Yesterday evening Dan Savage visited the University of Oregon campus in Eugene as a part of his tour filming his show Savage U for MTV. While the details are not entirely clear, apparently a representative from the "Dan Savage Welcoming Committee" rushed the stage to glitter bomb the celebrity sex columnist along with the statement "Dan Savage is a transphobe!"
As they turned tail, they added, "Glitterbomb courtesy of the Dan Savage Welcoming Committee," and just before they got out the door, "He's a racist and misogynist and a rape-apologist, too!" The operative then fled the scene.
--Statement by Dan Savage Welcoming Committee
Dan Savage has made it clear that he intends to be an ally to trans people, but he's certainly been a very inconsistent ally. Sometimes he apologizes for his transphobic actions, such as when he was criticized for saying that a Republican politician was trans as a way to insult him. Other times, he ridicules those who point out his transphobic actions, depicts them as over-sensitive, irrational, and so forth. He occasionally uses the power of his popularity to bring attention to important trans issues, but he refuses to listen to trans people when they tell him what he is doing is causing harm.
It's interesting to see the response to all this in a public glitter bombing. Savage has yet to release any statement on the matter, but it's likely to be pretty similar to his statement in an interview with David Badash last month.
"How do you disprove a charge like you're transphobic? I'm not afraid of trans people." Savage then goes into a mimicking voice, knowing not to say, "One of my friends is trans," but does say that he has a friend who is trans who comes to his house for Christmas. "We hang out all the time," Savage says. "I certainly have had a journey in the last 20 years--as have we all--on trans issues. When I started writing Savage Love 20 years ago, and you can yank quotes 15, 18 years ago and flat them up today and say, 'You know, that's transphobic,' I'd probably agree with you. 15 years ago I didn't know as much as I know now--nor did anybody."
The problem I see here is that an ally in any anti-oppression movement should not be focused on disproving the fact that they are influenced by prejudice. In doing so, he paints himself into an adversarial relationship with the trans activists who he tries to discredit in order to prove his worth. I would argue that it's probably impossible to avoid internalizing prejudicial messages. The best thing any ally can do is take responsibility for those influences and seek to be accountable for them. Yet Dan Savage is too busy dodging responsibility to actually internalize an understanding of what he is doing that is wrong.
Because while it was 8 years ago that he titled a column "Bad Tranny" where he admonished a trans woman for coming out, it was only two years ago that he used the term "shemale" to refer to trans women. Just one year ago, several weeks in succession, first when a caller discusses watching trans porn, he admits that he knows he shouldn't use either derogatory term, but declares that it's okay to do so when referencing porn and proceeds to joyfully sling around the word "tranny" ten times in about two minutes and tosses in "shemale" a few times for good measure. Then repeats his previous assertion that men who are attracted to trans women cannot be considered completely straight. A week later he verbally thrashes a trans person who got upset at being mispronouned. Then finally, he reassures a man who likes women with strap-ons that he is 100% straight as long as the cock that he's attracted to is attached to a woman - which apparently means he doesn't consider trans women to be women, or else he would have said the same thing to the guy who watches trans porn.
I have to wonder, with all that Dan Savage claims to have learned in the past 15 years, has he learned how to be less transphobic or has he only learned how to sound less transphobic while still putting out equally damaging statements?
I could go on, but his behavior has already been well documented by other bloggers, such as Masculine Toast, Bi Furious, Greta Christina, and FuckNoDanSavage. The bottom line is that when challenged on his various prejudicial influences, Dan Savage tells his critics to patiently wait for him while it gets better. This glitterbomb is one of many responses that demand, "Make it better."