Tobi Hill-Meyer

Dan Savage Glittered Again, Student Arrested

Filed By Tobi Hill-Meyer | November 14, 2011 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Media, The Movement
Tags: Dan Savage, glitterbomb, trans allies, trans community, transphobic

On November 9th, Dan Savage was the recipient of a "glitter bomb" stunt for the second time this month so far. He was continuing his MTV tour at University of California Irvine.Thumbnail image for Dan Savage One of the students involved in the stunt was grabbed by the police and arrested.

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!" Someone from the MTV tech crew muttered "Oh, not again!" Savage laughed it off and said that being gay he loves glitter.

Later, when another student was asking him about the incident, Savage answered, "I'm used to it."

Savage's use of the terms "tranny" and "shemale" are a minor part of the complaints being lodged against him, however, the use of those slurs is the most visible and most discussed part of them. Savage has claimed that he was transphobic 15 years ago but isn't anymore, however, if that is true than why would Dan choose to use those same derogatory slurs knowing how much anger it draws from the trans community and so soon on the heels of the first glitter stunt?

Was he being antagonistic or just oblivious?

Considering that he is being called transphobic so frequently that he now says he is "used to it," it's hard to understand how he can continue to see himself as a spokesperson for the LGBT community rather than solely a gay spokesperson. Especially when he apparently has begun bringing police to his events to protect him from the community he claims to represent.

It's worth noting that as far as I can tell activists from previous glitter stunts have not been arrested or faced charges, including those targeting Karl Rove, Michelle Bachman, and Newt Gingrich. It is not clear if Savage requested charges be pressed or if local police are pressing charges on their own initiative, but if he allows charges to be pressed on his behalf, it will be extremely disappointing if he is less capable of handling glitter-based criticism than the conservatives that had previously been the target of it.

After the first glitter stunt, many reported on the fact that it was being used to criticize a gay man, calling it a queer-on-queer glitter bombing. Unlike previous glitter bomb stunts, the message was clearly based on anti-trans actions rather than anti-gay ones. In this light, calling it a queer-on-queer would be akin to calling Michele Bachman a target of a white-on-white glitter bombing. The shared identities are besides the point, Bachman's glitter bombing was not about whiteness and Savage's glitter bombing was not about gayness.

There is still significance in the fact that gay and trans communities are supposed to be in coalition together and that infighting can damage that coalition. However, for those concerned about infighting, it is vitally important to see the whole picture and acknowledge Savage's anti-trans actions as unprovoked infighting that this is responding to.

As a movement, we have to be able to criticize our allies or else they are not really allies. That doesn't mean beating upon them like a punching bag as a way to vent our frustration with the world. That doesn't mean the good things they are doing don't count. It's not about who they are deep inside or their value as a human being. It just means that something they did was unacceptable and has to change.

It was hard not to notice all the cis (non-trans) people rushing to defend Savage's transphobic actions and argue that he should be free to continue them. In many cases, this was based on an appreciation of the good work he has done with only a minimal understanding of the complaints against him.

As our community has a conversation around this issue, I would suggest that those who consider themselves allies to trans people and feel the urge to aggressively defend Savage may benefit by prioritising listening to trans people's voices on the matter. And it goes without saying that no weight should be given to those who do not consider themselves allies to trans people and insist on telling trans people that their concerns are not valid.

Update: Dan Savage has responded via text message to Joe My God. He dismisses the criticism against him as "ridiculous" and notes that he was only mirroring the language a cis audience member was using and did mention that "some people have a problem with it."

It is disappointing that he continues offer excuses and be unwilling to listen to the concerns of the trans community. It was that unwillingness to listen that prompted activists to resort to these stunts to the community's attention. As I note in a comment below, if a white audience member used a racial slur, that would not be an excuse for him to nonchalantly use the slur after mentioning that "some people have a problem with it." It should not be an adequate excuse here, either.

Further Update: Dan Savage has posted a response and a copy of the transcript from the event. I would like to apologize because, as if often the case with eye witnesses, my source appears to have gotten some of the details wrong. Here is the actual transcript

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's important to remember that the criticism about Dan Savage's behavior was not about his words that night but about his ongoing and recent behavior over an extended time period. I will write more regarding this response later today.


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Tobi, keep us updated on the person who was arrested. Since glittering doesn't seem to get the point across, what would be the next step? Of course, physical violence is off the table. Have any suggestions?

Like Tobi, I respect Dan Savage's contributions and the good that he has done, but I am disappointed by his ongoing (and therefore intentional) disrespect of transgender and bisexual/pansexual/fluid people.

If the terms "shemale" or "freaky tranny porn" came out of the mouths of someone like Michelle Bachman, the entire gay internet would be up in arms, writing petitions and arming the villagers with torches. Why should Savage get a pass?

(He shouldn't)

Enough with his posturing and mouth. He should be called out for his hypocrisy. If there is a bail fund for the person who was arrested, count me in.

"If the terms "shemale" or "freaky tranny porn" came out of the mouths of someone like Michelle Bachman, the entire gay internet would be up in arms, writing petitions and arming the villagers with torches."

No, they wouldn't. And they don't. When something like that happens, the gay watchdog GLAAD has to be pushed into doing anything. But if it is about gay men, you can bet the outcry will be swift and loud.

It does seem that he gets a pass from some in our community

I think it's very clear that Dan savage is aware of the reasons for why he was glitter bombed and just doesn't care. As someone who was a fan of his for many of my developing teenage years, it's disappointing, but not new. He's known for a long time why his statements are offensive to members of the trans community and their allies. So hearing that he did this again is disappointing, but not at all surprising.

It is, however, another sad and amazing testament to minority hypocrisy. His "It Gets Better" message is only for effeminate gay boys like he once was, I imagine. What a disappointment.

