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



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... 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:

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.


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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  1. @james E, pietroangeloor is that Dan Choi

    Dan needs to stop having his nervous breakdowns because he cant reconcile his born again xtianista republican self with his gay self

    Just saying

    Posted by: say what | Aug 8, 2011 12:20:02 PM

  2. James E. Pietragelo:


    Posted by: Vince | Aug 8, 2011 12:32:38 PM

  3. Thanks, Dan! I think you're great.

    Posted by: Glenn I | Aug 8, 2011 12:44:19 PM

  4. Oooooooooh, the Barackroaches are really out in force this morning, kicking their six legs like angry Rockettes on crack. Sorry, kids, he's rightly famous and respected and you're nobody. He was invited to be a special guest at this year's Amsterdam Pride—and you weren't. He remains a guest on Maddow, Cooper, ad infinitum while you sit on the other side of the screen in your skid marked old Calvins. He walks—you talk—hiding behind screen names and with your heads up your asses. If he were praising Your Lord & Savior Obama Christ instead of pulling the curtain back from Barry's betrayals of his promises to gays you'd be applauding.

    Wait, wait—before you embarrass yourselves further: tell me again why Obama is STILL trying to kill the court ruling that DADT is unconstitutional even tho that ruling being upheld is the only thing that could prevent a future administration from bringing it back.

    Posted by: | Aug 8, 2011 12:47:00 PM

  5. "...(d) A person who is discharged honorably or under honorable conditions from the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps may wear his uniform while going from the place of discharge to his home, within three months after his discharge.

    (e) A person not on active duty who served honorably in time of war in the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps may bear the title, and, when authorized by regulations prescribed by the President, wear the uniform, of the highest grade held by him during that war.

    Unless he's on in-active status and still-commissioned I think it MIGHT BE illegal. Honorably-discharged and not on active duty are two very different legal-statuses

    Posted by: Ted B. (Charging Rhino) | Aug 8, 2011 2:14:02 PM

  6. Mr. Pietragelo, I have been an advocate for equality in the military since I first saw top gun pilot Tracy Thorne stand up as a proud gay man on Nightline when I was a kid 20 years ago. It helped me realize being gay and loving your country was okay. What I think has chaffed some people is that Dan continues to attack the current administration for not acting fast enough after the victory bringing DADT to an end. I don't support the Obama administration generally because I don't like Democrats. Still this administration ended DADT. Period. So it seems like a logic disconnect for Dan to keep flaming flames rather than touring the country as a recruiter of future LGBT patriots who can serve out and proud, etc. Now that we have a crack in the door, the best way to kick it in and keep it open is to have gay service members serve openly and change public opinion, not depend on what's en vogue politically.

    And Michael, to answer your last question, it's because POTUS is a politician who wants to be reelected while trying to use his power to support what he says he believes. Clinton signed DOMA just before the '96 elections which was a huge blow, yet at the time DADT was a compromise to lifting the ban and seen as a step forward. Gradualism sucks but it's where we live brother.

    Posted by: Bans Gender | Aug 8, 2011 2:24:45 PM

  7. Choi's wearing of his uniform is NOT legal under title 10 US Code, just ask any cadet at West Point, they all know the right answer, nor was it appropriate when Pietrangelo and Choi protested at the White House. Unfortunately, it is not worth the Army's time to prosecute, so he gets by, only being confronted by peers in person

    The gay cadets at USNA are shamed by a gay alumni who is bringing discredit upon them, a grad who could not make the rank of Captain in 6 years, when most make it in three years these days.

    Someone needs to expose the source of funding Choi is receiving, as his shenanagans are not helping the LGBT service members start off with the fine reputation for service they rightfully deserve.

    Posted by: SFR | Aug 8, 2011 3:11:24 PM

  8. Call me confused, but I appreciate what Dan Choi did in the past, even though I think he would have done more good by being less belligerent and going with the flow -- he could have been the poster boy for gay service members. He does good, overall, even though I think some of it is ill-advised.

    BUT what he did here, appearing in uniform in Amsterdam, was wrong. He is not serving. He is not within his rights to wear his uniform in public like that. And, MOST IMPORTANTLY, he took the honor that belongs to members of the military who are still serving when they can appear in next year's celebrations as the first gay American service members serving openly and celebrating Pride in uniform.

