I did say in the wake of Prop 8 that if Dan Savage kept it up with the racism I’d have to stop liking him altogether. And while I haven’t seen that kind of overt racism from him since, a) I’m sure it’s still there, b) he’s been terribly offensive about bisexuals more times than I can count, as well as not having a good record with fat folks and people living with domestic violence, and c) this week we have some equally shocking transphobia. There will be no more “He’s a good sex advice columnist, but…” from me anymore. I’m flat out of patience and excuses. If anything, it took me too long.
In response to a reader who doesn’t know how to tell his girlfriend that he paid a trans woman for sex, Dan writes [heads up: offensive words for and thoughts about trans women below the cut]:
Paradoxically, RAGE, going down on a shemale escort shores up your heterosexual bona fides. Gay guys don’t frequent and/or fellate shemale escorts (on purpose or by accident); getting with shemales is an entirely straight-male pursuit. So you can go right on identifying as straight, RAGE. Of course you aren’t totally straight—try thinking of yourself as something more than straight, not less—but you’re close enough that you can round yourself down to straight with a clear conscience. (Offer void the day you start blowing hemale escorts.)
Shemale? Shemale? For real? And after the person who wrote in used the much less problematic “transsexual”/”TS”? Was that really necessary? (Hint: no.) It would have been so easy to stick with the terminology already in use, but no, let’s see if we can find the word that’s most likely to offend the highest number of people. All of the objectification of the porn industry, and even more successful than “male-to-female” at rooting people in their assigned gender rather than putting the focus on their authentic gender. Everybody wins.
And, um, newsflash: Straight men are not the only people who are attracted to trans women. While there are certainly ‘chasers out there who fetishize trans folks and are creepy and exploitive about it (and possibly most of those people are straight men, although surely not entirely), trans women are not some weird sexual subcategory who appeal only to certain straight (or straight-plus — ick) men. Generally they appeal to people who are attracted to women. A group which is far larger and more varied than just straight men. Seriously, dude. Straight men and gay men are not the only two possibilities, there’s a whole world out there. (For which I am profoundly grateful.)
Hooking up with trans women isn’t even something gay men never do. I seriously doubt that no gay-identified man ever in the history of the world has ever dallied with a trans woman who’s an escort, but I have no evidence on that one. Not a few trans women came up in the drag scene, though, especially straight trans women/trans women who are attracted to men. And again, the world is so big that pretty much everything has happened, and there has to be some gay guy out there who kept sleeping with his lover as she transitioned from identifying as a drag queen to identifying as a woman. Probably more than one. Not to mention all of the gay-identified men out there who just enjoy sleeping with women.
And then we have this charming reminder:
Finally, RAGE, good on you and your escort for using condoms. But there are a whole host of sexually transmitted infections you could’ve picked up from her, condom or no condom. Make whatever excuse you need to in order to get out of having sex with the girlfriend, go get a full STI screening, and refrain from having sex until you get the all-clear from your doctor.
Granted, he’s the safe sex dude. But I’ve never heard him get quite so hysterical about the risks involved in protected sex. There must be something about trans women who are also sex workers that makes him all kinds of paranoid…maybe they remind him that he’s an asshole.
I suspect the defense we’ll hear, if any, is that Mr. Savage makes his living by snark. No one reads him for the sweetness and light. And that’s true, as far as it goes. But “snarky” and “offensive” are not actually synonymous — there’s a lot of overlap on the Venn diagram, but also a lot of area covered by things that are one and not the other. (This is where Girlfriend, Esq. thought I should have a graphic. I don’t do graphics.) It’s the difference between me writing about what an asshat Dan Savage is as an individual, and him writing insulting things about entire groups of people. Believe it or not, it is possible to be sarcastic, amusing, and the ever-dreaded PC. (Maybe I should be a sex advice columnist…someday….)
I’ve written to Dan Savage before when he was being an idiot, and gotten no response. So it’s probably fruitless, but maybe tomorrow I’ll write him a note anyway. And I have to decide now whether to take his column off my feed, or keep reading it so I can keep taking shit like this apart. I already spend too much of my time reading nonsense on the internet, though; maybe I’ll just let Google alerts tell me when he’s prattling about bisexuality.
PS Is the Bilerico website down for anyone else? I was going to link to several things that have been going on there lately, but I can’t get any of them to load.