I think both sides should be examined before one jumps all over Dan. Per Dan (via JMG):

UPDATE: Savage just texted me to clarify that the words being objected to were actually used in a question he read from an audience member. In his response to the question, Savage noted that some folks "have trouble" with the terms. He laughed off the incident, adding that he finds the accusations against him and the act of glitter-bombing to be "ridiculous."

So, I guess Dan can't even utter the words if they are written in the question or to answer it by saying these are the words people have trouble with. Got it.

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.

I muse disagree.
I find nothing wrong with repeating the question, even if it is offensive, and then calling it offensive. Nothing at all.

And also..

"Considering that he is being called transphobic so frequently that he now says he is "used to it," it's hard to understand how he can continue to see himself as a spokesperson for the LGBT community rather than solely a gay spokesperson. Especially when he apparently has begun bringing police to his events to protect him from the community he claims to represent."

Tobi, can you please site reference to where Dan ever claimed to be the spokesperson for the LGBT community?

Dan doesn't have to claim to be a spokesman for LGBTs. He's put himself in that role, between the It Gets Better project, and his writings, etc.

As for this, he's made other transphobic comments before. Frankly, I wouldn't buy his story that he was repeating the question, unless I saw the piece of paper it was written on. I mean, "Considering that he is being called transphobic so frequently that he now says he is "used to it,"" this doesn't clue you in?

Again, you are assuming the question was specifically about the glitter-bombing, it wasn't. The audience member was asking about people's negative reactions like the glitter-bombing...he's used to it. He's use to people having negative reactions to what he says because he writes opinion and not everyone will agree with his.

And also, although I do not read his column daily, I often see him replying to mostly straight people questions. So is he the spokesperson of the straight community to? Did he assume that role?

It's remarkably specious to behave as though Dan Savage's high-profile LGBT activism, of which It Gets better is only one part, is in no way intended to suggest that he is a voice for the LGBT community, especially considering his numerous public media appearances on news shows discussing LGBT topics. He certainly doesn't engage in straight activism, nor is he invited onto shows about LGBT issues because of his sex advice column. Back peddling on his obvious role in the landscape of LGBT activism to soften his hypocrisy on those issues is eye-roll worthy.

Ah, no. He's used to *criticism*. I'm absolutely certain that he gets no less than 10 letters a day that say (paraphrasing here) "burn in hell fagot". Nevermind Rick Santorum et al. going on the news calling him a national threat that needs to be destroyed (and having the means to do just that).

So when you go on saying "Dan's such a transphobe for reading a word someone else gave him to read!", I doubt you're going to hurt his feelings much.

But I could be wrong! He did write an article about the incident on his blog.

Very disappointing when people from the gay and lesbian community hurl insults at the Trans folks. You think they'd know better. Apparently not. Sounds like Dan Savage is insecure about his own masculinity/ gender identity , which often fuels gay transphobia. Frankly, I'm not sure why he thinks he is any authority to speak on Trans issues or womens' issues at all. He needs to shut his damn mouth and limit his talks to subjects related to gay men...period.

He's an advice columnist by profession. People solicit him for advice, and sometimes that advice concerns trans issues. Again, people ASK HIM for ADVICE - which is, by definition, one man's opinion. An opinion that is specifically solicited of him. Please don't go making ignorant blanket statements about who should "shut his damn mouth" before someone asks you to do the same.

I've said it before and I will say it again. If you don't like Dan stop attending his lectures. Personally I don't like Michelle Bachman and the things she says about our community so I just don't go and listen to what she has to say. The people doing this to Dan don't have a problem throwing around the word Cis, a word that was created by and pushed onto non trans people by the trans community. A term that I and many others find offensive yet trans people continue to push this word and attempt to foist it upon us. Maybe you should think about that before you blame others for simply using words that have been around for ages that were not directed at any one person in particular but were simply being repeated by Dan that were part of a question he was asked. I am going to start glitter bombing the next Trans person I hear use the term Cis to describe me.

Note from Bil: I've added a comment below but since it's further down than this thread starts, I'll add it to Rick's comment here too: Tobi has posted a "Sidetrack" thread for debate over the term "cis" since it's not relevant to this post. Please use that thread to hash it out instead so the comments here can stay on topic.

"Cis" is a Latin prefix that means "on the same side as". In other words, you aren't "trans". It's not a slur. Tranny, and shemale, are slurs.

Why on EARTH would you find "cis" offensive?

I have seen the word tossed around like a slur on both PHB and here. I don't care what you say the definition is. It is not a word I want used to describe me. I don't have to like it anymore than you don't like Tranny or what ever word it is that pisses you off. We have real enemies in the world and Dan ain't one of them.

Do you have a value neutral term you would prefer?

I asked him the same thing. I am guessing he just wants to be pissed off, not to explore new ways of interacting with others. :)

And really, if you apply the same logic to him as to trans women who don't like whatever terms ("I get to define what I feel are offensive towards me"), then, doesn't he have a point? Esp since, yes, 'cis' *is* often used as a slam (I have done it many times myself).

The problem with that, though, at least to me, is that in the vast majority of cases, the terms Savage used are almost always slurs, while cis to a large degree really *is* used in a (IMO) neutral way.

In the end, though, everything does seem to be zero-sum, doesn't it? If you talk about old and young, rich and poor, any pair of distinctions, yes, they can be used simply as demographic terms. However, while the denotations may be what is implied (if not honestly intended) at the level of the discussion, the connotations of at a least structural conflicts of interest, and perhaps open attempts at hegemony, are still right there, aren't they? It seems few ppl believe that all of us are better than any of us.

Travelingman | November 14, 2011 5:41 PM

Wow, I love how you jump to conclusions about me without even knowing anything about me. No I do not want to be pissed off. I have no problem meeting new people and getting to know them whether they are Lesbian, Bi, Trans or whatever. What I don't like is when people use that term in a way that sounds like a slur, to me it's like calling a straight person Breeder.

