The msnbc original series ”Generation to Generation” takes a side-by-side look at the work of civil rights leaders from the 1960s and their modern-day counterparts. This week, the series paired LGBT activists Dan Savage and Larry Kramer. Savage will be participating in a Q&A with the msnbc community.
Savage’s “It Gets Better Project,” a campaign aimed to prevent suicide among LGBT youth, has grown to a community of nearly 600,000 people who have taken a pledge to speak out against discrimination and provide hope for LGBT teens. In a different light, Savage has been tantalizing readers with his sex advice column, Savage Love, since 1991.
Take a look at the responses he had to your questions.
@Casey_A_Schmidt: #gentogen Dan, what is your take on the new affirmative consent law recently passed in to law in California? @fakedansavage
Dan Savage: I’m in favor of affirmative consent — I’ve been talking up “yes means yes” (YMY) for years. “Yes means yes” is much better than “no means no.” Sex should be opt-in, not opt-out. (And once you’ve opted in, you should be able to opt-out whenever you want.) So I support the law. It’s problematic that the law only applies to colleges and universities. I have some trouble with the idea that there’s one kind of consent over here (for us college students) and another kind of consent over there for everyone else (and for us when we’re not college students anymore). And the law won’t he-said/she-said-proof disputes about consent and whether it was affirmatively granted in a given encounter. But the “YMY” law has driven a dialogue about affirmative consent that is important and I support it.
Egreen29: Your career has given a voice to the “fringes” of the sexual community, and through your column you’ve been able to express a uniquely accepting attitude about kink, sexuality, and sexual expression. But have you found over the past 20 years that you’ve become more conservative on any sexual or relationship issues?
Dan Savage: How’s this for a brain teaser: I’m more conservative about marriage than many people would assume … and my desire to see marriages survive leads me to take a far less harsh position on infidelity than I once did and a less harsh one than most of my fellow advice-slingers. People cheat. Men and women cheat—and men and women cheat pretty much equally when you look at people under 40. So we can take a hard line on infidelity (always wrong! unforgivable! divorce the jerk!) or we can regard cheating as something that happens and as something that a halfway decent marriage should be able to survive. We should regard cheating as something we expect marriages to survive. And in many cases, of course, cheating is not that big a deal. If the couple is open, cheating isn’t even cheating. And if one person is done with sex and the other isn’t, the latter isn’t cheating the former out of anything the former values when the latter does it with someone else.
Elisabeth Walters: I would love to hear your opinion on Barney Frank’s recent comments about Chad Griffin’s apology to transgender people and the version of ENDA drafted in 2007 that did not include trans people.
Dan Savage: Can both Barney and Chad be right? Barney was thinking like a politician—get what you can get, press for what you didn’t get next time around—and Chad was right to apologize on behalf of HRC [Human Rights Campaign] for supporting a deal that was unfair to trans folks. I don’t think Barney was or is against trans rights. It was a difference about strategy and, yes, about unity.
pattiofurniture: Your commentary to the asexual community, while hilarious, seems pretty harsh at times. These are obviously people who are struggling with self-identity in a sexual world. I’m crass and cutting, and proud of it, but sometimes I feel sensitive toward people’s feelings and cringe a bit when you react to folks. The fat people thing comes to mind, too. Do you ever feel guilty about hurting people’s feelings?
Dan Savage: My harsh commentary is reserved for asexuals who date sexuals without disclosing their asexuality—that is, people who lie (even by omission). An asexual allowing someone to assume they’re sexual (a not unreasonable assumption to make, as most people are sexual) and initiating a romantic relationship is guilty of romantic fraud. It would be like me dating a woman and letting her think I’m straight. Not cool. But asexuals who are out and open? No problem. I made some comments that were more perplexed than anything else when asexuality first blipped onto the radar about a decade ago. But as I’ve learned more about it, my readers and listeners have learned more about it too. I’ve had David Jay, the founder of the Asexuality Visibility Network, on my podcast numerous times, and he’s given advice in my column.
Do I feel guilty when people get hurt reading me or listening to me? No, I don’t. My listeners and readers engage with me, they argue with me, and they give me hell when they think I’m wrong—and I listen and sometimes I learn, as I did on the issue of asexuality, because sometimes I am wrong. It’s a process and so long as people are being honest, and going at it with open minds, I don’t think anyone has anything to feel guilty about.
Eee_Lo: When will we see the first big-budget Hollywood gay romantic comedy – one where it is NO BIG DEAL that the protagonists are gay? I feel like that will be a watershed moment in mainstream LGBT acceptance.
Dan Savage: That will take a long time. Gay people can live vicariously through the experiences of straight couples in romantic comedies. We can see ourselves in straight people. For a long time we had no choice, as there were no representations of gay or lesbian love in mainstream films, TV, or fiction. What few there were ended tragically. If we wanted to watch something with a happy ending, if we wanted to watch something we might like to experience ourselves, we had to watch straight romantic comedies. And it wasn’t hard for us to do: because we grow up around straight people, because we were raised by straight people, we know we’re really not that far off. The plumbing may be different but the emotions, the longing, the heartbreak, the elation—all of that is the same.
The question now—the question for any major studio thinking about bankrolling a big-budget romantic comedy about two men or two women falling in love—is whether straight people can see themselves in our lives and our experiences. Straight people aren’t surrounded by gay people (despite the impression “embattled” right-wing Christian organizations seek to create) and they’ve never had to see themselves in our lives and our stories. Will they ever? I think so. But it will take some time.
@Equal4Kentucky: How do you feel about the impact you’ve made on teens and young adults struggling with their orientations and homophobia?
Dan Savage: I feel like I’ve had a positive impact and I feel good about that. Some of the most gratifying mail I get is from straight people—young straight people—who tell me that reading my column and listening to my podcast helped them overcome their homophobia. Nothing unravels someone’s homophobia faster than knowing a gay person and—for better or worse—I’m the gay person a lot of young people know.