Queer sex advice columnist Dan Savage brings his live Savage Love show to Dallas
SAVAGE LOVE LIVE
Kalita Humphreys Theater,
3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. Sept. 20.
8 p.m. $29–$44. UptownPlayers.org.
Dan Savage began his career as the man behind the now-syndicated advice column Savage Love, which first ran in the Seattle Weekly in the early 1990s. When it began, Savage shocked many readers with his frank and often graphic answers to love and sex questions (which usually started with “Hey, faggot”). But it was this very frankness that garnered him a following, and his career blossomed: He’s now an author, activist (he and his husband Terry started the It Gets Better Project) and frequent television guest — and, on Saturday, a stage performer as the closing-night act of the Pride LGBT Performing Arts Festival at the Kalita.
He also is a target. The bigger his name gets, the more he’s singled out by those whose politics fall right of the dial. That was the case recently, when TK “Molotov” Mitchell insisted that Savage is a more damaging social presence than the Westboro Baptist Church.
“I don’t have a response to that,” Savage says, when I asked him about that. “It’s so ridiculous and obnoxious that it doesn’t merit a response.”
Mitchell himself may not warrant addressing, but Savage says the situation speaks to a bigger issue.
“It’s from the right-wing playbook,” he says. “Because of the It Gets Better Project, my name is forever associated with anti-bullying, and so they want to turn around and say, ‘No, no, no, he’s the worst bully of all.’”
Anyone who has even a passing knowledge of Savage’s personality knows he gives as good as he gets. When Savage Love debuted 23 years ago, it was a brash response to homophobia, provincial attitudes about sex and narrow-mindedness in general. In his responses, Savage was usually insightful and direct, but sometimes “brash” turned to “bratty.”
As his career has evolved, however, Savage has maintained his edge and honesty, and tempered it with some perspective. As we chat, just a few days after Michael Sam was picked up for the Dallas Cowboys practice squad, you can hear it in Savage’s response.
“You can see a real Jackie Robinson element, the grace with which he’s handled himself.” Savage says of Sam. “Sometimes trailblazers have to hack away at the underbrush because of the double standards in this culture, particularly with African-American men: You can’t look angry and be ‘the angry black male.’ I think he’s handled himself beautifully.”
It’s a soft moment for Savage before the topic switches to the challenges the LGBTQ community faces today. His edge hardens. The biggest hurdle we face, he says, is the push for trans rights. “A lot of the anxiety that was once attached to gay people, and the fear and loathing of gay people as this mysterious other,” he says, “has shifted over to the new mystery boogie man, gender outlaw or transgressive, which is trans people.”
Where once straight folks worried about being “gay by association,” Savage says they now feel threatened by the perceived danger of being around a trans person. “It’s grounded in this fear, this anxiety of it being predatory. That idea of some sort of blowjob vampires that will convert you has now attached itself to gender.”
For many homophobic and transphobic souls, those vampires still prowl the night. But the good news is the rise of queer visibility has a momentum of its own, as more and more people come out or just skip the closet altogether.
“Our biggest advancement is our social visibility,” Savage says. “Being out to friends and family and co-workers. When I first came out and first started making that point, the minority of queer people were out to their friends and family and now the majority of queer people are out to their friends and family.”
It seems like such a basic thing, but Savage distills the concept that’s direct and clarifying … just like Savage Love, just like his books and just like his appearances on shows like The Colbert Report: “You’ve seen such rapid and radical shifts because people know queer people. None of the other things we want achieve socially and politically are possible without people being out.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 19, 2014.