There are times that it is not meant in an offensive way by some but all too often I have seen it hurled as an insult. When it is used that way it sounds like Trans people think they are the only ones in the world who hurt, get fired for being trans, get beat up for being trans, loose their family for being trans and that because they have it harder than anyone else in the world that somehow makes them more deserving than anyone else.

It sucks for everyone in the LGBT family, not equally, but life isn't fair. Just read the comments regarding my post and you can see the contempt for me. So I am just supposed to get over how I feel about a word but Trans people are entitled to tell the whole LGBT community what words are acceptable and what words aren't? Give me a break.

Well, sorry for misjudging your attitude then. You certainly *seemed* pissed, and not too interested in finding common ground. Really, though, I was just being funny (perhaps inappropriately so, I suppose). My main point was to support the point you seemed to be making though, and extend that to the conflicts of interest that seem to be inherent in everything or at least devolves into that.

Travelingman | November 14, 2011 6:20 PM

It just gets really taxing sometimes when you try to articulate a point about how you feel about Cis and it always devolves into the T's lobbing Cis at me like a curse word. I have nothing against Trans people. What I hate is when there is a double standard. All one has to do is read the comments on this topic to see how many say....I don't care how you feel about being called Cis, we are going to do it anyway. If a Trans person ever said to me that they were uncomfortable being called Trans I would gladly oblige them, that just how I roll. I wish I could say the same about many of the T's I have encountered here and on PHB. I went back and re-read your post and I get your point a little better after re-reading it.

Yes, I agree with you, and said so.

am I allowed to roll my eyes at this garbage privilege being thrown around. I don't like the term trans. I want people to refer to me as simply Nikki. Are cis people going to suddenly stop referring to me as trans?
then why should I not have a term that puts cis people on equal level to trans people? the fact you are suggesting the removal of cis is purely transphobic bustedness. swallow your privilege my dear, it looks ugly to those who see it

I am going to go way out on a limb here and guess that Rick doesn't much like the term 'privilege', either, and most esp resents it being applied to *him*. ;)

am I allowed to roll my eyes at this garbage privilege being thrown around. I don't like the term trans. I want people to refer to me as simply Nikki. Are cis people going to suddenly stop referring to me as trans?
then why should I not have a term that puts cis people on equal level to trans people? the fact you are suggesting the removal of cis is purely transphobic bustedness. swallow your privilege my dear, it looks ugly to those who see it

I think perhaps it is 'cissexism' that gets non-trans ppl really upset? And that is based on cis. Really, I see the whole situation as very analogous to another ism, racism, and the reaction of a lot of white ppl to that word, and concept.

Because he is looking for an excuse.

I'm pretty disgusted that my community demands that we be able to use terminology that we like but someone outside of our community cannot choose what labels he prefers. Are we hypocritical much?

The word "cis gender" has no negative social stigma attached to it as do the words "trannie", "she male", "faggot", "queer". Cis-gender is a clinical term to define a nontransgender person. There's a big difference.
Secondly, people attending a Dan Savage lecture assume they are hearing from a GLBT activist who is supportive of human rights and tolerance to that entire marginalized community. It makes his message all the more insidious. Personally, I've never listened to the guy so I'm not sure of the context that he made those comments. It seems about as funny as Tracy Morgan stating that if he had a child who was gay he'd kill it.

So, Rick, how would you prefer the distinction to be made between trans ppl and ppl who aren't trans? I have often used 'non-trans', but that seems kinda odd, too.

Now that I think of it, I have another question:

What do you call ppl who don't identify as gay?

I know this isnt a very good analogy, as they call themselves the same thing, but am curious about how distinctions between 'normal/typical' vs 'something different/much less common' get made.

Travelingman | November 14, 2011 5:29 PM

Generally I refer to people who are not trans as Non-Trans. It's that simple.

So, then, perhaps you refer to ppl who are romantically and sexually attracted to ppl of the opposite sex (we'll keep it simple and leave the trans ppl out) as non-gay? :)

Seriously, though, I used to use the term 'non-trans' a lot, b/c so many non-trans ppl immediately get angry if the term 'cis' is used. It's just that it now kinda strikes me as an awkward way of talking. I dont mind using it if it helps, though. Unfortunately, no matter what terms you use, the issues remain the same, and those are what get ppl upset.

Travelingman | November 14, 2011 8:03 PM

Generally I use the term straight to refer to non-gay people. It depends on the conversation and the context of the conversation. I also use gay as an umbrella term to mean both gay and lesbian. I know this irritates some of the lesbians but for context that is how I feel most comfortable.

I think Dan feels comfortable using harsh language to shine a light on the words. I don't think he does it to offend as much as he uses words for a kind of shock factor, kind of like Howard Stern does. In the grand scheme of words I have to ask if calling someone a tranny is really as offensive as calling someone the n-word?

As a gay man I wouldn't be offended if a Trans person referred to me as a faggot or a queer. It really is about context for me. It's like how black people will say the n-word to each other and they don't get offended by it. If Dan were a straight man I might be more offended by it. Does that make any sense at all?

you sound like a confused, curmudgeon-y grandpa.

does cis upset you because you feel qualified or othered, just as trans folk and "not passing" queers have been forever?

i think you should check yr cis white male privilege and think about the world from another perspective.

"I've said it before and I will say it again. If you don't like Dan stop attending his lectures."

But I do like Dan. Just because I like someone's work doesn't mean I will sit quietly while they say bigoted things. In fact, it makes me more likely to speak out about it.

As for your concerns about the term "cis," this is a sidetrack we don't need to get into here, as there are dozens of articles elsewhere addressing the issue. But to answer you in short, we absolutely need a value neutral way to refer to people who are not trans. If you only insist on being referred to in terms that denote superiority, no one will take your request seriously. Right now cis is the only term that denotes neither superiority or inferiority. It was derived the same way as -- and is as value neutral as -- the term heterosexual (which, by the way was forced upon people who had previously been referred to as "normal" by gay activists).

