by Dan Savage
on Tue, Nov 15, 2011 at 7:55 AM
So my gay ass—already pretty sparkly—got glitterbombed at the University of California at Irvine last Monday. This went up on Bilerico yesterday:
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!"
So: a "source" says that I stood on a stage at UCI and "freely" tossed the word "shemale" and the phrase "freaky tranny porn" around and called someone who was into trans porn—and presumably attracted to trans people—a "freak," comments which inspired two "individuals" to run up and toss glitter at me. Now there's a Change.org petition—I've already signed it, won't you?—scolding me for my use of "trans-phobic language" and demanding that I apologize for being a such naughty cissy.
The folks who've signed the petition—most with their hearts in the right place—have been misled.
Here's what went down: I was doing a "Savage Love Live" Q&A at UCI. People submit questions anonymously, just like they would for a regular column, using whatever language or terminology they're comfortable with. I read their questions aloud—verbatim—and offer some on-the-fly advice. Here's the complete transcript of my "transphobic" comments at UCI (the italics indicate when I'm reading the anonymously submitted question):
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—
It was at that moment—just as I was beginning to address the problem with the term "shemale"—that I was glitterbombed.
I did say "shemale." I read the question as-written, repeated the term in my response, and then used "transexual" in place of "shemale" ("transexual sex-worker," "transexual porn"), modeling the use of less offensive terms, before circling back to "shemale" in order to unpack why some find it offensive. I never used the phrase "freaky tranny porn." I never said the word "tranny" at UCI at all; indeed, I've made a conscious effort to stop using "tranny" after the memo went out last year declaring the word an off-limits "hate term." (Mike Signorile wrote a good post about the rapidly changing take on the word "tranny" here.)
As for "freaky boy": that boy is a bit of a freak and anyone who reads my column knows that I'm pro-freak, pro-kink, pro-porn, pro-just-about-everything. I'm a freak myself, as I've said numerous times, I married a freak, some of my best friends are freaks. "Freak," in the context of "Savage Love," is a freakin' compliment. More to the point: I didn't tell the girl who asked the question to dump her boyfriend because he enjoys trans porn; indeed, I urged her to keep dating him if she was into him and willing to go there (anal, allowing him to enjoy his porn). And this is nothing new with me: I've long taken the side of people who are trans or attracted to trans folks. Here's a column I wrote about trans issues in 1999. (Try not to get bogged down on the headline, thought policepersons, as columnists don't write their own headlines.) And the advice I was giving to trans/trans-attracted people in 1999 isn't much different from the advice I gave earlier this year. (Is this the kind of advice that a transphobic sex-advice columnist doles out? Is this? Or this?)
Back to what went down at UCI: It's clear from the transcript—and it's clear from the way that my remarks are being actively and maliciously misrepresented—that the people pushing this "Dan Savage is transphobic!" meme are not honest actors. False accusations of engaging in hate speech are themselves a form hate speech—particularly in the hothouse environment of LGBT activism. Any honest reader of my column, like any honest person who attended my Q&A at UCI, knows that not only I am not transphobic, I'm pretty rabidly pro-trans.
Or: If I'm the enemy of trans people everywhere, trans people everywhere could use more enemies like me.
UPDATE: Someone who was at the UCI event describes in his own words what went down in a comment at JMG. The commenter misattributes "freaky tranny porn" to me, based on the Bilerico report, but he gets the rest of the details right.
UPDATE 2: This just in from someone who signed that Change.org petition:
I signed this petition at the request of a trusted friend and, after I signed it, I immediately regretted it after I realized the nature of the petition. Please accept my apologies... I should have been more careful with what I was signing. Thank you for your continued efforts and all that you do. You have been a great influence on my life and those around me.
UPDATE 3: Some folks are slamming trans activists and trans people generally in the comments thread here and on some other blogs. Please don't do that. And for the record: not one of the folks who've glittered me—one at Eugene, three at UCI—is actually trans. I know, right? They've all been "allies" of the trans community. (Allies of? Or embarrassments to?) That self-righteous, attack-your-allies, too-angry-to-listen bug isn't unique to Ts; it's been documented in Ls, Gs, and Bs too. (I myself have succumbed on, oh, one or two occasions.) Also for the record: the day after my talk at UCI, I met and spoke with a trans student—hey there, C—and we had a perfectly delightful, perfectly rational, and mutually enlightening conversation about transphobia, porn, sex, whether "shemale" is ever okay, his coming out process (recent), my coming out process (not so much), and how he needs to stop smoking. (Really, C. Stop smoking.) It was the best conversation I had at UCI, it was a private conversation (it wasn't filmed), and it was with a trans man.