    Posted by: BobN | Aug 8, 2011 3:49:53 PM

  9. @ James E. Pietrangelo, II

    Re your quote; "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."

    Who in the hell do you think you are claiming that anyone who disagrees with you is a paid operative? Who in the hell do you think you are to claim that no one could disagree with you in good faith? If anyone sounds like a paid operative from the Republican National Committee, it's you. Obviously you want Obama's Republican opponent to win in 2012. I think reasonable people would question whether that outcome is beneficial for LGBT voters. Yes, you chained yourself to the White House fence and, in doing so, you did some good. Maybe it's time for you to stop being a robot for Mitt Romney.

    @ Michael Bedwell,

    Give up your vendetta for defeating your straight, female diva, Joan Crawford. You're still stuck back in the 2008 primaries when Hillary lost. (She would have slapped the Pentagon generals around like Joan Crawford, blah, blah, blah, BS). Michael, your worship of straight females is becoming a laughing stock.

    Posted by: Artie Rimbaud | Aug 8, 2011 5:45:20 PM

  10. @ James E. Pietrangelo, II,

    You've disgraced yourself. In your comment above, you've publicly declared that LGBT voters and their allies who disagree with your Republican-sponsored outcome for the White House in 2012 are "paid" political operatives. In doing this, you've desecrated the very democratic dialogue that you purport to uphold. (That's "democratic" with a small "d".) Does any commenter see any reason why they should take your comments seriously in the future? I think not. Please don't spread your disgrace further.

    Posted by: Artie Rimbaud | Aug 8, 2011 6:21:28 PM

  11. There are a few (like 3?) people who are defending Choi here ... Everyone else is sick of him. Please take notice, bloggers. Choi is just a self-promoter trying to keep his name in papers and blogs. #Tired

    Posted by: reality | Aug 8, 2011 6:59:53 PM

  12. and LOL, "JAMES E. PIETRANGELO, II" thinks the Obama Campaign would waste its time creating fake comments on blogs? Give me a break, you're clueless on how campaigns work! You're probably one of Choi's few minions.

    Posted by: reality | Aug 8, 2011 7:06:34 PM


    Well done. Choi is a hero and you are right to call the haters on their petty jealousy of a real American hero. They call Choi a Republican in an effort to shame him but the real closet Republican is Obama. He has continued the Bush policies and these tools don't even realize they are defending right-wing policies.

    Viva Choi!

    Posted by: truthteller | Aug 9, 2011 2:21:30 AM

  14. @ "Truthteller",

    Nice username. Regarding your quote, "the real closet Republican is Obama. He has continued the Bush policies".

    I didn't realize that repealing DADT and filing a very enthusiastic legal brief last month *against* DOMA were Bush policies. I'm sure Bush would be surprised to hear about that too. And you're itching for the Republicans to retake the White House and take LGBT rights in the opposite direction? Quisling.

    Posted by: Artie Rimbaud | Aug 9, 2011 4:20:19 AM

  15. Choi is illegally wearing a uniform he disgraced by violating Army Regulations. He is no longer authorized to wear this uniform. It does not matter if you agree or disagree with DADT; it was the law of the land at that time. He will not be allowed to rejoin the Army. The Dutch military members I work with are not as cool with gays in the service as the media likes to report. The general feeling is that gays are demanding not equal treatment but rather special treatment. In general, no one seems to care about lesbians in the Dutch Army; it is pretty much expected that if you are a woman and you make a career of the Army you are a lesbian. Unfortunately, women are still heavily discriminated against in the Dutch Army; they rarely attain the senior ranks. My Dutch colleagues found the Ministrie van Defensie participation in the Gay Pride parade to be embarrassing and stupid.

    Posted by: Bill | Aug 27, 2011 10:20:32 AM

  16. Former 1LT Choi:

    I don't want you in my Army. Not because you are gay, but because you were passed over twice for CPT. The promotion rate to CPT is almost 100%, and I've even seen some pretty bad officers make it on the second look. Face it, you aren't a good officer. You should have pinned CPT with your USMA peers on 1 July 2006, yet you were separated from the active Army in 2008. You didn't come out on Maddow until 2009 when you were in the NYARNG. Also, you shouldn't wear the uniform as you do. Read US Code and AR 670-1, paragraph 30-4.

    An Army Major

    Posted by: A serving officer | Sep 21, 2011 10:05:41 PM

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