Tobi, you weren't at the event and didn't hear anything Dan said, you are taking all of this as second hand, which I guess you can take this comment as as well.

Dan very graciously (considering he had just had an attempted glitter-bombing) spent the next few minutes talking with the mostly "straight" audience about trans issues.

In the end, my friends at least were VERY turned off by what the trans activists did. As it seemed most of the audience was. Not because of anything Dan said (like I said, he actually came off as a trans supporter), but because of the wicked idiocy of the "activists".

Dan is so smart. All he had to do was look slightly rational in comparison to screaming lunacy, and he wins whatever battle these "activists" think they are waging on him.

Wilberforce1 | November 14, 2011 6:14 PM

Funny that his discussion of trans issues is not mentioned in the article. That would blunt the edge of the trans people's outrage.
If Savage is actually trying to educate straights about trans people, despite his clumsey use of terminology, maybe he's not such a trans phobe after all, and the outrage is pure self indulgence.

I have tried a couple of times today to respond to Tobi's assertions in this article about Dan's feelings towards trans folk. Each time the post goes into "editing" then never appears.

I can assure you this article is a completely false description of what went on at the UCIrvine talk. I just can't rewrite the comment for the second time.

If the Bilerico "editors" ever get around to posting it...

I would love to hear Tobi's response to this, also.

Angela Brightfeather | November 14, 2011 12:08 PM

"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."

This is where I draw the line. If the question forwarded by this student concerned her boyfriend watching lesbian porn, or gay porn, would Savage have said that he was still a freak?

First of all, 90% of the straight, male community loves to watch lesbian porn. It often is the precursor to every television pre game show for football when two or more straight guys sit in front of their big screen and order it on cable. Does that constitute being a freak? If so, there's nothing new about being freaky and it's not a minority thing, it's a majority thing. I would have told her to go out and buy a strap-on and learn how to sexually satisfy her boyfriend.

If someone asks someone a question concerning a person of color and uses the "N" word when referring to them, would Dan repeat that same word when expaining his views? I doubt it very much.

So he is basically wrong on all counts, before we even consider his use of the derogatory Trans epithets.

To answer your question about when did Dan Savage say he represented the GLBT Community....read back in the bilerico archives when he spoke on MSNBC about two months ago and shared with everyone his joy about the repeal of DADT and erroneously included Trans people in his statment about GLBT people now being able to serve in the military. He was not only wrong, but in the process he accepted the media exposure upon request, and thus, on behalf of all GLBT people. Otherwise instead of clammoring for media exposure to represent GLBT people, he would have more properly given up the time to someone who knew more about the actual subject matter.

We have said it before and it stands restating here. Dan Savage may think it gets better for some people, but he isn't making it any better for Trans people. His own sense of self-introspection and responsibility, plus lots of criticism from the Trans Community are not making a dent in his attitude. So there must be some degree of his blocking out any respect for Trans people or trying to make it get better for them also. Because it sure doesn't show up in his statements.

At this point, I think that glitter bombing him is only feeding into his ego trip and increasing his notoriety and fully expect to read some time in the pages of Ripley's that he has applied for the world record of one person being glitter bombed the most.

If I had my way and could sentence him to task, I would subject him to one years worth of monthly Trans support group meetings somewhere in his area, so he might truly understand some of the issues he is offering himself to the media to be a spokeperson for.

No. Savage was reading a question from the audience, where the writer referred to it as "freaky tranny porn" and he was about to rebuff them and tell them off for using this language when the misguided glitter tossers struck.

Savage was merely reading a question from a card and was about to correct and shame the person who wrote it. Way to go everyone, attacking the wrong person.

I'm waiting for the idiot to actually say that transpeople are actually gays who don't want to admit it.

I find Dan hilariously entertaining.

Why ever is glittering this man (or any other) is foolishly taking the bait.

Eventually one of you glitter-ers will get your head slammed into a cement floor.

There is risk of violence when engaging with bigotry in any fashion. There is also definite harm in ignoring it.

I too was at the event with some straight friends of mine.

Dan did say those words.

But they were written in a question from the audience. Dan was reading their question, which was about a straight girl being freaked out by her boyfriend's perusal of "freaky tranny porn".

He was getting ready to answer when the "activist" (i prefer "idiot") chose to stand up and act out.

The "activist" and her friends, were all, in fact, bio females, and not trans at all. I know *of* them peripherally at the school. They have a reputation for miring things down in bullshit identity, first year Feminism 101, PC politics. "Smith College Freshman" is what we would call it.

Filming was paused as campus security at the event followed the "activists" out the building, and the stage was cleaned up and everything was ready to go again.

At that point Dan Savage resumed his talk. He spent the next few minutes actually discussing trans issues and coming to the defense of the trans community who is always being marginalized.

Dan completely won over the audience and had the mostly straight crowd laughing and enjoying themselves after a few minutes.

The crowd was young, mostly straight and eager to listen to what Dan had to say about everything that they brought up in their questions to him. No topic was too taboo, and my friends, who had maybe heard about Dan, but hadn't ever really listened to him, became instant fans.

Here's the really telling statement from the night from a straight girlfriend who came with us, "I didn't know trans people were so scary!"

So thank you and great work nut-job trans "activist" who aren't even trans. You actually managed to make people in the crowd frightened of the trans community, thereby actually making people "trans phobic".

Dan Savage was a really gracious, humorous and humble guy, and he came off much smarter and much MUCH better than the trans activists.

One more thing: You had to sign a release, and give a photo of your ID to get into the event. The release stated that you, as an audience member would do nothing to disrupt the filming. If you do the producers can hold you legally responsible. I assume glitter-bombing and running out, and causing the event to come to a halt (a waste of time and money) would be seen as disruptive. I hope these women get sued, or at least kicked out of the school. They gave UCI a really bad name and a reputation for lunacy to a very smart and funny guest.

Those are the facts.

Oh! And hardly any glitter even touched Dan. So the "activist" have bad aim in more than one way.

