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.