By Brenna Everdale
When I looked at the LGBTQ Resource Center’s events calendar and saw that Dan Savage was coming to Kutztown, I was concerned. I knew that he started the It Gets Better Project to prevent suicide among LGBTQ youth, and that is great.
However, I also knew that in the past he has come under criticism for using slurs such as ‘tranny’ and ‘lardass’ in his column, as well as a host of other problematic things regarding other vulnerable groups of people.
It is very damaging for a representative of the LGBTQ community to behave this way, as it can easily alienate members of the very community he is supposed to be representing. It appeared to me as though his only priority was to help other gay, white males like himself.
So one day after class I stopped by the LGBTQ Center and the Women’s Center to voice these concerns. Some of the nice women and men I spoke with shared my sentiments, and some of them assured me that Savage was not as bad as I thought he was. In any case, nothing could be done since the university had already paid him his $10,000 fee. I decided to let it go.
On March 11, I attended his show, Love Live, in Schaeffer Auditorium.
The show was modeled after his advice column, a sex Q&A involving crass humor, earnest insights and personal anecdotes. Much of what he said endorsed safety, responsibility and respect for the self and others. In that way, it was not what I was expecting. He gave advice on cultivating a positive body image, being open about your sexuality with your partner and leaving partners who don’t respect you.
Of course, the show also came along with your garden variety sexism, with statements such as, “Men are…insane, but women are crazy…,so it evens out.”
He also said some other worrisome things, such as: we should be teaching kids “how to convince a person to have sex with you” or “negotiate consent” in sex ed classes. Call me old-fashioned, but last I checked, no meant “no,” not “convince me.”
He also spoke briefly about the It Gets Better Project and its goals, which was rather heartwarming.
At the end of the show, he had a live Q&A, signed books and took photos with fans.
By this time, I had concluded that his offensive comments that I read about had little to do with hatred and everything to do with ignorance and insensitivity.
When he finished taking photos, I approached him to get his side of the story:
“I think we all know more about gender issues and trans issues than we did when I started writing the column, and so there’s always been sort of a playful dialogue and education as much for me as for my readers,” he said. “Some of the accusations of biphobia and transphobia come from a genuine place, and some of those people have been right who took issue, but some of it is opportunistic and is [nonsense], and I have to push back against it.”
Dan Savage is not the only LGBTQ-friendly celebrity to face allegations of transphobia. Many celebrities have come under these criticisms and have issued apologies.
I believe that the problem is more cultural than individual. As we progress towards a more sensitive and holistic understanding of vulnerable communities, it is important to take responsibility for our past mistakes and make efforts to educate ourselves and others.