Transcript shows pro-trans activist stopped Dan Savage from educating MTV viewers about anti-trans bigotry

As Rick Perry would say, “oops.”  Well, that’s what happens when you blithely decide to protest one of the best advocates our community has.

Dan Savage was glitter bombed recently, for a second time, because pro-trans activists think he’s anti-trans. In fact, Dan admits that fifteen years ago he didn’t get trans people, I believe he even used the term “transphobic” to define himself then, but now he gets it. That doesn’t stop activists from continually berating him. And now the effort to demonize Dan has stopped him from educating millions of MTV viewers about anti-trans prejudice.

That was really dumb and counterproductive.

Dan just released the official transcript of the MTV event that he was glitter bombed at. It’s clear from the transcript that A) Dan was not using anti-trans language, he was repeating what the questioner said, and B) He was attempting to educate the audience about the anti-trans language when the trans activist interrupted him.

Here’s what the activists alleged (wrongly) that Dan said:

According to my source at the event, Savage was in the middle of answering a question from a student who was wondering if her boyfriend was a freak because he watched porn featuring trans women. Savage suggested that her boyfriend was a freak, while freely using the terms “shemale” and “freaky tranny porn.” That is when two individuals ran up and threw glitter on him yelling “Transphobe!”

And here’s what the official MTV transcript actually shows:

DAN: [READING FROM CARD] My boyfriend is straight but he enjoys anal sex and he asks me to make love to him in his butt all the time. [ASIDE:] You have no one to blame but yourself. [READING FROM CARD] Also, he likes watching she-male porn. Could you tell me why he is acting like this? [ANSWER:] Um, I’m gunna go out on a limb here and say it’s because he likes shemale porn and he enjoys anal stimulation. He’s acting like this because he’s a very freaky boy. If you’re into him, and you’re willing to go there for him, there are a lot of straight guys who are into transexual sex-workers, transexual porn, she-males for lack of a better term, although some people think that’s very offensive…

Anyone who bothers actually reading what Dan writes knows that he uses the word “freaky” all the day, and in a positive way – to him it means “kinky, wild, fun.” And even if you didn’t know that, it’s clear from the context.

This was an opportunity to educate MTV’s viewers, kids across the country, about anti-trans prejudice from someone they look up to, admire, like, listen to. That’s powerful stuff. And I dare say I doubt it happens very often on national TV, if ever. And a trans ally (apparently the activists who keep doing this aren’t even trans) ruined it for everyone.

This is a textbook lesson in how not to win your civil rights. It’s also a risky move some are making, trying to take down one of our community’s top, and most effective, civil rights/anti-bullying activists. Dan is probably the most effective voice our community has on TV today. His column reaches people nationwide. And his new MTV show has the potential to reach kids across America, and the world. He’s one of the best things our community, and our civil rights battle, has going for it. Watch the numerous videos of his appearances on TV – here he is taking on the FRC’s Tony Perkins and the Mormon Church, and here’s Dan talking about ex-gay therapy on Bill Maher’s show. He’s damn good, and better than any other advocate we have (and he’s not even being paid to do it). Look at what he did with the “It Gets Better” project, something that started with a simple idea Dan had. The Dan-phobes aren’t just trying to hurt Dan, they are hurting the gay civil rights effort, and the anti-bullying effort, by trying to destroy one of the best weapons in our community’s arsenal. They are in a very real way, whether intentional or not, threatening to harm us all.

The author of the Bilerico post I quoted in my first post on this topic responds:

Just because an audience member uses a derogatory slur does not make it okay to repeat it. There is no reason he couldn’t have corrected the person’s use and described it in any number of other ways. If a white audience member said that their white partner was watching [insert racial slur] porn, that would not have made it okay to for Savage to repeat the slur uncritically. It shouldn’t be any when they are all cis people using trans slurs.

PS I just went through a long list of posts that supposedly “prove” that Dan is anti-trans. Most of it bogus, such as claiming that Dan telling a guy, who went to a trans prostitute, to get checked for sexually transmitted infections, is anti-trans – his critics claim he only suggested this because the prostitute was trans, which is ridiculous on its face. Or claiming that he told a trans man, who said his trans male boyfriend found his sex organs disgusting (he felt they smelled horribly), that their relationship wasn’t going to last. Yes, that would be apparent. But that has nothing to do with them being trans, it’s because your boyfriend finds your sex organs disgusting – good luck making that relationship work. And he defended Glee for using the word “tranny,” which I understand is a controversy all in itself, in terms of those who find the word inoffensive and those who do. So that’s hardly transphobic of Dan for using a word that many do not find offensive.

In fact, many of the links are to quotes in which Dan actually is being incredibly trans-positive, treating questions about transgender issues, about cross dressing, as being just as normal as questions about being gay or anything else. That in and of itself sends a strong positive message to his quite large audience.

The only thing I found that I can see some folks getting upset about is: using the word “shemale,” which he did at least once when the questioner didn’t use it. I wouldn’t say it, but I also don’t understand the origin of the word and whether it’s used by anyone in a non-judgmental, non-critical way. Oh, and he suggested that an anti-gay politician was trans, just to needle the guy. We used to do the same to Ann Coulter, calling her Mann Coulter, but we don’t anymore because we can see how it’s like “joking” that someone is gay and intending it as an insult. Fair enough. But not exactly the stuff of glitter bombs.

In all the links I went to, there just wasn’t the anti-trans animus that some people keep claiming. And as I noted above, just the opposite. Dan has been quite welcoming of trans-related questions, and he has treated the questions, and the questioners, as quite “normal,” as they are and should be treated. Is he a bit in your face with his answers? It’s DAN SAVAGE people. I remember one of the first times I spoke with Dan by phone, years ago, he suddenly slipped into a discussion of some intensely personal sex act and I actually blushed on the phone and told him to stop. :-) Don’t mistake Dan’s frankness (something quite necessary, and refreshing, in a sex columnist, and a friend) with animus. Find the links and read them for yourselves. The attacks on him, for the most part, are unfounded and, as today’s post shows, counter-productive.

UPDATE: Daniel Villarreal at Queerty has similar concerns:

But doesn’t it seem odd that trans folk would glitterbomb the creator of the “It Gets
Better” project, a video project that has helped trans people share their stories and reach out to other trans youth possibly moreso than any digital vehicle in internet history? In many ways, Savage has helped push gay social issues, discriminatory identity politics and positive queer sexuality into the national spotlight by repeatedly pointing out the absurdity of bigoted anti-LGBT arguments as well as the honesty required to live as an ethical slut.

So while it’s obvious that the “Dan Savage Welcoming Committee” chose Dan as a high-profile target to raise larger issues of racism, misogyny, rape-apologists, and transphobia, by doing so they have also targeted arguably one of the most effective LGBT activists within our community.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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