Trans Activist Glitter Bombs Dan Savage Again. Counterproductive?

Gay activist and sex columnist Dan Savage has received a second on-campus glitter bombing—this time, a University of California Irvine student glittered Savage for using the terms “shemale” and “freaky tranny porn” when discussing straight guys who watch trans porn. Police arrested the student and Savage said that being gay he loves glitter.

We’ve already explored whether Savage is really the right target. But here’s a more basic question: is queer-on-queer glitter bombing counterproductive?

The Bilerico Project’s Tobi Hill-Meyer provides one way to consider the issue:

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… [something] akin to calling Michele Bachman a target of a white-on-white glitter bombing…

…[the] gay and trans communities are supposed to be in coalition together and… infighting can damage that coalition. However… 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…, [saying] the good things they are doing don’t count… [or questioning] their value as a human being. It just means that something they did was unacceptable and has to change…

… those who consider themselves allies to trans people and feel the urge to aggressively defend Savage may benefit by listening to trans people’s voices on the matter… 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.

Considering that he’s still using anti-trans slurs, one has to wonder whether Savage even cares or whether he’s just trying to make good material for his upcoming MTV reality show.

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  • Fitz

    I’ve been fairly neutral, but– screw those freaks.

  • QJ201

    Until Tobi Hill-Meyer takes a clear stance on homophobia within the trans community, she has no valid stance.

  • Wh1t


    Could you elaborate on the “homophobia within the trans commmunity”?

  • JayKay

    If I were him I’d hire a 300 lb. security guard and give him a standing order to tackle and taze any trannies that get within throwing distance.

  • Aiden

    I think we can all agree that this is u productive, but this doesn’t need to turn
    into a trans bashing.

  • Wh1t


    Way to discriminate against the transgender community and use a transphobic slur in the same sentence.

    I love it!

  • the crustybastard

    Picking a fight with someone who — at least metaphorically — buys ink by the barrel?

    I think we can all agree that Tobi Hill-Meyer is something less than a brilliant tactician.

  • beerwad

    You want trans people’s voices on the matter? This trans person says: who the fuck cares? They’re just words. Five years ago, the word “tranny” was thrown around by all my friends and was not considered offensive, and then all of a sudden someone decided it was offensive. Why don’t we focus on real transphobia, like people who hate us and want to kill us, instead of well-meaning gay allies? While we’re glitter-bombing Dan Savage, trans women are getting killed. And not by people like Dan Savage. Where are our priorities?

  • ewe

    Dan Savage should not be making light of this. He sounds dismissive. He is annoying.

  • Red Meat

    Tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny tranny

    Not offensive 10 years ago, not offensive today.

  • leanleft

    @Wh1t: Oh the constant bitching, derogatory remarks that are posted on LGBT blogs that essentially say if it weren’t for white gay men the trans community would be free from oppression. Usually it comes after an invective-laced tirade yelling about how people shouldn’t use defamatory language.

    I find it highly ironic that the same folks who seem to be so set to outrage over any terminology they do not personally support and then in the next sentence go on to malign and marginalize another whole group of people.

    But since the group they are marginalizing has more ‘privilege’ than them its ok.

  • Anna

    Soo…. Dan Savage glitter bombs homophobes to teach them a lesson about homophobia, so some trans people glitter Dan Savage to teach him a lesson about transphobia. And yet so many of you don’t get the point of that? LOL

    I always knew transphobes were small-minded, thanks for the evidence I can put in my file.

  • JohnAGJ

    Oh yes, one big happy family we are. /sarc

    Perhaps those who are transgender should start their own movement and quit hijacking ours.

  • UCIrvineguy

    I 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”. HER WORDS, not his.

    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.

  • matt

    Savage was reportedly in the midst of using anti-trans slurs at the moment he was glitterbombed.

    Which is easier – to convince an entire segment of the LGBT community to shut up and deal with references towards them that they consider derogatory and offensive, or to convince one guy to shut up and stop using derogatory and offensive slurs?

    Seriously now.

    When people intentionally stop listening, open antagonism is the most logical next step.

  • CBRad

    @UCIrvineguy: Very interesting post.

