“I was scared to tell my parents…”

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

‘… that I support human rights & equality.’

Paraphrased… Dan Choi, and Emily Henochowicz, by way of Democracy Now.

Choi is 29. Henochowicz is 21.

I find this encouraging.  

It just kind of leaped out at me.

I don’t get the show on my TV but I like to listen to it on the radio in the car or sitting in my hot backyard (with a fan). Yesterday, they aired the segment where Amy Goodman talked with Lt. Dan Choi, after learning the news of his recent discharge from the military for his violation of DADT… a really good interview. I have such immense respect for this guy. But this is the part that I’m referring to now:

AMY GOODMAN: Eleven years you’ve served in the military. What made you decide a year ago to come out on national television?

LT. DAN CHOI: I came back from Iraq. And many times when I was sitting in the barricade areas within the compound or in my Humvee, I thought to myself, when am I going to get along with my life, get along with the truth, reconcile who I really am from what I’ve been pretending to be? And many times I would spend alone in Iraq, many nights I would be very contemplative. I came back from Iraq, and I decided that it’s not worth it. I could have died at any moment in the area that I was, in the Triangle of Death. Why should I be afraid of the truth of who I am?

I came out to my parents. I found love, and that was the reason why. It was difficult to come out to my parents. You know, with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” sure, I could get kicked out, I knew that. I could give up a lot. And a lot of people have given up quite a hefty sum of benefits, including your medical benefits, your right to go to a VA hospital without paying, even if your disability rating is something like mine-I’m 50 percent disabled from my time in service. I stood to lose all of that, as well as scholarship moneys, a GI Bill and a home loan through the VA programs. And I realized that those were things that we could give up. That was nothing compared to the prospect of coming out to my dad, who’s a minister, and he’s affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. He’s still in denial. He tells me, “Every single time you go on media, you must make sure that they know that I do not officially condone who you are. I do not officially love you for who you are. I cannot say that.” That’s his interpretation of what the Southern Baptists believe. And I wasn’t afraid of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the military, in that regard; I was afraid of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at home.


AMY GOODMAN: Dan Choi, what was your mother’s reaction?

LT. DAN CHOI: My mom, when I told her, she tried to express as much Christian love as she possibly could. I asked her, “If I tell you what’s going on, will you love me?” She grabbed my hand, and she said, “Of course. I will always love you.” And I said, “I’m gay.” And she grabs my hand even tighter and says, “I love you, but that doesn’t exist. It’s not in the Bible. It’s wrong. And I don’t know any gay people. I don’t know any gay people. I don’t any gay people.” And I’d asked her a month later, she said, “OK, I know one gay person.” And then she said-two months later, she said, “OK, I actually know a lot of gay people.” But she was in such denial. She said, “You can change. You can change.” And she voted for McCain, and she was a big Prop 8 supporter. And I was trying to explain to her, “The way you vote really does affect my rights and who I am as a human being, as your son, who wants to live a fulfilled life.” And she said, “Well, you can change. You can change. You can pray to God, and you can be straight.” She said that as long as I prayed to God enough, that I could just wake up in the morning and, you know, be straight, apparently. And I said, “No, I’ve tried. I’ve tried. I prayed all the time, at all of the retreats, all the revival services.” And she said, “But you can pray harder. Yes, you can! Like Obama! Yes, you can! You can change!”

I had the mild desire to post a blog entry just about that, his whole discussion and some of the other comments he made in this piece, but, well, I had to cook dinner and stuff, so I didn’t.

But then today, I listened to the Democracy Now! global broadcast exclusive interview with Emily Henochowicz. She’s the twenty-one-year-old American art student who lost her eye in May after being shot in the face by an Israeli tear gas canister at a protest against Israel’s attack on the Gaza flotilla that left nine people dead..

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about your evolution then. You’re in Sheikh Jarrah. You’re seeing things.


AMY GOODMAN: Now, where you come from, your parents are, your grandparents were Holocaust survivors?


AMY GOODMAN: And your father, an Israeli citizen?


AMY GOODMAN: They went from-where were they in the concentration-did they-were they in concentration camps?

EMILY HENOCHOWICZ: No, they weren’t in concentration camps. My grandparents, they’re from Poland. And they-I don’t know the full story, but I do know that they were all around Europe trying to find a place where they could just live and that there was no place where they could really be. And they were really ardent Zionists, and they came to Israel, lived there for ten years.

AMY GOODMAN: And your dad, born there?


JUAN GONZALEZ: And in terms of your transformation, as your father was here in the United States-was he aware? Were you communicating with him, while you were there, of how you were changing your perspective or viewpoints on what was going on in Israel and the Occupied Territories?

EMILY HENOCHOWICZ: You know, I found it very difficult at first to tell my parents that I had been to the West Bank and that, you know, that I’m drinking tea with Palestinians. But, of course, I had to tell them. But it took me like a month to really get to it. My dad reacted, you know, like a concerned father, but also felt that somehow I was personally attacking him by, you know, going to all these things. But he came around, really, so…

Both circumstances completely different, different personal stories, different “causes”…. but the similarities that struck me were that both of these young people struggled with an internal conflict …. They have parents who espouse extreme and rigid viewpoints, based in some religious framework, that is completely at odds with… well… reality. The grown children, in my view, have internalized and embraced the core essential …. uhm … values these parent raised them to believe, yet…. to actualize and live out those values, these ‘kids’ must defy and ‘betray’ their parents. Wow, huh. Heavy.

Glad they did. Hope there’s more “young people” coming along like these two. We’re gonna need ’em.

1 comment

  1. do they have to always make it all so complicated?

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