Excellent post dude.

There is an element of trans-activism that is becoming more and more immature by the day. When the topic comes up with other people I disavow any alliance of affiliation with this fringe-screwball transgender element. They're as wacky as the far right.

The term "bio" used as meaning cisgendered/not-trans is rather inaccurate. Trans people ARE biologically the gender they identify as. Which is why we've taken to using "cis".

I was assigned female at birth. But biologically, I am male in some regard. When I started testosterone, there was a major difference in how I felt mentally; you'll find that a LOT of transfolk experience the same thing.

Which means that some receptor or something somewhere in the body, is more positively responsive to the hormones that our body doesn't produce (e.g. my body needed testosterone, not estrogen and progesterone, to function "normally" if you will).

So yeah, we may not appear to be the gender we identify as, but we're still biologically that gender.

@ Patrick Farley:

Just... ugh.

They were women. Born as women. With female genitalia. And Lesbian. None of them are trans. For what it's worth.

I'm not falling into this trap.

What is the 'uhg' relative to?

Rachel Bellum | November 14, 2011 10:15 PM

Hi UCIGuy,

If you'll forgive me for butting in, I don't think Patrick was trying to "trap" you. I think he was just trying to explain that the term(s) biological male/female are being faded out culturally and why.

Yes, this, thank you.

I was pointing out that "bio" used to designate someone as non-trans/cis is fallacious, since many trans-identified people feel that they too were born biologically their true gender (as I said, I was assigned female at birth--I have the breasts and vagina--but I firmly believe that I am BIOLOGICALLY male--if not wholly so, on some key levels).

That's it. No trap.

"Miring things down in bullshit identity". Ah, so what you are saying is that you don't consider these people trans because you don't consider their genders valid. Ok.

Sorry for the late response. I had homework to get to. But I thought I'd respond quickly this morning.

I guess I started writing this and 2 things came up. First what I believe (or don't believe) about the usage of cis, then my thoughts on this community eating itself from the inside out.

No. I believe your trans gender is valid. I just refuse to get mired down in more identity politics by making yet ANOTHER segregation to the community as a whole. I am not cis-gendered. I am just a biological male. The whole cis thing is put forward by trans activist who want cleave themselves in one more way from society as a whole. I refuse.

I believe in many of the political goals of the trans community. Equality and freedom for all, regardless of gender: real, perceived, born with or not.

I also believe that trans issues are NOT the same as LGB issues, and while the trans community is willing to have their initial (T) thrown in with the rest of us (gays, lesbians and bis) because generally we want the same thing, and our struggles is the same on many levels. The identity politics of adding in cis to separate yourself even more is ridiculous, and further isolates from what is a common cause.

If this is really what the trans community wants, take a vote and secede, but stop name calling and shitting on the people like Dan Savage, and really myself who are your friends and who are working in ways to support your cause as well.

I've heard Dan Savage called all sorts of things on this, and other, blogs. The most hilarious was "how could he understand trans issues because he's a cis-gendered, white, rich male!" COME ON! That is ridiculous. Talk about turning your back on a friend!! So Dan can't possibly come to any sort of opinion, and evolve over 20 years of writing his column, that would EVER MAKE SOME OF YOU HAPPY?!?!

After reading all the bitchy comments on here regarding Dan Savage I actually went on his blog to find out just how much he hated trans folk.

Here are some things I found:

Dan Savage raises over $5000 (from his largely "straight" readership, mind you) for an african american trans woman's funeral after her murder: http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2008/11/14/trans_woman_murdered

Dan Savage raises over $2000 (from his largely "straight" readership, mind you) for a young trans student kicked out of the same school in Mississippi that Constance McMillan was kicked out of: http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2010/03/24/itawamba-agricultural-high-school-suspended-a-transgendered-student-back-in-january

Here's his support of a brutally beaten trans woman in Michigan: http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2011/04/25/trans-woman-brutally-attacked

Dan Savage raises the remaining needed funds (from his largely "straight" readership, mind you) for trans porn star and acitivist Buck Angel to finish a documentary about his life/work: http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2011/05/16/kickstart-buck-angel-documentary

And graciously gives Buck Angel room in his column to unpack some questions from straight readers about trans issues: http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLove?oid=4319746

That is just the tip of the iceberg.

Do we need to mention IT GETS BETTER, which included the voices of many trans people.

I'm going to end this (shit I got more homework and classes to get to), by reminding the trans-activist on here about what my straight, cis-gendered friend said after the UCIrvine event where Dan Savage was recently glittered: "I didn't know trans people were so scary."

She's right. You are scary. And I'll add petulant and bitter people for the most part. At least that's the perception I get from this blog. It doesn't help that Tobi's perception of Dan as dismissive of trans issues is on it's face disingenuous an bizarre, and at heart a lie. She didn't even have all the facts about this particular event, and yet she's written this whole post, which by it's misinformation about the original event puts Savage in a poor light. And yet she has refused to say that her whole post is based on hearsay or correct it in any way. She only updates it with yet another dismissive aside.

If *I* were Dan Savage I would wash my hands of all trans folk, period. Not have another word about you, not raise money for anymore funerals, teenagers, documentaries, etc.....

But lucky for all of you, I'm not.

Dan Savage has shown himself to be made of much tougher, much more gracious, much more kind, and frankly much smarter stuff than many of the people I read on the internet who call him a media whore, or an enemy of trans people for perceived transgressions (pun intended, i guess). Dan Savage has literally risen above you by just being a bigger person. Maybe it's because he's an irish catholic and can roll with the punches better than anyone in the trans community. Or maybe he sees that the more the trans activists talk, the less believable, commendable or defensible some of them become.

In the end events like this, in which it's obvious trans activist are attacking the wrong person, then go out of your way in the face of hearsay to attack and denigrate Dan Savage even more make me roll my eyes and just say, "They apparently don't need my help anymore."

