Letter to the Editor

Under the title of this year’s Pride Week, “Pride Has Many Voices,” it is troubling that the week’s keynote address showcases one of the most privileged voices. Dan Savage’s name is not new to controversy, especially within LGBT communities. Most who know his name, including Savage himself, are well aware of the distrust he receives from queer activists. Savage supported the invasion of Iraq; demonized African American communities for the passage of Proposition 8; vilified parents of trans[gender] individuals; is skeptical of bisexuality, especially among young people; and is responsible for the “It’s Gets Better” campaign, which overlooks the multiple racialized, classed and gendered experiences of people who identify as LGBT. To give Savage some credit, he has learned and changed his perspective (at least publicly) about certain people, and it comes as no surprise that his fans celebrate his personal growth and coming-to-consciousness. His myopic view of identity has somewhat broadened even with his continued defensiveness when questioned.
But Savage’s growth and learning is never attributed to the people who have rightly called his statements and projects into question. Bisexuals, trans[gender] people, queer people of color and many more have justifiably challenged his politics and the disparaging remarks he’s made. The people who have been degraded, insulted and excluded by his actions have been the most vocal in calling them into question. We do not celebrate those folks who have educated Savage on his wrongdoing, and instead decide to promote Savage’s thought process. He embodies the safe gay, a cisgendered, white male who upholds rather than challenges the political and social fabric of our times.
While supporters may praise his come-to-consciousness by pointing to recent interviews or articles by Savage in which he corrects and apologizes for his public mistakes, a quick look to his advice column turns up predictably offensive. Embedded within his advice to a young gay man, Savage turns to an article by Andrew Sullivan in which Sullivan states, “There’s nothing like dating or f—— a person of another background, race, or class to help you see the humanity in everyone.” Sullivan’s quote, being cited and referenced in Savage’s advice column, grossly overlooks the persistent racism within white, middle-to-upper-income gay cultures. It offers a mischaracterization of white, gay men, that by virtue of associating with gay men of color, they no longer are racist. It centers the white gay man and his learning at the expense of the experiences of queer people of color.
What is especially disheartening is the indiscriminate celebration in which he comes to the U, particularly under the auspices of ‘pride’ being multi-vocal. Pride Week’s theme seems to invite multiple perspectives, voices and experiences. The theme is an opportunity to engage with voices that have been systematically silenced. We understand his name is publicly known and this event will draw more attention and money. We are also all too familiar with the liberal response, “Well, at least he helps raise awareness.” But if these are the caveats which justify pouring money into his wallet and promoting a narrative that is already well circulated, we must take an opposing stance. Instead of taking an opportunity to showcase a keynote address by those who are overlooked in Savage’s politics, our university has gone with what is ‘safe.’ It seems there were several moments in the decision-making process about who to bring for Pride Week, and those of us who are already excluded from gay politics have been marginalized even further. Something much more profound than a ‘dialogue’ needs to happen on this campus for us to feel safe and welcome.

Queer Students of Color
University of Utah