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Dan Savage Glitter Bombed Again, Responds to Transphobia Accusations

Dan Savage

Gay rights activist and sex columnist Dan Savage, after being glitter bombed at the University of Oregon earlier this month, was yet again showered with sparkles in response to using transphobic language in his Savage Love column and on stage. This story has taken quite a few turns.

The Bilerico first reported the incident on November 14th, an article which Savage blogged, “actively and maliciously misrepresented” his remarks. On November 9th, Savage, who is on a tour of Universities for his upcoming MTV series, was speaking to an audience at the University of California Irvine. On his blog, Savage explains that he was answering a question from an audience member about her boyfriend who, in her words, “likes watching shemale porn.” In his response, Savage was reported to have used to problematic terms, “shemale” and “freaky tranny porn,” while also confirming that yes, the boyfriend in question was a freak. Savage has fired back to the allegations claiming, “I did say ‘shemale.’ I read the question as-written, repeated the term in my response, and then used ‘transsexual’ in place of ‘shemale’…modeling the use of less offensive terms.” He added, “I never used the phrase ‘freaky tranny porn.’ I never said the word ‘tranny’ at UCI at all.”He does admit to calling the boyfriend “a very freaky boy,” but apparently did not mean it negatively as he and his column are “pro-freak.”

Although Savage did not use the term “tranny” at UCI, he has used it in his Savage Love column, along with the term “shemale,” when no specific wording of a question needed repeating. This story is sticky, as it has become quite the he said/she said/they said online in the last few days. I do know, however, that it is unfortunate that someone with as prominent a voice as Savage, who claims to be a spokesperson for the queer community as a whole, has repeatedly used problematic language, whether at UCI or elsewhere, in reference to the trans community. It may behoove Dan to recognize that he may only be speaking for the GLB community.

Actually, make that GL. Savage has also come under criticism for doubting the validity of young male bisexuals’ identities. In response to being called biphobic Savage claimed, “I don’t cruise around bi neighborhoods looking for young bi guys to beat up.” In his recent response to being called transphobic he announced, “if I’m the enemy of trans people everywhere, trans people everywhere could use more enemies like me.”

In both defenses Savage seems to have a very specific picture of who queerphobic people are. They don’t include people who “just” use language they have been informed is hateful or those who “only” doubt others’ self-identifications. I think Mr. Savage needs to reflect on how his actions, while not maybe equivalent with physical harm, and maybe not even intentionally phobic, are hurtful to members of a community he claims to speak for on a very visible stage. He has a lot of eyes and ears on him, and he could be using it to not only let gay kids out there know that It Gets Better,” but also that they should respect their bi and trans peers’ self-identifications as well as offense to derogatory words used to describe their community.

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