TW: suicide, trans erasure/fetishization, bisexual erasure, female LGBT* erasure, poor LGBT* erasure, LGBT* of color erasure
If you’ve been reading this blog for some time now, you’ve probably noticed that I tend to help out with what some have called the left’s “circular fire squad”. I’ll appreciate a point by Andrew Sullivan but still call it erasive. I’ll quote Rachel Maddow at length, but I don’t think that means refusing to criticize her. So now it’s Dan Savage’s turn. If you don’t tend to watch Chris Hayes’ weekend show a few days ago, you probably missed a relatively uneventful interview. But if you did as always or for the first time tune into the show, you got a big helping of why Savage is the recipient of quite a bit of derision from liberals as well as conservatives.
(Yeah, I’m rooting for Black Dahlia Parton in this match, sorry.)
If manage to let the messages just role over you, you’ll notice a few interesting things in the interview, which are hopefully enlightening if you’re one of the people who looks to Dan Savage for advice:
–He’s erasive of other gender identities and sexualities. In the interview, he pointedly avoids using the words trans/transgender or bisexual while listing gay and lesbian a few times in the show. Thanks to the acronym of LGBT*, when using the full names for those identities, it’s customary to at least list those four together. But Dan Savage has made it quite clear that he has his doubts about bisexuals, and his failure to mention genderqueer people until he starts talking about kinks is perhaps reflective of some parts of the oppression of trans men and women. He also decides that it’s an irrelevant extra bit to note that genderqueer people are still banned from military service in the US, while discussing DADT. He likewise is hardly conspicuous in speaking of “gay marriage” rather than “same-sex marriage” – which erases every part of the LGBT acronym other than, naturally enough, the one he identifies with.
–He restricts the cause of further LGBT* liberation primarily to marriage equality. Part of the blame should lie with Chris Hayes for quite cheerfully encouraging and then perpetuating this throughout the interview, but Dan Savage, as a self-proclaimed advocate, should have known to challenge such narratives. You are more likely to become a homeless youth if you are LGBT*. Even for LGBT* people with the resources to house themselves without familial assistance, federal bans on housing discrimination on the basis of being LGBT* in the US are relatively new and not yet fully implemented. And that assumes that LGBT* individuals have a stable income, which is often called into doubt as protections from being fired simply for being LGBT* are not secure, but rather a patchwork of state-based initiatives that are not present in all places, do not always apply to private industries, and are not necessarily inclusive of genderqueer people. As a member of the comfortable socio-economic class, the dominant ethnic group, and the privileged sex and gender, Savage has seemingly never had to deal with these “complications” that very easily arise when combating anti-LGBT* biases as well as other inequalities.
–He literally says “We are born into straight families” and that there’s nothing more straight than raising children. Queerspawn. We’re a thing. Sometimes we’re not straight or cisgender or either. Look it up. There’s no big speech prepared following this bit, because it’s just categorically erasive.
–His remaining idea of how to further the cause of LGBT* liberation is suicide prevention. Now, that in and of itself is a sign of hope. Here is something that hasn’t personally effected Savage that he cares about. Until you realize that he’s unwilling to discuss suicide prevention in any sort of a context of mental health, but just “needing someone to talk to”. It’s showing that he’s not someone with training or much experience in how to assist people with mental health issues, but he’s continuing to comment on what people in that place should and shouldn’t do, as well as should and shouldn’t feel. It’s also worth noting that even if this is the first issue I’ve raised that doesn’t appear to affect Savage directly it does – he’s the founder of the It Gets Better Project, after all.
–He automatically assumes his own child is straight and cisgender. The offensiveness of this is profound. Savage is a person who has made his fortune in discussing how damaging and difficult it was for him and his partner and people like him and his partner for their parents to assume that they were straight. Why is he going down that road with his own child?
Feel free to add to this in the comments if you saw anything else in their discussion that makes you want to put either of them on notice, because I’m just skimming the top honestly.
EDIT: I interpreted Savage as having implies his own child would be straight and cisgender when I watched the show live. That’s not coming up in the portions available on the website. Apologies if I misunderstood those or any other statements. That being, said, I found more to complain about, while reviewing the clips one last time. He admits the idea behind the It Gets Better Project was that he no longer needed to physically meet with suicidal LGBT* youth, but could just talk them out of acting on those feelings over YouTube. That immediately presumes that the youth in question have internet access, have means to use that internet access to a degree that they’ll come across his videos, and that they’ll be free enough from potentially hostile parents to watch the videos. That’s quite a bit of assuming, which will probably make the youth simply reached by his message wealthier among other pressures.