- Campus copes with holiday grief
- New water plan saves big money
- Campus police offer holiday safety tips
- Alys Stephen Center Screens Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago
- Hospital feeds underprivileged new moms
- UAB’s Alys Stephens Center presents Yo-Yo Ma Dec. 6
- Southern Miss tops Blazers, 62-27, in season ending game
- Henry Panion selected for 2014 Alabama African-American History Calendar
- Enjoy Christmas at the Alys Dec. 2, “The Season’s First Jingle”
- Engineering’s Ning wins ASTM International award
- Collat School of Business unveils sign at celebration
- Heudebert elected master by American College of Physicians
- Anti-aging strategies can improve more than looks
- On campus ‘blackout’ taken in stride
- Bariatric Surgery Services to present annual fashion show Nov. 25
Q & A with Dan Savage
This past Thursday, students and faculty at the Alys Stephens Center received live and uncensored advice from gay activist and sex columnist Dan Savage. Arguably the most prominent sex and relationship writer in America, Savage also founded the “It Gets Better” campaign aimed at offering hope and encouragement to gay teens and co-founded by his husband Terry Miller. In a ten minute “Meet the Press” meeting before his lecture, he spoke to The Kaleidoscope about coming to Alabama, receiving hate from liberals and the gay community, and what his son thinks about his sex column.
Kscope: So, what made you decide to come to Birmingham, Alabama and do your college tour?
Savage: Well, I was invited to come to Birmingham, Alabama. I’m a little bit like the devil, you have to ask me in. I don’t just show up. The university invited me to come and speak, and that’s very brave of them. I don’t get to speak in a lot of red states.
Kscope: I’m asking because your “It Gets Better” project focuses on reassuring young people being bullied because of their gender identity or sexual behavior who may be stuck in insulated or conservative towns. Did that have anything to do with your decision to come here or to do a college tour?
Savage: Well I do a lot of college tours. If I wanted to reach those kids I would do high school tours. But high schools won’t invite me because principals would be fired and get drawn and quartered for inviting me. But college is where kids are usually figuring out who they are sexually. Even if they are straight, they’re sort of coming out and figuring who they are and what they want. Most people who write to me or call into my show are in their very early 20’s or late teens or college aged. I’m just going right to the source when I come to colleges and speak.
Kscope: You’ve gotten a lot of flack from conservatives unsurprisingly. But lately it seems that you’ve also received some backlash from very liberal people who have called you things like “biphobic” and “transphobic”. There actually was a group of students protesting your arrival here on the grounds that you were a “rape apologist”. How do you respond to these accusations from people who seem to be coming from the same place that you are?
Savage: Well, first of all, I am not a rape apologist. That is a lie. Usually when people call me that they’ll take one sentence from a very long response to a very complicated situation and hold it up like it’s some sort of bloody shirt that proves that I am against holding people accountable. There’s one particular column that often gets manipulated where the sentence before the sentence that’s used [as proof of being a rape apologist] is “I hope you call the police, I hope you prosecuted that person, I hope he’s in jail”. And then you have to delve into the complicated and nuanced circumstances. If someone maliciously wants to take you out of context they can really make you look horrible.There’s a lot of folks in “Queerland” and Tumblr social justice circles who have problems with writers.
You know not all straight people agree about everything. Not all straight people like all other straight people. Sometimes young, queer people have this misconception that if we’re all queer, we should all be on the same page, we should all agree. And if someone who says, or does, or writes something that you disagree with or offends you, you should attack them and call them a “bad queer”. And that’s just not true. You don’t see straight people standing around saying “You’re a bad straight person because you said something I don’t agree with.”
Kscope: But, were you surprised when you saw some of the responses?
Savage: No! I’ve been writing for 22 years. Sometimes the folks who are calling me biphobic or transphobic–which is not true, I am neither Biphobic nor Transphobic–will sometimes say I only speak for gay men. What’s hilarious to me is that gay men hated me first. I’m used to people being mad at me in GayLand because gay men hated me first.
Savage: Because I don’t think anal sex is a first date activity. Because I think bathhouses are terrible and I believe that they should have been shut down at the height of the AIDS epidemic. That I think that just because someone will let you have sex with them without a condom doesn’t give you a right to infect them. And I would write those things and get into a lot of trouble with gay men who regarded my writing or my positions on the excesses of gay culture as buying into the shame that the culture would throw at gay people. So, people who are queer have been mad at me since the first day I started writing my column. It’s nothing new.
Kscope: Of course, gotcha. So, this may be too personal, but how did you approach your occupation (being a sex columnist) with your son?
Savage: (laughs) He is appropriately mortified by what his father does for a living. Just like I was. My father was a catholic deacon and I was mortified by that. I would go to church on Sundays and my dad would be up on the alter and dressed like a priest. There’s a saying that “No man is a hero to his valet”. Well, no parent is cool to their kid .
Kscope: I don’t know how long you’ve been in the south, but it’s a rather different demographic than Seattle. What were your preconceptions before you came here and have they changed at all?
Savage: I don’t want to stereotype people. We’re talking about hundreds of millions of people all over the country and there’s going to be millions of exceptions wherever you are. But, I think it can help queer kids growing up in small town Alabama to hear a positive, queer voice who is not ashamed or intimidated.