Dan Savage in 2013
Daniel Keenan Savage
October 7, 1964
|Other names||Keenan Hollahan|
|Alma mater||University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign (BFA)|
|Occupation||Author, media pundit, journalist, newspaper editor, sex advice columnist|
Daniel Keenan Savage (born October 7, 1964) is an American author, media pundit, journalist, and LGBT community activist. He writes Savage Love, an internationally syndicated relationship and sex advice column. In 2010, Savage and his husband, Terry Miller, began the It Gets Better Project to help prevent suicide among LGBT youth. He has also worked as a theater director, sometimes credited as Keenan Hollahan.
Born in Chicago to Roman Catholic parents, Savage attended the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in acting. He lived in West Berlin briefly from 1988 to 1990, and later moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where he befriended Tim Keck, co-founder of The Onion. When Keck moved to Seattle, Washington, Savage moved as well to become an advice columnist for The Stranger, which Keck founded; he had offered Savage the position after Savage wrote a sample column which impressed him. Savage has since become a sex columnist and a vocal proponent of LGBT rights in the United States, voicing his advocacy through his column, Savage Love, and a podcast version of his column, the Savage Lovecast. In 2001, Savage and his readership coined the term 'pegging' to describe a woman anally penetrating a man with a strap-on dildo.
Outside of his writings and podcasts, Savage has advocated for progressive politics and advancing the rights of LGBT youth to prevent suicide in the community. He has opposed laws restricting pornography and the sale of sex toys, and founded the It Gets Better Project with his husband Terry Miller, whom he married in 2005. Savage has been featured on numerous television programs and news outlets, including Countdown with Keith Olbermann and Anderson Cooper 360. He supported the concept of the Iraq War in 2002 but changed his stance following the invasion.
Savage has attracted controversy over his comments and actions related to LGBT issues. He coined the term "santorum" to define a by-product of sex after former senator Rick Santorum made anti-LGBT comments in 2003, and condemned The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its support of California Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California. His activism and public speaking has brought praise from celebrities and politicians, including former president Barack Obama.
Early life and education
Dan Savage was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Judith "Judy" (née Schneider), who worked at Loyola University, and William Savage, Sr. He has German and Irish ancestry. The third of four children, he has two brothers and one sister. Savage was raised as a Roman Catholic and attended Quigley Preparatory Seminary North, which he has described as "a Catholic high school in Chicago for boys thinking of becoming priests." Though Savage has stated that he considers himself "a wishy-washy agnostic" and an atheist, he continues to identify as "culturally Catholic."
In 1991, Savage was living in Madison, Wisconsin, and working as a night manager at Four Star Fiction and Video (now Four Star Video Cooperative), a local video store that specialized in independent film titles. He befriended Tim Keck, co-founder of The Onion, who announced that he was moving to Seattle to help start an alternative weekly newspaper titled The Stranger. Savage "made the offhand comment that forever altered [his] life: 'Make sure your paper has an advice column—everybody claims to hate 'em, but everybody seems to read 'em'." Savage wrote a sample column, and to his surprise, Keck offered him the job.
Savage stated in a February 2006 interview in The Onion's A.V. Club (which publishes his column) that he began the column with the express purpose of providing mocking advice to heterosexuals, since most straight advice columnists were "clueless" when responding to letters from gay people. Savage wanted to call the column "Hey, Faggot!" in an effort to reclaim a hate word. His editors at the time refused his choice of column name, but for the first several years of the column, he attached "Hey, Faggot!" at the beginning of each printed letter as a salutation." In his February 25, 1999, column, Savage announced that he was retiring the phrase, claiming that the reclamation had been successful.
He has written in a number of columns about "straight rights" concerns, such as the HPV vaccine and the morning-after pill. In his November 9, 2005, column he wrote that "[t]he right-wingers and the fundies and the sex-phobes don't just have it in for the queers. They're coming for your asses too."
As a theater director, Savage (under the name Keenan Hollohan, combining his middle name and his paternal grandmother's maiden name) was a founder of Seattle's Greek Active Theater. Much of the group's work were queer interpretations of classic works, such as a tragicomic Macbeth with both the title character and Lady Macbeth played by performers of the opposite sex. In March 2001, he directed his own Egguus at Consolidated Works, a parody of Peter Shaffer's 1973 play Equus which exchanged a fixation on horses for a fixation on chickens.
Letters from the Earth (2003), also at Consolidated Works, was Savage's most recent production. Letters was a trimmed version of Mark Twain's The Diary of Adam and Eve. It received scathing reviews, including one from The Stranger - "My Boss's Show Stinks."
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In addition to writing a weekly column and four books, Savage has been involved in several other projects.
From 1994 until 1997, he had a weekly three-hour call-in show called Savage Love Live on Seattle's KCMU (now KEXP-FM). From 1998 to 2000, he ran the biweekly advice column Dear Dan on the news website abcnews.com.
