both are needed extremes in the fight for equal rights. Think Magneto vs. Professor X, haha.

    Posted by: Moses | Aug 8, 2011 9:42:16 AM


  15. Regarding DADT, http://OutMilitary.com is now featuring in-depth interviews with gay active duty servicemen and women… This week features “T.J.” a bi-sexual man serving in the U.S Air Force in Turkey.

    Posted by: Out Military | Aug 8, 2011 9:43:37 AM


  16. A first for Holland, but the UK beat them to it on July 5, 2011 when all three branches of the UK military, airforce, army and navy marched in uniform. That was the first ever, nine years after British gays were first allowed to serve openly.

    Posted by: Robert in NYC | Aug 8, 2011 9:46:05 AM


  17. Good question about who is financially backing him. They are probably writing it off as a tax-deductible charity. Choi is also getting ready to sell his book. The book is about him. Why anyone would find a book interesting about a man who could not get promoted in the military during time of war is beyond me.

    Posted by: SFR | Aug 8, 2011 9:56:50 AM


  18. tl;dr.

    Posted by: ohplease | Aug 8, 2011 10:08:53 AM


  19. He should not be in uniform, it is against regulations according to his discharge. Unless... he has altered his uniform (not wearing rank, or misplaced award, etc.) then he is in "costume" - as an actor would be in a movie. But still, he should know better.

    Posted by: JNJ | Aug 8, 2011 10:34:32 AM


  20. Somebody needs to teach Dan some geography. "Srebrenica (Kosovo)"? Really? They must have moved that town.

    Posted by: KevinVT | Aug 8, 2011 10:38:52 AM


  21. Somebody needs to teach Dan some geography. "Srebrenica (Kosovo)"? Really? They must have moved that town.

    Posted by: KevinVT | Aug 8, 2011 10:38:52 AM


  22. Somebody needs to teach Dan some geography. "Srebrenica (Kosovo)"? Really? They must have moved that town.

    Posted by: KevinVT | Aug 8, 2011 10:38:53 AM


  23. crazy Dan Choi should be focusing more on getting therapy and good meds

    Posted by: say what | Aug 8, 2011 10:53:04 AM


  24. this guy is a total fame whore. He shames the rest of us gay military personel.

    Posted by: Jay | Aug 8, 2011 12:13:47 PM


  25. You people (previous negative commentators) are pathetic.

    You're talking out your asses as usual.

    You sit at your computers all day making anonymous, un-informed, petty snipes at someone like Dan Choi so that you can forget that you don't do a thing yourselves to improve this world because you lack the courage to.

    You need to grow up and stop being jealous of people who do have the courage to do something.

    Dan's wearing of the uniform clearly was neither illegal nor "fraudulent." US law and military regulation expressly allow honorably separated combat-veterans to wear their uniforms at ceremonies. Dan--unlike probably all of you commentators--is a combat veteran, having served under fire in the Iraq War for 15 months. And what Dan participated in in Amsterdam was an OFFICIAL Netherlands Government ceremony, a Netherlands Military float recognizing equality. Dan had EVERY right to wear his uniform. He EARNED that right by honorably serving his country and putting his life on the line for his country. Being able to wear the uniform after service is one of the benefits accorded to those who have the courage to defend democracy. Appropriately, it is not one of the benefits accorded to those who sit on their asses all day making anonymous snide remarks about others.

    Also, Dan in fact does represent many Americans, and many LGBT Americans, and so it was appropriate that he be in an ambassadorial role at the Amsterdam Pride. Many (Gay) Americans respect Dan and gladly have him represent us because Dan didn't sit on his ass all day making anonymous snide comments about others but got out there and put his liberty and life on the line in fighting against discrimination. His efforts contributed significantly to getting the advancements that we have gotten--more justification for why he approrpiately wears the uniform.

    Finally, Dan's participation in these events like Moscow and Amsterdam Pride clearly has nothing to do with self-promotion. Anyone who knows Dan or who has half a brain and can analyze the LGBT civil-rights movement objectively knows that Dan is simply continuing to speak up and lead the fight against discrimination against LGBT people--in American and globally. It speaks volumes about Dan's courage and commitment and contribution to LGBT equality that OTHER countries recognize him in such a manner. Dan was INVITED to be on the official Netherlands Military float. Were any of you negative commentators invited to be on anything other than your chairs in front of your computers to which you invited yourselves? No, because nobody gives a damn about some pathetic commentator sitting in front of his computer making anonymous snide remarks.

    What I want to know is how many of you people are paid by the Obama camp to smear civil-rights activists by sitting on your asses all day making anonymous false remarks about them.

    I for one thank Dan for his courage.

    Posted by: James E. Pietrangelo, II | Aug 8, 2011 12:15:54 PM


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