So, non-trans commenters, please don't make generalizations about all trans people based on the actions of a few... non-trans people. [Scroll down: apparently one of the GBers is trans.]
UPDATE 4: More damning evidence of my transphobia emerges! A commenter at JMG:
You may notice that Dan Savage managed to get the glitter bombers arrested, which tends to be a particularly dangerous experience for trans people. If cis folk with the privilege not to get so badly harmed once they do inevitably get arrested were willing to do it, more power to them.
I didn't get anyone arrested. There was security at the event—there's always security at television shoots because the presence of TV cameras brings out the crazies—and campus police officers went looking for the GBers while I was briefly backstage getting de-glittered. I went back on stage and continued with the talk. I didn't know that someone had been arrested until the talk was over 90 minutes later when the police came backstage and told me they had caught one of the people who "assaulted" me. I laughed when they said "assaulted" because, you know, we were talking about glitter. The cops asked if I wanted to press charges, I said no, and I asked them not to hassle the GBer they'd nabbed. I've had no further contact with the police.
Savage is so addicted to attention and also seems to have such few scruples that I wouldn't be surprised if he hired this last group of glitter-bombers to do what they did just so he could play the victim and also create this post with impunity. I would not put such behavior past him. Its already been revealed they were not transwomen.
I glittered myself! And the GBers weren't brave cis folks putting their privileged bodies on the line in defense of their trans allies! They were working for me! And I had one of them arrested!
I was at the Eugene, OR filming. I hope this doesn't upset some of you.
I think DSWC is a bio female, and straight. My friends know her, and while they have gone to pains to say she is an ally of the LGBT community, she was wrong here. She has been known to be an ally in LGBT causes before, and is well liked. But this is really unfair to Mr. Savage.
I don't remember enough about the Eugene, OR speech to say whether Dan had said anything that night to deserve the glitter bomb. I do remember it happened early and she yelled something about being a rape apologist. The thing I find really bad on her part is that she threw the large heavy glass container at his head after she threw the glitter. It made a very loud "clunk" when it hit the floor that could be heard throughout the auditorium. After the talk some other students looked and there was a dent in the stage floor where it hit. It barely missed Mr. Savage's head. If it would have hit him, she could have done serious damage to him. A concussion or worse. She doesn't seem to be showing any shame on the blog post that this author, has linked to, but this was seriously dangerous.
Just as the witness from the other school commented, once Mr. Savage was cleaned he went on with his conversation and we all laughed, groaned, blushed and had a really good time. Dan spent a few minutes talking about trans issues as well. All very sex positive.
Just thought you all should know. Someone out there is not telling the truth. Whether it is DSWC or the author of this post.
If I hadn't have ducked, or if I didn't see it coming (which I might not have, what with glitter in my eyes and all), that glass jar would've hit me square in the face. As luck would have it, I did see it coming, and was able to dodge it. So there was that too.
UPDATE 6: The Eugene GBer Tweets that she's a trans woman and demands a correction:
Rose was the GBer who threw the jar at my head but she wasn't the GBer who was arrested; that was one of the GBers at UCI.
UPDATE 7: A reader writes...
I just want to add one more voice to the chorus of sane and reasonable trans folks who respect what you've done for the T in GLBT. I'm a long-time fan of the column/podcast, and I think that queer folks who think that you're the enemy need to get some serious perspective (and I tell the ones I know that, though I doubt they listen). I'm always wary of the "X doesn't speak for ME!" cries, because in most cases no one ever fucking said they did, but it worries me a little to see the reactions in the comments threads and to see people piling on trans folks for the insanity of the glitter bombers—I promise we're not all douchebags!
And of course there's still some room for improvement in how you talk about trans issues, but you know that, and it doesn't detract from all the real and concrete support you give to the community. So, thanks again for all your hard work.
At least glitter isn't much of a punishment for someone of your fabulousness. Glad you ducked the jar.