July 23, 2010; Melanie Nathan.
I am no military woman, and never have been, but I have been an activist in the LGBT community for a while now. Like many others who become activists, I became one as a result of my personal experiences as a lesbian and a wife after actions by my government affected the life of my family in an adverse way just because I was a lesbian.
So I’ll admit right off, my reasons for becoming an activist were very selfish; I became an activist because I was fighting for the very life of my family.
As many of you also know, I am also a writer and editor with Lezgtreal.com. However the reporting on the issues surrounding the repeal of DADT on LGR, is not my beat so to speak and there are others on the site who have a far greater understanding of those issues and from a more personal experience then I do. One of them is LGR’s publisher, Dr. Paula Brooks and another is LGR political editor Bridgette LaVatoire.
Paula’s perspective on DADT comes from that of the daughter of a multi-generational military family and her passion about repealing DADT is fueled by the unjust career of her same-sex wife, a former member of the US Navy, a hero who had served bravely as a fighter pilot, who quit the service over DADT. Paula’s perspective may well be a concomitant of her memories of her wife, who, weak and dying, a mere three weeks before passing away from cancer, insisted Paula drive her the 100 plus miles to speak to her Congress Person about repealing DADT; one final time, long before DADT repeal became a cause-celeb. When it comes to matters concerning DADT she is passionate, formidable and I have always been impressed.
I have also been very impressed by the activism of Lt Dan Choi, and have personally been a fan of his since he first ‘outed’ himself on the Rachel Maddow show about a year ago, and then fought for the DADT repeal cause.
I met Dan a year ago at SF Pride when we were both backstage at the event and I felt an immediate connection. Here was this like-minded kindred soul who had given up so much, the way I had done, to follow the promise we had made to ourselves in our fight for equality. For me the passion to change the inequality for others, considering myself still lucky in my iniquitous mess, was a vow that I could not break, at whatever cost and for no reward other than equality for all. I thought I saw that same thing in Dan as well.
However over the past couple of days, I have read the reports surrounding the discharge of Lt. Dan Choi.
Yesterday, I read the article, “Lt. Dan Choi Discharged- Why Won’t He Admit It?” In that article, Dan was asked to explain why he had not made his June 29th discharge public for nearly a month.
After reading the piece, it seemed rather odd to me that a month had gone by and Dan had not made his discharge public. I too thought, for the man who has become the face of DADT repeal, letting people know about an event like his discharge under DADT should have been a pretty important event to Dan as well. As an activist why did he not immediately inform the LGBT community, all who have invested in his journey and had eyes on his every move.
So while not my beat, I began to look for my own answers. I first asked Dr. Brooks what was up with all of this?
She told me she thought, in her opinion, Choi had probably turned “pro” and the reason for not saying anything about the discharge might stem from the fact the uniform was a pretty good prop and to wear the uniform after you are discharged, is a federal crime. She also told me she has been trying to get him to clear up some questions she had about financial issues for better then a month.
Later I found out that Dan Choi has an agent. (Gotham Artists).
This led me to question why an agent? Activists put the cause first – they struggle financially, are able to fund their own activism or are openly paid via non-profits with Board responsibility at their helm; they don’t need agents. And they do not make deals for their activism that involve making money.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying that people should not get support for expenses in their activism, however I never ever dreamed I would need an Agent for my activism or for the speaking engagements I have done freely around the issues I speak about.
Agents do not work for free, they are in business to earn commissions. Now while I am barely known in comparison to Dan, I could not imagine ever offering 10 percent of my equality fight, in dollars, to anyone.
Later, as I looked even further into this story, an LGBT student at Texas Tech University told me that when the school had asked for Choi to be a speaker, they were told by Choi’s agent, they needed to be paid 7000 dollars up front to get him there. When they could not come up with the money, Choi apparently refused to speak.
So far I’ve not been able to confirm this, but if this is true, as a fellow activist, I feel that all the good of bringing attention to DADT and its repeal to the public attention should not have this kind of quid pro quo attached to it.
I also have to think, that if this is true, it takes Dan Choi out of the realm of pure activist, could this mean he has taken himself down the road of profit maker for activism? If he is charging to be a motivational speaker, he must come clean to the community and separate his DADT activities from his speaking career quest. He owes us that! But would that serve a profit making quest?
I am disturbed by these possible developments and would like to invite Dan to show some accountability to our community.
I have taken huge financial hit for my activism- call me stupid – and I have suffered the consequences in many ways, too embarrassing to describe. I have not charged a cent to anyone who has asked me to provide personal advocacy services, because to my way of thinking I am being an activist when I approach a Senator for a private Bill or a Congressman for the release of a detainee.
Hence as a known fellow activist for LGBT rights, I feel qualified to ask Dan these questions on behalf of our community. I hope he gets back to all of us with the answers.
I Ask – Why Did Choi reveal his Discharge on the Maddow Show a month after it happened? Why did Dan Choi wait a month to tell us he had been discharged? Why did the activism and arrest in Vegas continue while we did not know he had been discharged? Look at all the Choi news since June 29th – Look at Choi’s website – No dates when he tells of discharge? It is ODD! What about GetEqual – did they know? Where is the Press release? If it was kept quiet for so long, why? Was it about the money? Is there something else we do not know? Are these manouevers designed to get Choi a higher asking price?
UPDATE : Ten minutes after posting, – A reader has just confirmed one of the questions by referring me to this site:- http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wakeupamerica2010/2010/07/04/what-does-equality-mean-to-you