  • AedanRoberts


    I refer you to what @UCIrvineguy wrote, an actual witness to the event, about what went down. To say “Savage was reportedly in the midst of using anti-trans slurs at the moment he was glitterbombed” is disingenuous at best, a blatant lie at worst. Reading a question from an audience member who wrote those words is very different than actually saying them himself, unprovoked. And apparently he was extremely aggressive in his defense of the trans community in his response to it.

    Frankly I think Glitter-Bombing in general is counter-productive. Glitter-bombing allies like Savage is offensively stupid to boot. Especially by idiots like those at this event. It’s pathetic and doesn’t serve any actual purpose other than to make those doing it look crazy and their cause look disingenuous.

  • Mike in Asheville

    @matt: This incorrect — Savage was reading a question from the audience, which included the use of the terms “she-male” “freaky trany porn” and “trany”, when he was glitter bombed. Savage commented that the words used by the question writer were going to spark a controversy.

  • CBRad

    @AedanRoberts: But it wouldn’t matter to Feminist 101 activists and those trans and gays who consider themselves their allies. Even if you said those words by reading someone else’s question, you’re still guilty! In fact, being a man means you’re already guilty of…..everything..

  • Gary

    Dan Savage is Transphobic, biphobic, Pozphobic, and racist. He’s an embarrassment to the GLBT community and he does NOT speak for everyone that’s GLBT or even all gay men even though as a media whore he wishes he did. He even completely supported the 2nd Iraq war!

  • Mav

    I’m transgendered and the word “tranny” is not offensive to me in the slightest, regardless of who is using it.

    “Police arrested the student and Savage said that being gay he loves glitter.”

    ^ This pretty much sums up why I love Dan Savage.

    Also, I’m one of those people who considers the word “freak” a compliment.

    Let your freak flag fly people – no shame in this game!

  • Bard

    Ugh. He’s such a snake oil salesman. I’d bet you anything if he hadn’t been born gay he’d be a right wing preacher himself, because he has the perfect self-aggrandizing arrogant I-can-do-no-wrong personality for it. I’d honestly have more respect for him if he just out and out said his real opinion about how he does not like bisexuals or trans people (which is evident from his previous columns) instead of wheedling and “oh no, of course not this, of course not that… I’m still perfect… it’s all the fault of the bisexuals for not coming out… and if you’re bisexual and under 36 you’ll come out eventually as gay or lesbian…” Shut the hell up Dan. You have the charm of a used car dealer, thanks, I get it, now please go away.

  • Marie

    I am a transwoman and I do take a lot of offense at the terms tranny and shemale. Using these slurs to describe Transwomen like myself is like calling a woman a cunt or a black person the n-word.

  • missanthrope

    The person who did this is a hero.

    Dan Savage can go to hell for his racism, cisexism and misogyny for all I care. And screw everyone, cis or trans, who rewards and enables his entitled bullshit behavior.

    The time has come when this won’t be tolerated anymore.

  • Chris

    Glitter bombing is a very stupid way to call attention to someone’s transphobia/rape apologies/etc
    But against what many of you are saying, he should not be allowed to say these things because he’s gay. Just because there are other things we could be doing, doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be called out.

    HEY AND HELLO, just because ‘tranny’ isn’t offensive to one trans person doesn’t mean it’s not offensive to someone else. By and large ‘tranny’ and ‘shemale’ are still considered offensive by the trans women community and that should be enough for everyone to quit saying it! It wasn’t offensive 10 years ago? It is now so knock it off. You have trans friends who don’t mind that you call them ‘trannies?’ Cool, but don’t think that applies to all trans people.

  • BubbasBack

    Damm, he’s ugly. But above all, stupid every time he opens his mouth. Oh, and he’s a media whore. Yeah, with “role models” like him, shucks, it sure gets better!

  • Interesting

    No idea if he’s a transphobe. Funny how it brings out the transphobes. This is like race. Whatever the precipitating event. Its just an excuse.

  • shaed

    I’d assume that, as a lesbian, she’s against homophobia in the trans community, just like she’s against this bigotry. Both directly affect her.

    And to answer the question, I think that any attempt to get Dan Savage to realize what a bigoted jerk he is is counterproductive, so if that is the goal, then it won’t succeed.