He is now the editorial director of the weekly Seattle newspaper The Stranger, a promotion from his former position as The Stranger's editor-in-chief. Savage stars in Savage U on MTV, contributes frequently to This American Life and Out magazine, and acts as a "Real Time Real Reporter" on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher. He has also made multiple appearances on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann and CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, to discuss LGBT political issues, such as same-sex marriage and Don't Ask Don't Tell.
The Savage Lovecast is a weekly audio podcast based on the column Savage Love, available via iTunes and at the Stranger's website for free download. It features Savage answering anonymous questions left by callers on a voice recorder (answering machine). He often returns calls to questioners who give their phone numbers, and such phone calls are part of the podcast. He also consults with doctors, sex therapists, and other experts for answers to questions he calls "above my pay grade". There are frequent guest co-hosts, all of them sex-positive. It is routinely rated as the top podcast in the iTunes "Health" category and in the top 20 of all podcasts overall. A.V. Club has ranked it in the top 10 among all podcasts.
The Real O'Neals
Based on an idea by Savage (who also served as executive producer), the ABC-TV series, The Real O'Neals starring Noah Galvin debuted in 2016. The series chronicles the lives of a close-knit, Irish-American Chicago Catholic family whose matriarch takes their reputation in the community very seriously. In the pilot episode, their perfect image is shattered when each family member has a secret revealed to the community: middle child Kenny is gay, oldest child Jimmy is anorexic, youngest child Shannon is running a money scam and might be an atheist, and parents Eileen and Pat are no longer in love and wish to divorce. The series lasted for two seasons before its cancellation.
Savage and his husband, Terry Miller, have one son named D.J., now in his 20s, whom they adopted as an infant. They were married in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in 2005. Following the 2012 legalization of same-sex marriage in Washington state, he and Miller were part of the first group of 11 couples to receive Washington state marriage licenses. Savage and Miller were married on December 9, 2012, at Seattle City Hall, opened on Sunday especially for the purpose of hosting the first same-sex weddings in Washington state, with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and others in attendance.
It Gets Better Project
On September 21, 2010, Savage founded the It Gets Better Project following the suicide of 15-year-old Billy Lucas, who was bullied for his perceived sexual orientation. The project encourages adults, both LGBT and otherwise, to submit videos assuring gay teenagers that life can improve after bullying in early life. As of November 2013, the project had more than 50,000 user-created testimonials and had been viewed over 50 million times.
Hump pornography festival
Savage coordinates the annual Hump pornography festival, which is made up of clips of up to five minutes on any pornographic topic, submitted by viewers. Winning submissions are shown in theaters around the United States, providing a unique experience as straight, gay male, bi, lesbian, and fetish porn are all shown together, one after another. Savage publicly destroys the submissions after conclusion of the festival.
Savage tends to liberal political views, with pronounced contrarian and libertarian streaks. For example, he wrote that in 2000, suffering from the flu while on an assignment for Salon to cover the Iowa caucuses, he was so angered by televised remarks in opposition to same-sex marriage by conservative Republican presidential hopeful Gary Bauer that he abandoned his original plan "to follow one of the loopy conservative Christian candidates around—Bauer or Alan Keyes—and write something insightful and humanizing about him, his campaign, and his supporters". Instead, he volunteered for the Bauer campaign with the intent to infect the candidate with his flu. He wrote that he licked doorknobs and other objects in the campaign office, and handed Bauer a saliva-coated pen, hoping to pass the virus on to Bauer and his supporters (later he said that much of his article had been fictitious). He also registered and participated in the caucus, which was illegal, as Savage was not an Iowa resident. He was charged and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of fraudulent voting in a caucus, and was sentenced to a year's probation, 50 hours of community service, and a $750 fine.
Savage frequently mentions political issues in his column, particularly issues that affect family planning, birth control, and sexuality. He often encourages readers to get involved and/or voice a positive or negative opinion about a politician or public official.
Campaign for the neologism santorum
After Rick Santorum, then a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, made comments in 2003 to a reporter comparing homosexual sex to bestiality and incest, Savage assailed Santorum in his column. Later, he sponsored a contest that led to the term santorum being used to refer to "the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes a byproduct of anal sex". (See Campaign for the neologism santorum.) Savage set up a website to publicize this application of the term. In 2010, Savage offered to take down his website if Rick Santorum would agree to donate US$5 million to a gay rights group. The organization, Freedom to Marry, advocates on behalf of same-sex marriage in the United States. Savage told Mother Jones in 2010, "If Rick Santorum wants to make a $5 million donation to [the gay marriage group] Freedom to Marry, I will take it down. Interest starts accruing now." Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, responded in a statement to Metro Weekly, "Support for Freedom to Marry's national campaign would be welcome—and a good way for Rick Santorum to start cleaning up the discriminatory mess he and his companions have made." Santorum condemned the campaign and accused Savage of defaming him. Savage responded by further denouncing Santorum and accused him of propagating discrimination against the LGBT community through his viewpoints.
