It’s definitely time to find a new sex advice columnist…

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.

30 Responses to “It’s definitely time to find a new sex advice columnist…”

  1. 27 March 2009 at 11:55 am

    Great post! Ew, I am so sick of Dan Savage — he gets worse everyday.

  2. 2 purpleshinycrafter
    27 March 2009 at 1:40 pm

    I think that the letter-writer *was* approaching it exclusively from a vastly-male-dominated creepy-chaser-porn-based perspective–that said, Dan could’ve taken a few sentences to explain that, whaddaya know, trans people are *people*, not somebody’s fetish :/

    And I guess that the fact that this makes me kind of sad but doesn’t at all surprise me is a sign that I could do better as far as advice columns go. Please post if you find a better columnist! 😀

  3. 28 March 2009 at 1:58 am

    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.

    Loved that in particular. Gah. I’m glad I never really read Dan Savage anyway—all I’ve really read have been ones you’ve ragged about.

    And, not sure if you saw the updates already, but Bilerico and their sub-sites were the victims of some nasty hackers. Site seems to be up and running again, but who knows if the buggers will strike another time.

    • 5 Aviva
      1 April 2009 at 8:50 pm

      The problem with Dan Savage is that, on first read, he’s funny and knowledgeable and pretty on it. So you can already be enjoying his column before he starts to show his true fucked-up colors.

      Thanks for the info on Bilerico! I should get back to working on that post about them, I suppose…

  4. 29 March 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Wow. Dan Savage is still, unsurprisingly, a total DB.

    As someone else mentioned, Bilerico got hacked. The New England LGBT Veterans site is also now believed to be down because of the same hackers, so it’s being recommended that all LGBTQ sites backup their stuff and check their security procedures.

    • 7 Aviva
      1 April 2009 at 8:51 pm

      Hm. Guess I should be glad I’m not big enough to bother with. And I should figure out how to back up my blog…it’s amazing how the internet is more and more designed to let people do all sorts of things they’re actually incompetent at.

  5. 8 Sheena
    9 April 2009 at 11:11 am

    Thanks. I don’t read Savage Love but rarely. I just don’t find it funny, although the Santorum joke was a bit.

    I’m a trans woman. I’m a trans woman who is sexually attracted to women (cis or trans). I do consider myself bisexual, however. More importantly though, I am a trans woman who doesn’t wish to surgically alter my body.

    I hate the word Shemale. I hate the fetishism and objectification of it.

    I didn’t come out of drag culture. I didn’t go into sex work.

    I came out of the punk/goth subcultures. I work in a library, have worked in many libraries for many years.

    I have “hooked up” with women who were tranny chasers, and it made me feel horrible.

    Fortunately, I have found a few people in my lifetime who actually love me for who I am…and not my novelty.

    • 9 Aviva
      9 April 2009 at 4:16 pm

      Yeah, I’m having more and more trouble finding it funny these days. I’ve given up.

      I’m curious about where your bisexual identity is rooted if you’re attracted to women. No need to tell me, though, I’m just being nosy.

      I totally appreciate the difference between people who fetishize you and people who appreciate you. And sympathise with the use of “shemale” and all of the ridiculous assumptions that go along with it.

      • 10 Sheena
        19 April 2009 at 12:40 am

        the boys I like tend to be the Glam/Goth types that bend gender and are really androgynous in that way like the movie Velvet Goldmine…and unfortunately, Goth boys just don’t get pretty like that anymore…I’m an Old Bat…and there was a time when you really couldn’t tell who was a “girl” or a “boy” and it didn’t matter in the Goth scene. *loved it so much* (Truth be told, a lot of my friends who came out as Trans Women were like me in that we were those boys…but that isn’t true of all those boys).

        so yeah…my preference is for women (cis or trans) but I do like and have had relations with some of those Glam/Goth boys

        to me…bisexuality is an identity of being open minded about love (or other identities: pansexuality, etc)

        • 11 Aviva
          6 May 2009 at 12:25 am

          Ah, that makes sense. That’s about my speed, too, when it comes to boys. When I first met my last boyfriend, he was wearing a long skirt and a belt buckle that said “Fairy top.” I think I fell for him right then.

  6. 13 April 2009 at 4:49 pm

    I think he’s crossed a line. The “shock jock” approach may have had some merit in a celebrity roast, but we live in a world already uncomfortable with sexuality. The last thing we need is a poster boy for “All Sex is Crude” opinions from the prudish bigots who run the show.

    • 13 Aviva
      6 May 2009 at 12:26 am

      Yeah, I’m not really worried about the prudish bigots who run the show; they’ll find something to be offended by, and I’m all for outspoken sex-positivity even (especially) when it upsets them. I just wish he could do it without being an offensive bigoted asshat himself.

  7. 14 mari
    18 April 2009 at 12:09 am

    I love dan savage. his advice lately sounds iffy at first listen/read but the more I think about it I always end up on his side. I am saddened that you dislike him now 😦

    racism, where is it?

    • 15 Aviva
      6 May 2009 at 12:31 am

      There are probably other examples I haven’t seen, but the racism I was referring to was what I linked to — his statements after Prop 8 passed painting the entire African-American community as bigoted awful homophobes, uncritically accepting the faulty election stats, blaming them for Prop 8 passing, and claiming that only a tiny portion of the queer community is racist untrue), and that’s way less hurtful than the huge percentage of African-Americans who are homophobic (double untrue.)

