Syndicated sex advice columnist Dan Savage hosts an interactive version of his column in Missoula on Friday, and his arrival couldn't be more timely. Savage, who is also editor of Seattle alt weekly The Stranger, has a long history as an outspoken and often radical advocate of gay rights. Montana's had its fair share of debate on gay rights in recent months, most notably when seven same-sex couples took the state to court in July, arguing they deserve the same benefits that come from marriage as their straight peers. Before his visit, we spoke with Savage about gay marriage, discrimination and, of course, sex.
Indy: Is it true that the idea for "Savage Love" sprang from a tongue-in-cheek idea to have a "faggot" educate straight people about sex?
Savage: Yes! The original idea was that I would approach questions from straight readers with the same contempt and disgust that most—not all—straight advice columnists approached questions from gay readers (when they condescended to run questions from gay readers). It turned out that straight people liked being treated with contempt, and they responded to the column, and to me, and the mail came pouring in, and more papers picked up the column. Honestly, I was still pretty angry with straight people as a group when I started writing "Savage Love." (Unfair and hypocritical of me, I know). My heart grew three sizes one day, though, while reading the mail, and I decided to start actually helping the poor, deluded straight people out, instead of just pissing all over them (although some of them would enjoy that—some gay people, too).
Indy: I understand a newspaper in Fayetteville, Ark., pulled "Savage Love" at the end of last month after running it for just one week. Why do you think papers catch flak for publishing your column?
Savage: Because I tell the truth about sex. People don't just have vaginal intercourse in the missionary position with their opposite-sex, legally married spouses. People have anal, oral and vaginal sex. Lots of people are kinky. Some people are gay, some are bi, and some straight people have same-sex encounters now and then. Men use porn, cheating isn't always wrong, etc. Seeing what everyone knows to be true in print is more than some folks—and some newspapers—can handle.
Indy: I read your recent blog post on how the national GOP attacks "the other," specifically immigrants, Muslims and gays. That theme is currently playing out in Montana, as the state GOP advocates criminalizing homosexual acts. What's your take on the Montana Republican Party's stance?
Savage: I'm sure the Montana GOP has heard of the judiciary—at least I hope they have. That would be the co-equal third branch of gov'mint that our founding fathers set up in part to protect individual liberties. The Supreme Court ruled that we all have a constitutional right to engage in sodomy—gay or straight sodomy (yes, most of you people are sodomites too)—and that's the end of that. Montana can criminalize sodomy until it's blue in the face but it won't be able to actually prosecute anyone for sodomy—not anymore, not so long as Montana is a part of the United States.
So...you know...suck that, bigots. We didn't like the Bush v. Gore ruling, you don't much care for Lawrence v. Texas. Them's the breaks.
Indy: A story you wrote in 2000 titled, "Stalking Gary Bauer," chronicles how you infiltrated Bauer's Republican presidential campaign headquarters and, irritated by the candidate's stance on gay rights, intentionally worked to give him the flu. Did you really lick doorknobs?
Savage: Before 9/11 Bauer compared gay marriage to terrorism. I thought, well, maybe I should go terrorize him then. This was back when terrorism was still cheap hyperbole for the likes of Bauer, and a jokey stunt for the likes of me. I don't regret the piece at all, and it was all true. But I wouldn't do the same thing today—terrorism isn't so funny anymore. Sadly, though, the right hasn't grown up, and the likes of Bauer still slink around the country describing gay marriage as a threat to "homeland security." Which would be appalling if it weren't so revealing and comical. They're really scared to death that two men or two women who love each other might...find happiness, and security, and have their commitment and bond honored and respected.
Indy: You've said publicly that gay marriage critics triggered your contrary nature and, as I understand it, influenced your decision to get hitched. How's married life treating you?
Savage: Well, I didn't marry my boyfriend six years ago just because it would piss off Rick Santorum. That was just the cherry on the sundae. We are still married—in Canada, at least, and the handful of U.S. states that recognize same-sex marriage. Mexico is on the verge of legalizing same-sex marriage, which means that shortly the "land of the free" is going to be the only place in North America that still discriminates against same-sex couples.
Indy: Sarah Palin is coming to Missoula two days after your appearance. It seems like an ideal opportunity to pitch the idea you initially presented in 2008, when you offered to become Palin's "gay friend" and her children's "cool gay uncle," capable of providing needed advice about sex and birth control.
Savage: Unfortunately, I have to be back in Bloomington, Ind., before Momma G. touches down in Missoula...
The offer still stands—and clearly Bristol needed a little relationship advice before deciding to go public in such a huge way with her briefly on-again engagement to Levi. I would've talked her out of breaking the news to her parents on the cover of Us Magazine, or whatever it was.
Planned Parenthood of Montana presents "Savage Love Live" Friday, Sept. 10, at 7:30 p.m., in the University Theatre. $35/$25 students.