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Opinionated & Controversial

Dan Savage Gets Candid

By Troy Maillis


Dan Savage, Co-Founder of the “It Gets Better” Project, is making an appearance in “An Evening With Dan Savage” at Art Explosion in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, February 26 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 - $35 and can be purchased at  Savage, who writes the controversial sex and relationship column “Savage Love,” also has a book coming out in March. Through various forms of media, Dan Savage has consistently pushed the envelope and has become a trendsetter in the realm of getting his point across.  Dan recently spoke with Mark’s List about his upcoming appearance, his column and his new book. 


You are making an appearance at Art Explosion for ArtsUnited. What can we expect from “An Evening with Dan Savage”?


Well, that depends—I'm most comfortable working in a question-and-answer format, so it's really the audience that drives evenings with me, just as they drive columns with me, and podcasts with me. I like doing it that way because then, if the conversation gets too dirty or nutso, the audience really has no one to blame but itself.


Are you happy with the success of the “It Gets Better” Project?  Why do you think it took this long for a campaign like this to come about? What were your personal experiences that helped form this campaign?


I'm touched by the success of the "It Gets Better" Project, but I wouldn't say I'm happy. I'd be happy if there were no need for something like the "It Gets Better" Project. I'd be happy if LGBT kids weren't being bullied, and there was no need for the IGBP anymore, and we could pull the whole thing down tomorrow.


And I think that if we hadn't have launched this campaign, someone would've thought of it or something similar. Clearly my husband and I weren't the only adult LGBT people or allies who were aching to reach out to hurting LGBT youth—and not all LGBT youth are hurting; in many ways, and in many places, there's never been a better time to be a queer kid than right now. It just needed a spark. We gave ourselves permission to talk to LGBT kids, and by proxy gave all LGBT people everywhere permission to talk with these kids, and so many people leapt in, stepped up, and took action that it's obvious to me that people were waiting for someone to say, "Let's do this." If it wasn't us, someone else would've jumped in, I'm convinced.


I was bullied a bit in middle school, and a little in high school. But I didn't have it as bad as my boyfriend had it—he was brutalized. I also hear every day at "Savage Love" from LGBT kids all over the country, many of them are being bullied not just by their peers, but also by their families, and they're in so much pain—queer kids whose families reject them are eight times likelier to attempt suicide. People need to understand that rejecting your gay kid won't make him straight, but it could make him dead.


You have a book coming out in March.  What will the book be about?


The book is a collection of essays—some new essays, and some adaptations from the videos on the website. We collected some of our favorites, transcribed them, edited them, and asked the folks who made them to revise them. It's powerful stuff.


We hope the book will reach kids who aren't wired, and we're hoping it will be placed in school libraries all across the country.


How has your column changed since you started it?  Do you think if you started it in 2011, you would have been able to call it “Hey, Faggot”?


Well, when I started the column in 1991 the "Hey, Faggot" salutation was a reference to a roaring debate in the gay community, inspired by Queer Nation activists, about "reclaiming hate words." If we used them, if we embraced them ("Yeah, I'm a fag/dyke/sissy, so what?"), then they couldn't be used to wound us anymore. I thought the logical end-point for that reclamation process was giving straight people permission to use those words in a non-hateful way. Hence, "Hey, Faggot."


I still use the word faggot in the column—I love the word faggot—but I don't think that if I started the column today I'd use that salutation, just because the debate it referenced is long over, and the joke is over.


The thing that changed my column most was the Internet—I started doing "Savage Love" before there was a Google, and I'm doing it now years later. Before Google, I got a lot of "What's a cockring?" questions, and "Where's the BDSM group in my area?" questions. I don't get those anymore, which is a shame, because those were easy questions! Now I get mostly questions that involve situational ethics—lots of gray. It's hard to screw up the answer to "What's a cockring?" It's easy to screw up the answer to "My husband cheated on me and I'm not sure I want to stay in this marriage."


You’ve been controversial in many of your columns, do you think there is a line that exists that can still be crossed? 


I don't know—I'm always looking for lines and bursting past 'em, and I've yet to find the uncrossable line that couldn't be crossed!


Would you ever run for political office?


Yes I would, if my boyfriend would permit it, which he wouldn't, so no.


What can we expect next from Dan Savage?


You can expect me to go on a nice, long vacation. My boyfriend-in-America/husband-in-Canada and I have been working round the clock on IGB since the project launched, and then the book, and now we're heading out on a book tour (which sounds like a vacation but definitely is not), so we're thinking Hawaii is next for us—a beach in Hawaii, with a cocktail waiter standing at the ready. That's also one of the ways in which it gets better!


More about Dan Savage:

Savage Love


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