Hopefully the idiots who started this off with the glitter-bombing didn't ruin Dan Savage's opinion of the non cis trans community, like it has for me. You need him certainly more than he needs you at this point.

To circle round to the beginning, with the usage of cis, you have just separated yourself from this supporter in yet another way. As this is the internets, no doubt many of the angry and bitter people on here will say, "Good we don't need you anyway!", probably with some added expletives or name calling, which this community seems really good at. But, really, ask yourselves, honestly: Is that what you really want?

To end: we have bigger fish to fry: http://pflag-fr-detroit.org/2011/11/11/detroit-transgendered-woman-found-murdered/

There. You win.

Rachel Bellum | November 15, 2011 6:43 PM

Hi UCIGuy,

Let me start by saying I agree with some (not necessarily all, actually definitely not all) of your points. But I do think I get the general direction you're coming from.

However, I don't get why you feel the term "cis" is creating another type of separation. Whether the group who might be called "cis" is referred to that way or as non-trans or normal or anything else, didn't the separation come into being the moment that the concept of some people being transgender/transsexual came into being? Aren't we really just debating what is the most appropriate way of referring to someone who happens not to be trans? If only for brevity and consistency and understanding, it would seem some standardized term must be used as a counterpart to trans. How does use of such a term necessarily create even more separation than already having a standardized term for those who are non-cis (that is trans).

At the most basic aren't we really just trying to label both sides of the coin so that instead of saying heads or "that other side that's not heads and has pictures of stuff that not on the heads side," we can just say tails?

@Rachel, Tobi, trans activists et al. Here's what it comes down to.

Tobi's lying and insincerity have only added fuel to the fire with her lack of apology. She "would like to", but just can't!

I personally hate the word cis. I find it demoralizing. You are trying to make me feel inferior and make yourself feel superior. That kind of powerplay is very antithetical to the trans activist movement.

Therefore, by this blogs own morality it must stop being used. It is offensive to other people. You see arguments against it up and down every blog post about this. If it stirs up such bad emotions it must be a bad word. So stop using it a la "tranny" and "shemale". If it offends one, it offends all. Period.

There. Done.

"I personally hate the word cis. I find it demoralizing."

By all means then, come up with a better word if the linguistic partner to "trans" is so upsetting. Funny thing is, every single time this request is made nobody seems to have an alternative.

It also bears mentioning that the straight guys I interact with have zero problems with the term once it gets explained. On the other hand nearly ever time I see someone taking issue with being called "cis" it is a gay man or lesbian... curious indeed.

psst...psst...that word is 'normal'...or, 'person', which also means normal

Rachel Bellum | November 16, 2011 6:55 PM

Thanks for replying UCIGuy.

I hope it's clear that I'm just trying to have a conversation with you primarily for the sake of my own understanding.

You know it would be easy for me to understand if you objected to some specific use of the word "cis." For instance, if someone said you're just a dumb cis man or that's cis behavior for you. It's probably true that any word can be used in a insulting or demeaning manner. Even though trans is a more commonly used term, substituting it for cis in those sentences would still leave a comment that was probably meant to be insulting.

However, it's hard for me to understand why you would object to the technical label cis, or apparently any term, at all -period, full stop. I assuming from your comments that you don't intend or feel that you are trying to make others inferior and yourself superior by calling them trans [and just to be clear I'm not trying to suggest that you are]. Why would you assume that every use of the word cis is such an attempt?

You are aware that not every trans person uses the label for themselves, right? Some object to trans, some object to transsexual, some object to transgender, some object to genderqueer, etc. However, on some level we all (or the vast majority) accept that there are times that it might not only be necessary but beneficial to us as a group to have an understandable term to use for communication. That term doesn't necessarily have to have any inherent value than the label car does. Some people may prefer cars to trucks (or vice versa), but that doesn't necessarily mean the word contains any value judgments in it.

If we are going to do away with cis or any other label for the people it would otherwise describe, are we also going to do away with the word trans (or any other descriptor) for those people it would otherwise describe?

As one easy example I have been using in these related threads, you are aware that it would be virtually impossible to perform, much less publish, research on issues relevant to either group without consistently used and defined descriptors, right?

UCIrvineGuy, thanks for having class, common sense, and taking time to bring facts to this thread.

The TG community needs people who think like you. But honestly it won't change, what you see here has become the standard voice of TG activism.

Too funny. Some arrogant, pissed-off person with a chip on their shoulder is 'showing class' b/c they agree with you. While ppl being calm and rationally explaining their perspective are horrid.

It would seem to me that at least someone who is transgender could stand up and object to his language and correct him. Something to which I suspect he'd at least be OPEN to. The significance and visibility of the transgender part of this equation would have the means and I think real opportunity to meet Dan Savage on those terms, rather than the reactionary glitter stunt.
All that's going to do IS get you forcibly removed, and likely get a YouTube clip to show it.
Other than that, nothing accomplished to write home about. If Savage were the kind of person who was ADAMANT about never talking to trans reps, and kept on talking in any fashion he pleased, that's one thing.
But he doesn't seem the type to ignore or completely keep anyone concerned with this from EVER talking to him or having a meaningful dialogue.

Frankly, I think the glitter bombing thing is aggressive and counterproductive. And you CAN hurt someone doing something like that. You can injure a person's eyes pretty badly with it.

Iran is working on nuclear warheads, the OWS people are having their rights to peacably assemble curtailed, and we're all out of shape about Dan Savage talking about "freaky tranny porn" ...

Get a life. Please. Get. A. Life.

I just feel there must be a better way to go about this than "glittering" him. Is this really the best we can do? Glitter-bombing? Aside from the fact that it can't possibly have the same impact as tossing glitter on someone who would be embarrassed by wearing glitter, I feel like it's juvenile. Has he officially declined the opportunity to have a dialogue with members of the trans community to discuss the verbiage he uses when answering questions about trans issues? I understand that there are some very real concerns here, but I'm disappointed that this determined as acceptable. I know people will disagree, but I believe we should always be coming from a place of compassion, that we all have room to grow, and we have all made mistakes. This is not the way to change anyone's mind. I really believe we can do better.

