Note: this article was originally posted on Bilerico.
It’s true that Dan Savage has made offensive remarks in the past. I’m not denying, explaining, justifying, or defending that, because a.) it’s not my place to speak for him, and b.) Dan has already addressed them himself. I’m also not in any way trying to minimize or downplay what I have no doubt is the very real, acute pain that anti-trans bigotry causes, or the way anti-trans language, regardless of intent, reinforces that bigotry. Look: as a gay man, not to mention a married one, I am keenly aware of the sting of bigotry. I feel it every day, both through my own life experiences and those that many of you share with me and the rest of us here at Truth Wins Out. As much as anti-gay bigotry hurts, though — as heavily as it weighs on my heart, and as much as I abhor the construction of a hierarchy of oppression — I recognize the privilege that I possess as a white, cisgender gay man. I simply cannot fathom the magnitude of the journey my trans kinfolk are on, nor do I possess a vocabulary sufficient to convey my admiration for the courage it takes each and every one of my trans friends to be true to hirself and to own, embrace, and love that truth.
But Savage’s glitterbombing still disturbs me profoundly. The reason? Dan Savage is not the enemy. As Bil Browning, another veteran LGBT activist, points out, trans people are not alone in their journey. All of us cisgendered individuals — even those of us in the LGBT movement — are on a journey too, into an ever-greater understanding of the perspectives and experiences that our trans siblings bring to the table and the unique issues, circumstances, and difficulties they face. Our movement is most effective when we fight forcefully for our human rights and dignities against those who oppress us while at the same time dispelling misconceptions by telling the stories of our lives, educating people about our orientations/identities/expressions and the injustices we face because of them, and awakening in all of us the realization of our common humanity and the fundamental rights and protections to which that humanity entitles us.
Even the most outspoken and well-intentioned of us have warts. But Dan Savage is not a trans enemy. Warts and all, his heart is in the right place and he is an ally in the struggle for equality on behalf of our entire community — lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. What’s more, Savage is one of the most visible members of our community. He has a high profile that almost none of the rest of us have, and that enables him to be an especially forceful advocate for the LGBT movement. Absolutely nothing is gained by attacking him; if anything, those who engage in these repeated attacks run the serious risk of silencing one of our most powerful assets.
All of us, including the so-called “trans mafia,” should take care to remember who our real enemies are. It shouldn’t be too hard; there are plenty of them. Instead of directing our frustration and anger inwards at obviously supportive and well-meaning community members who have a less-than-immaculate record on every single LGBT issue, we need to direct it outwards and upwards towards the Tony Perkinses, Rick Santorums, Keith Ablows, and Laura Ingrahams of the world. Instead of vilifying people for what they don’t fully understand, we need to meet them where they are and bring them further.
Circular firing squads cut all of us down, and guess what? After the last shot is fired, our enemies are still standing.
Let’s be better than that. Our rights and our lives depend on it.
Postscript: I’d like to encourage readers of this article to head over to Bilerico and read this brilliant piece written by Austen Crowder, titled “The ‘Trans Mafia’ Stifles Allies.”