    But if it is to draw attention to intra-community bigotry in general, then it is productive.

  • james_from_cambridge

    @shaed: “But if it is to draw attention make people hate the intra-community bigotry in general, then it is productive.”

    There! Fixed!

    Politically correct, stupid, counter-productive morons. You can’t get to your real enemies, the right-wing politicians and religious bigots, who would either kill you or beat the shit out of you if you tried this crap with them, so you attack and alienate gay people. Fuck you glitter-bombing freaks! The more I see of the p.c., lame, ugly side of the trans community, the more I’m glad we’re distancing ourselves from you and you’re distancing yourselves from us. Fuck you!

  • rhenaiya

    I am trans and I definately dislike to hear my so called allies referring to transwomen as “shemale” or “freaky tranny”, or as the last commenter so delicately summed up as “freaks”. Now while I think glitter bombing is an infantile way to draw attention to a situation, that’s all it does. Then what? I think it’s going to take some grown-up maneuvers like discussion and more importantly, listening to one another to make any progress. I have many friends in the lgbt community where I live and rarely have issues with any of them, so in spite of the slurs of Dan Savage, I can see the positive work he’s done and can’t take that away from him or the gay men who put him on a pedestal. However I can agree that he has displayed insensitivity if not distaste for trans people, and think that rather than expecting him to have an epiphany about trans people by throwing glitter at him perhaps we need to find a trans person to represent us with dignity.

  • Jack

    What is counterproductive is to prioritize trying to change words instead of trying to change hearts and minds. These faux philosophical Foucault-wannabes who glittered him weren’t even trans themselves. And there are many segements within the trans community that do take “tranny” as a term of endearment and would have no issue with Dan quoting THE MESSAGE ADDRESSED TO HIM in the first place which included such words, so activists like Tobi Hill-Meyer’s problems with him being held as a spokesperson for the gay community is only just as valid as self-appointed trans activists such as Hill-Meyer who are only speaking on behalf of a certain segment of trans persons themselves.
    And by the way, if you really believe in this cause then don’t be an idiot about the ways you approach your protests. Dan Savage glitterbombed homophobes to whom glitter being thrust upon them would be seen as emasculating and get to the point of why they’re assholes in the first place. Glitterbombing Dan Savage is akin to throwing catnip at Puss in Boots.

    There are major problems of transphobia out there at-large. If the starting point for combating this starts with Dan Savage, then progress is going to inch at a snail’s pace.

  • Jeff

    Until Dan stops the martyr and professional victim routine about how he is so picked on by the bi and trans community and how he has never been wrong on this issue and people need to just accept his words as infallible, I won’t accept him as an activist at all. I’m sorry. He is a shock writer and a humorist and if he can’t be more responsible, then he should leave it at that. Because I do really worry about the impact he has on bi and trans youth.

    Thankfully a lot of LGBT youth and LGBT adults see Dan as the snake oil seller, media whore, and hypocrite that he is and know fully well that he’s very biphobic, transphobic, and racist and nothing more than a conceited asshole and not any sort of expert on GLBT issues or human sexuality at all.

  • maus

    “Considering that he’s still using anti-trans slurs”

    Way to follow the actual story. He repeated what was on the question card, and addressed those slurs as offensive slurs.

    Why not update with the proper information?

  • Geri

    Transfrantic semantics :)

    Tobi Hill-Meyer makes alternative transwoman porn. She has appeared on the same queer porn websites as transwomen and queer women and men who have worked in generic Sh*m*le porn – eg Kimberly Kills, Syd Blakovitch etc.

    “Sh*m*le porn” is what porn featuring transwomen is most commonly called. Really a true “sh*m*le” is a specific kind of tranwoman – one who is happy to keep her penis, she is a top or a switch.

    Many people who are attracted to transwomen (aka T-g*rls, TS-G*rls etc) use the words sh*m*le and tr* nny. And some transwomen identify themselves with these terms – even some who don’t work in porn.

    Branding the term Sh*m*le as a transphobic slur per se makes no more sense than branding terms like queer and dyke as homophobic per se. It is all about context. The terms gay, lesbian, bi, and trans can, and do, all get used as “slurs” as well.

    Always consider the context.

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