Wilberforce1 | November 14, 2011 6:05 PM

How about 'gay' and 'lesbian?' Those are the words we've used for ourselves forever. Now they're off limits because the trans community says so? And you give us a name, 'cis', without even asking our permission. Talk about arrogance and the double standard. I'll admit, Savage is still handling these terms clumsily. But if you want respect from us, you might show respect to us.

Hey folks - Tobi has posted a "Sidetrack" thread for debate over the term "cis" since it's not relevant to this post. Please use that thread to hash it out instead so the comments here can stay on topic.

I am trans, I don't care if someone is calling me a tranny, tranny-fag, tranny boy. I don't care what term they use because it is dual sided; anything spiteful someone says will only make them sound like a hateful idiot, anything said with positive air will sound like any other word. The only people making words offensive are the ones putting negative energy behind them.

People are getting way too sensitive on this one. It does not help any movements to attack people as 'offensive' who aren't actually trying to be offensive. It seems like laziness to me, like someone just wanted an easy target to bring attention to their social frustrations. The least they can do is target someone is actually causing harm to the community, and not merely engaging in a discussion about sexual preferences and the labels they bring. Quit being so defensive! Let your freak flag fly!

Travelingman | November 14, 2011 7:50 PM

Did the NAACP get all out of whack when Barbara Walters recently used the N word repeatedly? We have to sometimes have context. Sometimes saying offensive things out loud makes the person hearing it realize jst how offensive it is. This policing of peoples language is just silly when we have much greater enemies in the world than Dan Savage.

Wow. Does anyone ever read Dan's column or watch video of his speeches, etc, etc? He uses lots of controversial terminology! If I'd stopped watching the first time I saw him say 'fag', I'd have missed a lot of great stuff. Grow up, folks, and stop sniveling. If some transsexuals (is that an acceptable word, or is their some other term that would be less offensive?) really think that DS is any part of the aggregate bias against them in American society, then they need to have their offensiveness meters re-calibrated. Head on over to the nearest Catholic church to set the high-limit on the dial. Fight the right battles folks, and their are still plenty to fight, as we all know. Dan Savage is firmly on this side of the lines. If you offend easily, you should not be watching or reading DS at all, regardless of your sexuality.

Jason, I totally agree. People, we've got really bullies and real haters out there, let's not waste our time attacking Dan Savage. If you actually LISTEN to his show, you'd know he's evolved into a very accepting person about trans people, bi people, kinky and poly folk. He uses terms like tranny, but he also uses terms like faggot. Using them takes the power out of them. He's not yelling at people or using them in hurtful ways. He's saying, look, I'm a faggot, you're a tranny, get over it. But people continue to let words have power over them and miss the point entirely.

As a transguy, I dont see the need for all of this rabid hate towards Dan Savage. He isnt transphobic, he is a supporter of all lgbt people. Have you listened to what he says about gay men? The terms he uses are rough indeed. He is a in your face kinda guy, he uses shock terms to make people listen. Be realistic here, trans porn by most straight peoples standard is on the freaky end of the legal porn pool.

"First of all, 90% of the straight, male community loves to watch lesbian porn. It often is the precursor to every television pre game show for football when two or more straight guys sit in front of their big screen and order it on cable. Does that constitute being a freak? If so, there's nothing new about being freaky and it's not a minority thing, it's a majority thing. I would have told her to go out and buy a strap-on and learn how to sexually satisfy her boyfriend."

As some one who grew up watching football, I've never ever watched football with any guy that ordered lesbian porn before a game. Hell, we are all to wrapped up in the pre-game show to want to watch porn of any flavor. My husband loves lesbian porn, and watches it all the time, but never before a game!

And really, a strap wouldnt sate the desire for having sex with someone that is a fabulous blend of both male and female, which is what tran porn can be, when the female actors are intact.

Now can we please talk about something else?

Gee - not only is the term 'shemale' used by gays, lesbians, and many, many actual shemales I have met in my travels - it is ubiquitous on gay sites when used to describe adult video cast members who are anatomically both.

All in all - just more drama from a community that, sadly, seems to thrive on drama.

Abd we are not a monolithic community. As much as I defend the righrs of ALL to indulge in whatever behavior they find acceptable and consensual, I still find creepy (and am going to say so) those who engage in bondage, masochism, rape fantasy, and sexual play involving bodily waste. It may be your 'right', but I am going to call it as I see it. :D

Dans has a post in slog about what actually happened and how he was interrupted before he could stand up in defense of trans people. Too bad that this was being filmed for an MTV audience and now will never be shown. You can thank the activist who threw glitter the moment he said what was asked of him before he could respond by why those terms were offensive. Good job!

http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2011/11/15/on-glitter-transphobia-and-hate-speech

Dan uses the slang of his questioners to reduce shame about their sexuality so that they can more openly discuss the topic and learn. Activists use shame to get people to stop using certain language and to use other language.

I think that both the efforts are worthwhile. In this particular case, the two efforts are working at cross purposes.

I come from the "choose your battles" school of thought about effective activism, as opposed to "fight it everywhere, all the time, regardless of context." I think we'd get more bang for the buck educating the general public rather than going after Dan Savage. Let's work to change the slang used by people, and that will ripple back into Dan's columns.

So let me get this straight: people went to a lecture of someone and took glitter bombs with them and were practically searching for a reason to throw them and this was what they chose?

Waste of glitter.

What recent behaviour Tobi?!?

