Dan Savage Hits National TV, Strikes Back at Critics
BY Lucas Grindley
February 21 2012 5:00 AM ET
Tyler Clementi’s cousin wrote us an interesting op-ed the
other day. She argued that, in New Jersey, passing same-sex marriage there
would help provide validation to youth who are at risk of suicide. And I wonder
if you think that outside factors in politics really make a difference in the
lives of middle-schoolers and high scholars. Are they really paying attention
to whether marriage equality is passed in Washington, in your home state, for
Yes, they are. I think the social climate
— the political climate — for gay people really does impact young gay people.
What kind of a world are they coming into? Are they coming into a world where
they are citizens or not citizens, where they are equal or not equal? Where a
culture and society stands on these issues is going to impact not only their
futures but also their lives right now, and impact them positively.
Think about [don’t ask, don’t tell]. I wish there weren’t so
many impoverished kids who wound up in the military because they probably had
no other options, but there was no other way up and out for many impoverished
kids — unless you were a gay impoverished kid. You couldn’t go in the military
out of high school if you were gay, and now that’s changed. That’s something that really does
impact the lives of people who are juniors and seniors in high school who are
tying to figure out how they are going to pay for college. They are aware,
acutely so. And now it’s open, and they are aware of that and acutely so.
I’m also constantly in communication with young people
because they are always emailing me about my column. Queer kids who are behind
enemy lines, who have homophobic families, who are living in shit places that
are intolerant, they need an idea in their heads of a place in the world and a
time in their lives when they are going to be free and away from this. So it is
not irrelevant that gay people can marry in seven states — six right now,
hopefully seven if we can hold onto it in Washington state. It is not
irrelevant to them that we are gradually achieving our full civil equality, and
our culture is coming down on the side of the full humanity
of gay people. That is going to impact their lives even if they are in the
worst possible situation right now with a homophobic community and homophobic
family. Knowing that there is a way out and that there is a better place and
there is going to be a better time in their lives can give them hope. And
that’s what Harvey said was so important, right?
Yeah, give them hope.
It gave me hope.
I was one of those kids that Harvey Milk was talking about, that some
kid is going to open a newspaper and see that in San Francisco that an openly
gay man was elected to city supervisor. I was that gay kid. I was reading those
stories about Harvey Milk in the newspaper when I was going through my gay
puberty, and it helped me. So these people who want to poo-poo the importance
of things like the DADT repeal and every gradual victory on the march toward
marriage equality are being disingenuous. I don’t trust them when they say
these things are irrelevant and not a part of the solution.
Would it be unfair, would it be too simplistic, to say
that if you are opposing marriage equality as a politician that it’s
contributing to kids’ suicide rates?
It’s not helping!
But I don’t think even Rick Santorum is sitting there,
rubbing his hands together, cackling and saying maybe if I oppose this, I
can kill a gay kid. Still, people have to
understand that they are contributing to a noise machine that tells gay kids
they are not equal or valid or valuable or fully human when they support
policies that discriminate against gay people or say that our love isn’t real
or say that our love isn’t equal. It’s a couple of tons of sand on that beach,
but you are still pouring sand on that beach.
I want to call it an overstatement, but there’s a grain of
truth in that.
On marriage equality, do you think this is the right
priority for the movement now? Are there other things that ought to be higher,
It’s the people who kind of don’t want marriage equality at all who argue it shouldn’t be the priority. It’s not the priority. We don’t have to have one priority. Each of us doesn’t have to work on just one issue. I am all over this bullying thing, and I am rabidly for marriage equality. They are not mutually exclusive. There are folks out there, including some of the
fuck-for-brains who glitter bombed me who argue that one of the reasons they
have the right to attack me is because I prioritized marriage equality. OK,
guilty as charged. But it’s not a zero-sum game. If you think there are other
issues that are more important, get to work on those issues.
Every time I mention marriage equality, I also mention ENDA,
I also mention repealing DOMA. These aren’t mutually exclusive. We don’t have
to have one priority, and we will never agree on one priority. Everyone should
be encouraged to move on the issues they think are important, and everyone
should support each other as they move on those issues. If we are going to get
into an arms-folded-across-our chest argument about whose priority is more
important and which item on the LGBT agenda should come first, we are not going
to get anywhere on any priority — on anything.
And you know, DADT, I believe is going to help us get ENDA
in the end. Because there should be a campaign for the Marines that says, I
shower next to a gay person, you can work next to one. And the same thing with marriage. If gay people can be legally married, it’s ridiculous that they can be legally fired. These things aren’t either-or’s. They are both-and’s. All of these, and. All of these, and.
But there are some people out there who have an
anti-marriage agenda. They are hiding that behind a claim that other issues are
being ignored in favor of marriage. There is something disingenuous obviously
at work there. Not for all of them, but some of them.
But for those trans activists that are making the case
about your priorities, do you really think they are against marriage?
None of them were trans — the folks who came
to the Vancouver speech. But I don’t know, I can’t pop their heads open and
look inside, as tempting as that might sound. When people say one of the items
against me is I am for marriage, what am I supposed to make of that?