Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dan Savage Has Been Glitter Bombed and the Response is More Transphobia


"Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives."
-Oscar Wilde


I have to admit that I have tittered with glee each time that I have read that Dan Savage has been glitter bombed.  Savage was glitter bombed before his appearance at the Vogue Theater in Vancouver on Jan 21.
A group of six activists, who named themselves The Homomilitia for the event, said they confronted Savage as he entered the theatre through a back-alley entrance.

In an interview with Xtra after the confrontation, activist Fister Limp Wrist accused Savage of "ableist, racist, transphobic, fat-phobic, sero-phobic and rape-apologist attitudes and views." Activists handed audience members bright pink pamphlets outlining their accusations as they entered the theatre.

The Lavender Menace hands out a pamphlet accusing Dan Savage of transphobia and other "dismissive to downright hateful" behaviours at the Vogue Theatre.
(Gareth Kirkby)

They are building on the work of trans activists and friends of trans people who glitter-bombed Savage at university appearances in Eugene, Oregon, and Irvine, California, last November. At one event, an activist threw a heavy glass jar at Savage's face after leaping on stage. Savage managed to duck despite having glitter in his eyes and escaped what one audience member described as "a concussion or worse."

Queer activists have historically used glitter-bombing as a tactic against conservative politicians and high-profile anti-gay bigots, Vancouver protester Lavender Menace notes. Asked if she lumps Savage in with such people, she says people have different ways of contributing to oppressive systems.

"Savage is taking on being a speaker and leader in this movement. We have to take that into account," she adds. "He's part of a broader [group] of gay, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied gay men focused on gay-marriage priorities. We want to say those priorities are messed up." (source)
I have chosen to stay out of the conversation because I believe that this is what I like to refer to as a family business matter, i.e. a conversation between members of the GLBT community.  I have no expansive comment on Savage being glitter bombed, but I do have a comment on the trasphobic reaction to this.  The way to prove that Savage is not transphobic, is not to dismiss the pain of the trans community or to engage in transphobia.  The following are a few comments from the Xtra article to highlight the problem. Please be forewarned, that all of the comments are cissexist and include the usage of anti-trans slurs.

Talk about a Tempest in Trans Teapot...
Sorry but I'm trying figure how the hell Trans, Trannies or whatever they self-identify as bother with this nonsense (glitter bomb...really?). Trans persons are people in transition, hence the word; however, once the transition is complete you're either a man or woman. I'm not trying be cute here but it seems rather redundant to call yourself trans if you have in fact completed the TRANSition. You do yourselves no favours when you attack Dan, allies or others who may hold a different view. Frankly I, as an unapologetic cis-gender male, am sick of the self-righteous, nazi-like tactics of a small but vocal bunch of whiners. Grow a pair or cut them off but either way, grow up. Seriously, this is a temper tantrum disguised as faux indignance and as one who had the joy of being shot for being queer, I see being called tranny as ranking low on my things to worry about. Cue the queer-theory crowd and their indignation...Bring it! Full disclosure note, I have two friends (Chloe and Michelle) currently in transition and both love to call themselves trannies, so I use it with them in mind. If you're offended, deal with it.  
Jon, Montreal Quebec

Trans Irony
I'm glad to see "trans" people acting out in this obviously inappropriate, abusive way towards a famous gay man only because it will shine a bright light on how abusive "trans" activists have been towards lesbians and feminists for many, many years. I don't use LGBT because T has no business in the mix -- it has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Most of the "trans women" I have encountered are among the most sexist, anti-lesbian, anti-feminist heterosexual men I have ever met. They are obsessed with propping up and perpetuating sexist "gender roles" and many of them openly and lividly hate feminists for not ascribing to their ideas of what a "feminine female" should be. Natural born women are constantly under attack by these "trans" activists. Maybe Dan Savage will open his eyes to their abusive sexism now that he's been made a target of their insanity himself.  

