IT GETS BITTER

What Does It Mean When Trans Activists Glitterbomb Dan Savage?

While filming his visit to the University of Oregon campus in Eugene yesterday evening for the MTV show Savage U, gay sex columnist and activist Dan Savage got glitterbombed by the “Dan Savage Welcoming Committee.”

The bomber said, “Dan Savage is a transphobe!” and added “Glitterbomb courtesy of the Dan Savage Welcoming Committee. He’s a racist and misogynist and a rape-apologist, too!” before rushing out the door.

This marks the first glitterbombing by trans activists as well as the first LGBT-on-LGBT glitterbombing. Is this problematic?

When recently asked about his own transphobia, Dan Savage told David Badash:

“How do you disprove a charge like you’re transphobic? I’m not afraid of trans people… 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.”

But The Bilerico Project’s Tobi Hill-Meyer notes:

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.

Hill-Meyer concludes that Savage has never really taken responsibility for his transphobic statements and that Savage continues denying and dodging the accusation while issuing damaging statements like the ones above.

But this all raises a few interesting questions:

When you flip on the television news, you rarely see any politicians railing against trans people. Though politicians may oppose transgender inclusion in their social policies, few go out of their way to antagonize trans people on TV as publicly as they do LGBs. That’s possibly because trans people form a small social group that conservative politicians would rather ignore than engage at the risk of drawing attention to their own ignorance.

Instead television presents us with the likes of news anchorman Don Lemon flubbing transgender segments with inane questions about genitals and incorrect pronouns, whackadoodle right wingers complaining about how Chaz Bono’s cha-cha will turn children trans, or (at best) an earnest though slanted report on trans children.

As such, the trans community has few well-known targets to attack. By glitterbombing a well-known public figure by Dan Savage, they have ensured that both Savage’s many fans and the LGBT community at large will take note and start discussing Savage’s record as well as larger gender issues beyond his rhetoric.

But doesn’t it seem odd that trans folk would glitterbomb the creator of the “It Gets Better” project, a video project that has helped trans people share their stories and reach out to other trans youth possibly moreso than any digital vehicle in internet history? In many ways, Savage has helped push gay social issues, discriminatory identity politics and positive queer sexuality into the national spotlight by repeatedly pointing out the absurdity of bigoted anti-LGBT arguments as well as the honesty required to live as an ethical slut.

So while it’s obvious that the “Dan Savage Welcoming Committee” chose Dan as a high-profile target to raise larger issues of racism, misogyny, rape-apologists, and transphobia, by doing so they have also targeted arguably one of the most effective LGBT activists within our community. Good works don’t absolve one completely from blame, but certainly trans activists don’t disapprove of what good work Savage has done.

Savage has not released a statement yet about the glitterbombing but it will be interesting to see whether the event will change his discourse or the larger community discussion of the roles racism, misogyny, transphobia, and rape play in LGBT and American politics.

At the very least, it’ll make for an interesting episode of Savage U.

Image via soundfromwayout