  8. 24 April 2009 at 6:31 am

    When I first read the article, I thought he was using “shemale” as a way to attack the fetishistic views of transwomen. He specifically references this idea that having sex with a TS keeps these men in the “straight” category, which leads me to think he was using the word to prove a point. He uses “she” later on in the response, which also made me more certain. On the other hand, he never did use “transwomen,” “transsexual” or another appropriate term later, so perhaps I’m wrong.

    • 17 Aviva
      6 May 2009 at 12:34 am

      That’s an interesting interpretation. I think I’d be more likely to buy it if I had more faith in his ability to be respectful and appropriate. And he’s pretty clear when he finds what someone says offensive and fucked up. If he’d thought this person’s fetishization of trans women was off, I suspect he’d have said so straight up, rather than letting an offensive slur imply it for him.

  9. 18 ShannonB
    30 April 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Aviva, I know this is a way late response, but I have been away a lot and then sick a lot and am still playing catch-up with my regular reads.

    I just wanted to validate your supposition regarding gay men who might have a partner that transitioned. I do in fact know of just such a couple who live here in Seattle. He is a wonderful, kind, generous bear who has charisma coming out his ears. She is a transwoman transitioned now for a number of years. They were a couple before, and mostly stayed that way through her transition. They are a delightful couple with bazillions of friends, many of whom know Dan Savage (and I think he knows Dan too). I have seen Dan’s outrageous comments about Bi and Trans for a long time and been dismayed, but when he rolled out the racism after Prop 8 that was it for me. To me he is a narrow-minded know-nothing who I wish would keep his trap shut on Bi and Trans issues; but like my wish of winning the lottery I don’t put a lot of faith in it coming true.

    Good column and thank you from all of us who consider acceptance a way of life rather than something we put on for TV interviews.


  10. 6 October 2010 at 6:02 am

    I am late but I have recently realised what a macho nasty man Dan Savage is. Mainly via the publicity to the It Get’s Better Project.

    I have written a bit rubbishly about him on my blog and will write something better soon:


    It is so annoying when someone who is a respected sex columnist uses his own agenda in the advice he gives to people. I am (bi)-furious!!!

  11. 10 October 2010 at 4:36 pm

    “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.”

    That last turn of phrase there made me laugh my ass off. Had I been drinking something at the time, it would have sprayed out of my nose.

    “Maybe they remind him that he’s an asshole” = Gold!

  12. 22 TygerFang
    4 January 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Sorry if you’ve put it somewhere and I didn’t notice, but would you mind giving me a link to the article you got your quotes from. He’s such a creep, but you wouldn’t believe how much material he’s adding to my file of trans phobic articles (actually you probably would). I’m weird and decided to have an entire file of things to pick apart and dissect, or maybe I’m just a masochist. 🙂

  13. 24 SG
    25 January 2011 at 4:06 am

    Yes Savage is still biphobic and transphobic and there’s a discussion about it here.

    There are gay men on that blog who are in full denial about how Savage is transphobic and biphobic.

    ‘It gets better’ is the stock response to every kid, ever, of any sexual and gender orientation, who is the target of bullies. In elementary school, it’s “In two years, you’ll be going to a much bigger school and there will be all sorts of people to make friends with. You probably won’t even see [bullies] anymore.” Then when that doesn’t work, in middle school it’s “Just one more year until high school. It’s a new environment, you’ll be able to do more activities with people who share your interests / people are more mature.” Then when high school is worse, it’s “Just hang on three years, then you can leave this town behind for good.”

    Furthermore, it’s exactly what [most] bullied kids don’t need or want to hear. You want to know how to stop being called names and shoved into lockers, you want to know how to make the bullies hurt as much as they’ve hurt you, you need it to stop NOW. Not to be told

  14. 26 SG
    25 January 2011 at 6:53 pm

    V-Yes the way people blindly follow Dan Savage and ignore the fact that he’s misogynistic, biphobic, transphobic, and bigoted is disturbing but it just shows how little these people can actually think for themselves or do their own research about Dan Savage and how he is full of hate. 😉

  15. 27 SG
    25 January 2011 at 6:58 pm

    The comments at the blog Joe My God also show how much biphobia, transphobia, misogyny, and real hatred there is in the so called GLBT “community” when it comes to gay men and others who you’d hope would know better than to be bigoted, full of oppression, and not so full of hatred for people who are on the same side for gay rights, sexual freedom, and equality as they are.

  16. 28 SG
    29 January 2011 at 3:01 am

    yes Savage is highly biphobic, transphobic, and he’s said some racist things against blacks too.

    He once said how he thinks that a woman’s vagina (to him) looks like canned ham dropped from the empire state building and I’m not sure how TS or even cis women would find that funny.

    Then you have actual gay men and lesbians taking what Savage says about Bisexuality and how in his opinion it does not exist in men at all seriously and thinking that it’s true.

    See here:

    Savage is NOT a person I’d go to for sex advice.

    I’m into kink and BDSM and he does talk out of his ass about what to do if you have a certain kink/fetish or want to do B&D/S&M/bondage.

    Dan’s totally vanilla and NOT a part of the kink or leather communities at all. So I’m not sure why he’d even answer questions about such things?

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