These things?!?: (copied from my own post above)

Dan Savage raises over $5000 (from his largely "straight" readership, mind you) for an african american trans woman's funeral after her murder: http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2008/11/14/trans_woman_murdered

Dan Savage raises over $2000 (from his largely "straight" readership, mind you) for a young trans student kicked out of the same school in Mississippi that Constance McMillan was kicked out of: http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2010/03/24/itawamba-agricultural-high-school-suspended-a-transgendered-student-back-in-january

Here's his support of a brutally beaten trans woman in Michigan: http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2011/04/25/trans-woman-brutally-attacked

Dan Savage raises the remaining needed funds (from his largely "straight" readership, mind you) for trans porn star and acitivist Buck Angel to finish a documentary about his life/work: http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2011/05/16/kickstart-buck-angel-documentary

And graciously gives Buck Angel room in his column to unpack some questions from straight readers about trans issues: http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLove?oid=4319746

That is just the tip of the iceberg.

Do we need to mention IT GETS BETTER, which included the voices of many trans people.


He even tamed his commenters on his post by saying:

"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.

... non-trans commenters, please don't make generalizations about all trans people based on the actions of a few... non-trans people."

UGH!!! I keep telling myself not to comment anymore in the vacuum hell of this blog, but your blatant disregard for fact is astounding ("remember that the criticism about Dan Savage's behavior was not about his words that night but about his ongoing and recent behavior over an extended time period").

I read a comment on JMG that called this blog "Shrill-rico". Now I get it. You will NEVER be happy because Dan Savage is white, gay, male, cis-whatever.... It's like talking to my teenage sister. She's ALWAYS right and the rest of the family is ALWAYS wrong. We just roll our eyes and say, she'll grow out of this someday.


Tobi,

You said in your update, "I would like to apologize . . ."
Especially as someone who is playing language police, you should realize that this is not the same as actually apologizing.

When you blog without having the facts, your apology should be unreserved, and you should spend at least as much space correcting your mistake as you spent mistakenly stirring up the mess.

The idea that Dan Savage is anti-trans is ludicrous.

"The idea that Dan Savage is anti-trans is ludicrous."

I do believe that he can be inartful at times, but I agree that all this gleeful lumping-on of Savage (and limp retraction because WE THINK IT'S TRUE ANYWAY REGARDLESS OF FACTS) is not fruitful.

"The idea that Dan Savage is anti-trans is ludicrous."

Except for all the well documented stuff he has said/written that was, in fact, anti-trans.

Look, Dan may be the end-all be-all for gay men, but as a trans woman he doesn't speak for me or for the men who date/love/screw me. As a matter of observation, he has done quite a bit to foster misconceptions about trans women in particular and often ignores us when discussions of trans topics arises (while soliciting the opinions of trans men on these topics)

But Dan Savage loves evasive non-apologies, or at least making them, so he should appreciate it.

Damascus O'Leary | November 15, 2011 4:48 PM

"...as i[s] often the case with eye witnesses, my source appears to have gotten some of the details wrong...."

Well said, Tobi. That is pretty much how eye witnesses work. Remember that the next time you're about to do your best to alienate people. As a lifelong liberal, I am always dismayed to see that no one hates liberals quite like other kinds of liberals.

We of the internets await your apology. As Lee points out, you should at least try to phrase it as a for-reals adult-style apology. "Sorry. Oops." might be a good place to start.

"It's important to remember that the criticism about Dan Savage's behavior was not about his words that night but about his ongoing and recent behavior over an extended time period. I will write more regarding this response later today."

So the positive things he actually said that day do not matter, but our ongoing narrative does!

"as if often the case with eye witnesses, my source appears to have gotten some of the details wrong"

Try not making excuses for people who attempt to malign through false truths. Your source got *all* the important details wrong.

So did UCIrvineGuy. He claimed that the only slurs were in the question, but Dan's account has him calling people shemales.

No. I said the language was part of the question. Dan repeated the question and was using the language OF THE QUESTIONER, getting ready to say something about how and why it can be seen as offensive when he was glittered.

That is what he and I said. I misattributed the "freaky tranny porn" aspect to it, because I had just read this post for the first time, and accidentally added that in. Dan never said that, as Tobi asserted. That was a lie on her part. As my brain had just absorbed that, it came right out my fingertips. I truly apologize for that.

But while, yes, technically Dan said "shemale", he was getting ready to unpack its negative meaning specifically when he was bombed.

Read his transcript again. It was clear that night from his inflection that he thought the word was not helpful and was getting ready to speak about it.

Then this would be a total turn around from the other time(s?) he used "shemale" to refer to trans women, you know when the questioner asked about a TG/TS prostitute. Or when he told a man he wasn't "totally straight" for wanting to be with a "pre op trans woman", but then totally affirmed the hetero-ness of a man who wanted his girlfriend to strap one on and do him.

So, this is the guy who was going to "unpack its negative meaning"? All that without ever issuing any sort of apology or actually addressing any of the many trans women who have tried to communicate with him about how some of his articles have not helped us one bit and further reinforced some pervasive crap about us.

This is the guy we should just trust? This is the guy who should have heart-felt apologies thrown at his feet? The same guy who has never once addressed in any meaningful way any of the issues that trans people have been bringing him for as long as I can remember?

Eugene Oregon | November 16, 2011 2:08 PM

To all concerned,

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.

Go Ducks!

I am posting this in the other blog post as well.

Gosh I didn't know "tranny" and "shemale" were slurs.. I completely fail to see that. Dan Savage has been a very important person for me in learning about sexual and gender minorities, quircks and lifestyles and his earlier use of the word "shemale" and discussion of these people in his podcasts has really opened my eyes to the idea that such things exist and helped me accept the concept of people with varying gender identities, orientation as well as genitals/secondary sexual charactaristics.
What are the correct words? Why is "tranny" a slur? I mean as a heterosexual person I guess I am privileged in not *having* to find words to describe my sexuality, but in discussions with others I have noticed that it is people with insecurities who are afraid of such words, just like the worse insult for a homophobe is to call them gay, for me it is a compliment and a positive word, and "tranny" is something I would only use endearingly.Oh well sorry to rant on - it just seems to me as an outsider your are really attacking someone who is on your side.