Dan Savage gets honest with audience, addresses past controversies
Heather Brown, The Oklahoma Daily
Every seat was filled in Oklahoma Memorial Union’s Molly Shi Boren Ballroom as many came to listen to GLBTQ advocate and journalist Dan Savage speak about his “It Gets Better Project” Thursday evening.
Savage, tall and lanky, wearing a red “Chick-fil A-holes” t-shirt was greeted with a standing ovation from the audience.
The “It Gets Better Project” has its roots in the tragic death of 15-year-old Billy Lucas. Lucas was a Greensberg, Ind., teenager who killed himself due to constant bullying from his classmates.
After his death, Lucas still received harassment from classmates and peers with taunts like “I’m glad you’re dead” and “faggot” on an online memorial Facebook page started by his family.
After Savage published a column that left him with “white hot rage,” one of his readers left a comment that stuck with him:
“I wish I had known you, Billy, to be able to tell you that things get better,” read the comment. The comment gave Savage the idea for the “It Gets Better Project.”
Savage said the “It Gets Better Project” has garnered 80,000 user-created videos on YouTube from countries all around the world.
Savage addressed some of the criticisms of the project. For example, he said that the project is not just for gay people.
Savage believes that gay hatred is rooted in parents and religion.
“It’s damaging for queer kids to hear that religion disagrees with their actions and it in turn empowers straight people,” Savage said.
When the question and answer session began, Savage touched on finding love in Tulsa, to bullying in Norman, to remarks he has made that have drawn much criticism.
Savaged addressed the controversy about what he said on “Real Time with Bill Maher” last year, when he said of all Republicans, “I wish they were all fucking dead.”
“I said it on television, but didn’t think anyone heard it,” Savage said in self-deprecating fashion. Savage said he went straight to his hotel room after the show ended and immediately drafted an apology.
“I didn’t mean it and I shouldn’t have said it,” Savage said. “It was straight up rude; however, I said the bible is 100 percent bullshit and I don’t apologize for that.”
Savage shared his thoughts on Zach Harrington, a Norman teen who killed himself after attending a Norman City Council meeting in Oct. 2010.
“While it’s true that most people don’t intend to kill themselves after attending a city council meeting, it might have been the last straw for him.”
Savage was dismissive of criticism he has made for past remarks that have caused many to label him as trans-phobic.
“I am on your side,” Savage said. “I may not be the perfect ally sometimes.”
Markum Cross, 33, drove all the way from Tulsa to see Savage speak.
“He’s a contrarian. I just wanted to see him,” Cross said. “My ex-wife, who is now bisexual, has been following him for awhile. She asked me to come see him with her.”
Some groups weren’t pleased that Savage was invited to speak at OU.
The Young Conservatives of Oklahoma released a petition demanding OU administrators and student leaders condemn Savage’s remarks. The group’s petition garnered 229 signatures as of press time.
OU Write Club held their usual bi-weekly open-mic at Second Wind Coffee House on Buchanan Street, billing the event as an alternative to the speech because of Savage’s past trans-phobic remarks.
“(Savage) is a racist, cissexist, transphobe, douche,” Jessie St. Amand, a recent English graduate, said. She presented a piece that had 17 quotes from Savage’s column, “Savage Love,” which she ended with, “It gets better than Dan Savage.”
Mike Wormley contributed to this report.