Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dan Savage Glitter-Bombed Again (Update Below)

I’ve written about my distaste for glitter-bombing for about as long as glitter-bombing has been around. Earlier this month, I wrote about the shift in glitter-bomb targets. Initially, GLBT activists went after conservative politicians and groups that either opposed marriage equality or that promoted ex-gay treatment. Most recently, sex columnist and gay dad Dan Savage found himself glitter-bombed by a trans activist in Eugene, OR, for being transphobic, biphobic, racist, and a rape-enabler. I don’t read Savage’s columns often, but I do listen to his podcast every week and I have not found him to be any of those things, though he does use crude language regularly which is the basis for most of these complaints. I finally learned that he’s a rape-enabler because he doubted Bristol Palin’s claim that she was raped by her baby daddy (then again, I kind of doubted those claims, too).

Anyway, a post on The Bilerico Project reported that Savage was once again glitter-bombed by trans activists at University of California Irvine for transphobic language. One of those glitter-bombers was nabbed by the police and arrested, though I don’t know if s/he was charged with anything:
According to my source at the event, Savage was in the middle of answering a question from a student who was wondering if her boyfriend was a freak because he watched porn featuring trans women. Savage suggested that her boyfriend was a freak, while freely using the terms "shemale" and "freaky tranny porn." That is when two individuals ran up and threw glitter on him yelling "Transphobe!" Someone from the MTV tech crew muttered "Oh, not again!" Savage laughed it off and said that being gay he loves glitter. Later, when another student was asking him about the incident, Savage answered, "I'm used to it."
Joe My God later provided some additional context to the story:
Savage just texted me to clarify that the words being objected to were actually used in a question he read from an audience member. In his response to the question, Savage noted that some folks "have trouble" with the terms. He laughed off the incident, adding that he finds the accusations against him and the act of glitter-bombing to be "ridiculous."
Tobi Hill-Meyer at Bilerico responded to Savage’s response:
It is disappointing that he continues offer excuses and be unwilling to listen to the concerns of the trans community. It was that unwillingness to listen that prompted activists to resort to these stunts to the community's attention. As I note in a comment below, if a white audience member used a racial slur, that would not be an excuse for him to nonchalantly use the slur after mentioning that "some people have a problem with it." It should not be an adequate excuse here, either.
Personally, I think it is good to clarify to the audience that certain words are objectionable and to actually use those words. If he had self-censored and left it at that, the audience would not have learned that those words are problematic.

Either way, what have we learned about glitter-bombing? It doesn’t do much and this latest strategy has erupted in an ongoing feud between angry trans people or disgruntled gay men. Maybe it’s good that the eruption occurred, but I still think that 1. People are barking at the wrong man and 2. Glitter-bombing is juvenile.

Update (11/14/11): Someone named UCIrvineGuy shared his perspective of this weekend's event, which he actually attended.  It's interesting to read his response following the initial Bilerico Project post and JMG's short response from Dan Savage:
I too 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". 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.
Latest Update (11/15/11): Dan Savage himself finally responded to the accusations of transphobia that have been lobbed at him in recent months as well as these two incidents of glitter-bombing. Basically, he confirms pretty much everything that UCIrvineGuy wrote. But he also had this to say about his own transphobia:
I did say "shemale." I read the question as-written, repeated the term in my response, and then used "transexual" in place of "shemale" ("transexual sex-worker," "transexual porn"), modeling the use of less offensive terms, before circling back to "shemale" in order to unpack why some find it offensive. I never used the phrase "freaky tranny porn." I never said the word "tranny" at UCI at all; indeed, I've made a conscious effort to stop using "tranny" after the memo went out last year declaring the word an off-limits "hate term." (Mike Signorile wrote a good post about the rapidly changing take on the word "tranny" here.)

As for "freaky boy": that boy is a bit of a freak and anyone who reads my column knows that I'm pro-freak, pro-kink, pro-porn, pro-just-about-everything. I'm a freak myself, as I've said numerous times, I married a freak, some of my best friends are freaks. "Freak," in the context of "Savage Love," is a freakin' compliment. More to the point: I didn't tell the girl who asked the question to dump her boyfriend because he enjoys trans porn; indeed, I urged her to keep dating him if she was into him and willing to go there (anal, allowing him to enjoy his porn). And this is nothing new with me: I've long taken the side of people who are trans or attracted to trans folks. Here's a column I wrote about trans issues in 1999. (Try not to get bogged down on the headline, thought policepersons, as columnists don't write their own headlines.) And the advice I was giving to trans/trans-attracted people in 1999 isn't much different from the advice I gave earlier this year...

Back to what went down at UCI: It's clear from the transcript—and it's clear from the way that my remarks are being actively and maliciously misrepresented—that the people pushing this "Dan Savage is transphobic!" meme are not honest actors. False accusations of engaging in hate speech are themselves a form hate speech—particularly in the hothouse environment of LGBT activism. Any honest reader of my column, like any honest person who attended my Q&A at UCI, knows that not only I am not transphobic, I'm pretty rabidly pro-trans.


shaed said...

Yeah, people dismiss my gender "academic nonsense" all the time, and uh, quite a few literal "Smith College freshmen" end up transitioning, so I don't know why that would mean "fake trans", unless this "UCIrvineGuy" thinks only trans women are "really trans."

Jon said...

It was UCIrvineGuy's words. I just quoted them. As noted above, the glitter-bombers noted above were people he knows. I agree that his assertion that they're not actually transgendered isn't 100% given that he knows of them, but doesn't actually know them. But I was glad to hear the perspective of someone who actually witnessed the event and I believe that there was more truth to his report than not.

Anyway, thanks for commenting, Shaed.