Last month, President Obama signed a bill officially ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the military. As a result of this policy, since 2006, 13,000 have been discharged from the military.
Lt. Daniel Choi is a West Point graduate who became proficient in Arabic and served in Afghanistan. He chose to pay the price for getting the law changed. Twice, he chained himself to the fence at the White House and was imprisoned. He told the Army investigators that he was being discharged from the military for telling the truth. His training at West Point insisted he always tell the truth, as did his father, who is a Southern Baptist minister.
FBI Director Robert Mueller echoed this argument in his testimony to Congress. On national TV, Lt. Choi was seen telling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, “I am holding you accountable” — what chutzpah! I was thrilled to see an Asian American taking this courageous action. A month has passed since the law was changed. The sky has not fallen. Life goes on in the military without DADT just as it did when the services were racially integrated in the 1940s.
How fitting it was that National JACL, at its convention held last July in Hollywood, honored Lt. Choi for his courageous, principled acts.
In my last column I wrote about 56-year-old Melvin Fujikawa, a respected So Cal church choir director who came out of the closet on Oct. 11, 2010, which was National Coming Out Day. He told me it was a joyful, liberating experience, and he was so happy he made the fateful decision. At long last, he was able to declare to himself and the whole world all of who he was.
There must be similarities regarding the experience of being LGBT/JA in our families and the experience of LGBT persons pre-DADT in the military: Fear of being discovered, the need for secrecy, guilt and shame issues, etc. I have no direct experience, but my years as a high school counselor tells me it is better to “let it all hang out” than to continue keeping things hidden.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is alive and well in our community. I would ask whether we want to end it, and, if so, how do we start asking and/or telling? Perhaps like Lt. Choi, we need to consider taking some risks. Can we share with one another how we went about asking or telling?
I would like to have LGBT/JA persons tell their stories in my column, and I would like to have parents/grandparents tell of how they went about asking.
Consider the pay-off: At 56 years of age, Melvin Fujikawa is a renewed man, and those who love him, I am sure, rejoice with him.
What can any of us do to bring about this experience in our families?
Please let me know your thoughts. Email me or (818) 893 1581.
Phil Shigekuni can be reached by email. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.