Officer and a Gentleman

He may be a casualty of "don't ask, don't tell," but as a magnetic LGBT activist, Dan Choi's future has never looked brighter.



Choi's oratorical gifts and undeniable stage presence endear him to anyone starving for a modern-day Harvey Milk. Stumping at Proposition 8 demonstrations throughout California, he exuded a downright Clintonian electricity. As hot-button LGBT issues converged to become a media zeitgeist this spring, "The timing was such that [Choi] could go out and say, 'I'm for equality across the board,'" says Nathaniel Frank, author of the book Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America. And that gave him a bully pulpit, something most discharged gay soldiers haven't had, Frank adds.

Perhaps it's no surprise that Choi's now being lobbied to run for office himself, just one of many opportunities this newly unemployed civilian is now pondering. "Politics, I don't know. I'm going through a lot of stuff right now, and that's really torturous of you to plant those ideas in my head!" he says with a laugh. "Speaking out publicly is basically the same thing as holding office, so I'm doing it anyway."

Not that politics is Choi's only option. He's long considered pursuing a State Department position, perhaps as an analyst in a Middle East bureau. "I still have passion for the region," he says. Veterans affairs are also close to his heart; Choi says he'd like to get involved with a related organization.

And, of course, there's Knights Out, which has grown from 38 members in March to more than 400 members and allies as of press time. Although it's become a support group of sorts, the organization's primary mission remains ending the military ban. Don't forget, these are West Point grads, elite soldier-scholars trained to succeed at anything.

"It's become a very powerful voice," Choi says of Knights Out, "but when we get e-mails [from gay soldiers] that say, 'I was going to commit suicide,' or, 'I didn't eat for a week,' we have to be even louder. We're not going to wait for someone else to act."