By the way, anyone referring to natural-born women as "cis" women is indulging in anti-woman hate-speech. These whack-tivists will do anything, say anything to tear down natural-born women, to diminish us, to invade us, to destroy our safe and private spaces. Why? Because they're eaten up with jealousy towards women in general -- and outright hatred towards feminist lesbians who call them on their sexist "gender role" stereotypes. The sooner the gay and lesbian communities as a whole figure out the true agendas and intentions of these sexist heterosexual MALES parading as "women", the sooner we can realign our loyalties and priorities. As others have pointed out before me: how would African-Americans feel about white men in black-face and afro wigs parading around, demanding to be called "black" because they "feel black"? Claiming that natural born African-Americans aren't "real, true" African-Americans, they're just on a continuum which includes the black-face, afro-wig wearing "blacks" who grew up white in a white family, but "always felt 'black' inside"? Uh-huh. Think about it people.
RoseVerbena, Seattle WA
As you can see, there is a ton of shit wrong with these comments.  They serve to highlight that just because you are oppressed in one area, that it does not mean that you are incapable of actively oppressing another through the assertion of your privilege.  


As a straight cis woman, it is not my place to say whether or not the T belongs in the label GLBT, but it certainly is my place to call out transphobia and outright lies when I see it. I am particularly appalled that someone would use the cis sexist Mich fest to defend their cis privilege.  The very premise of being on the land appropriates from indigenous people, and their exclusionary practices are both cis sexist and divisive. Trans women who take issue with radical feminism does so for extremely valid reasons. 

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."
-Martin Luther King, Jr. 


As cis people, we need to be careful and think about our approach to understanding gender, because we will always be tempted to fall back upon a position that supports our privilege.  Using slurs that are known to be slurs and defending them based in friendship with a member of the oppressed group in question is wrong.  It is exactly the same as a White person saying something racist and justifying it with their Black best friend.  Referring to critique as a temper tantrum is reductive and silencing. As I read these responses, I know that they have been applied to every single marginalized group.  Oppression is not original, and it is always repetitive, because we have not accepted that freedom comes with the understanding that while one person is being targeted, we are all being targeted. The only thing we socially seem to understand is picking up the Master's Tools and embracing a false sense of power to attack those whom we should ally with.  For all the cries for emancipation, it seems many value their status as oppressed far to much to consider how power truly works, and when one is being a dupe, and participating in a role which only ensures more oppression. When you preform the masters work, you leave little for hir to do but to sit back and enjoy the fighting. Such negative cis sexist responses to the glitter bombing of Dan Savage, are nothing but entertainment to those who seek to keep marginalized people focusing on each other.

One of things I have never understood is the deification of Dan Savage.  I fully understand that there are many gay youth in need of a good role model, but is Savage really it, with his history of transphobia, ableism, fatphobia and sexism?  More importantly, the very idea that hero worship is a good thing continues to confuse me.  To elevate someone to this pedestal, means ignoring the ways in which their actions and or behaviour are problematic, thus reducing the very same humanity of the person one seeks to uplift.  I don't care what marginalized community you pick, all have heroes, and the one thing which they all have in common, is that all heroes are imperfect, because all heroes are human beings. You do not make a person greater by ignoring their faults.  If we weren't all imperfect in someway, we would not longer need to have critical conversation about the isms. 

We make a person greater by coming to their defense when they are unreasonably attacked, or attacked based in an ism.  Dan Savage is being glitter bombed because of his past actions and statements, all of which can be actively checked, because his work and speech have been recorded in some fashion. Engaging in trasphobia to defend Savage, only evidences a tolerance and support of cis supremacy, the very same things that Dan Savage is being accused of. It takes some incredible twisting of basic logic to even attempt to justify. Even though I have used only two examples in one article, I have followed the various glitter bombings in the press, and I can assure that the comments have all been to some degree a cess pool of cis sexism. And so I ask again, what is gained from responding to critique with more oppression? 


What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for each other?
George Eliot