In 2009 Savage invited his readers to vote to define saddlebacking as "the phenomenon of Christian teens engaging in unprotected anal sex to preserve their virginities." He was protesting the vocal support given to California Proposition 8 by Rick Warren (pastor of Saddleback Church), and President Barack Obama's invitation to Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. When Savage vowed to boycott Utah due to strong Mormon support for Proposition 8 ("Fuck you, Utah—we're going to big, blue Colorado"), the Salt Lake City Weekly dropped Savage's column: "all Utahns aren't to blame."
Savage strongly supported the War in Iraq in October 2002, stating "Free your people, reform your societies, liberalize, and democratize... or we're going to come over there, remove you from power, free your people, and reform your societies for ourselves." By the time of the U.S. invasion in March 2003, however, he opposed the war.
Savage has also opposed state legislation proscribing the sale of sex toys. After an exposé by Kandiss Crone from WLBT in Jackson, Mississippi, precipitated the arrest and fining of an adult video store owner, Savage suggested that readers send any sex toys that they needed to dispose of to Crone.
Savage's editorship of The Stranger has established him as a voice in local Seattle politics. His most high-profile commentary has been as an outspoken critic of the Teen Dance Ordinance and other crackdowns on all-ages events.
Savage argues that closing down supervised all-ages dance venues drives teens to boredom and reckless activities: "Places like Ground Zero and the Kirkland Teen Center are invaluable from a law enforcement point of view. They keep kids out of, say, 7-Eleven parking lots or the homes of friends whose parents are away."
Savage initially supported the Iraq War and advocated military action against other Middle Eastern states, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, saying, "Islamo-fascism is a regional problem, like European fascism—and the Middle East [has] to be remade just as Europe was remade." One week before the war began, Savage spoke against it, citing the inability of President George W. Bush to form a convincing case and sway the UN and NATO allies. By 2005 he deemed the situation "hopeless" and advocated an immediate troop withdrawal.
Savage describes his view toward family as "conservative." His husband, Terry Miller, is a "stay-at-home dad" for the couple's adopted son. He has, however, expressed skepticism of "simplistic" views of monogamy. In response to a letter asking "Is the AIDS crisis over?" Savage, in his October 22, 1997 column, answered simply, "Yes." Several weeks of columns were devoted in whole or in part to discussion of the issue. Savage also opposes the tactics of the War on Drugs, and opposes the prohibition of certain controlled substances.
Savage stated in a column that he favors outing in some cases, specifically mentioning anti-gay activist Tyler Whitney. However, in the same column he noted that "I recently talked someone out of outing a public figure. A Savage Love reader was contemplating outing an innocuous celebrity back in April. I advised him against it because, as I wrote to him privately, outing is brutal and it should be reserved for brutes."
On the topic of child sexuality, Savage has said:
We live in a culture that's hysterical about children and assumes they have no sexual agency or desire. But anyone who can remember what they were like when they were 11 knows that kids are sexual, and whether it was messing around with their cousin, playing doctor with their neighbor, or making passes at people 10 years older, they were horny. So NAMBLA steps out to articulate all this, albeit in its usual highly dysfunctional and creepy way, and because we know what they say to be true on this issue, we've got to label them as insane perverts. Any attempt at rational discussion about youth sexuality and intergenerational sex is simply shouted down.
Savage has taken strong positions on sexual abuse of children. After being accused of attacking then-14 year old Anthony Rapp while drunk, actor Kevin Spacey issued a statement on Twitter which included coming out as gay. Savage responded that there is "no amount of drunk or closeted that excuses or explains away assaulting a 14-year-old child."
In a 2006 interview with the Daily Pennsylvanian, Savage stated that then-Green Party Senate candidate Carl Romanelli, who Savage claimed was partially funded by state Republicans for a spoiler effect against Democrat Bob Casey, "should be dragged behind a pickup truck until there's nothing left but the rope". In the same interview, he stated, "Mr. Romanelli should go fuck himself." Immediately after the interview, Savage wrote, "I regret using that truck metaphor, and didn't mean it literally, and it was in poor taste, and I regret it."
On HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher July 15, 2011, during a panel discussion of the debt limit increase negotiations between the U.S. Congress and President Barack Obama, Savage said in a stand-alone remark, "I wish the Republicans were all fucking dead." He apologized for his remarks on his blog later the same night saying in part, "I don't feel that way. My dad is a Republican. (Well, he says he's an independent, but he hasn't voted for a Democrat since JFK. My dad is a Republican.)"
Savage also came under scrutiny for an April 13, 2012, anti-bullying speech in which he encouraged high school students to "learn to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people", prompting some students to leave the auditorium. Savage apologized on April 29 for calling the walkout "a pansy-assed move", saying, "I wasn't calling the handful of students who left pansies (2,800+ students, most of them Christian, stayed and listened), just the walkout itself." Savage stood by the central point of his speech.
J. Bryan Lowder of Slate stated that Savage "often takes heat for his less-than-refined statements on issues like the existence of male bisexuality, the responsibility of asexuals to 'come out' before dating, and, indeed, certain issues surrounding transgenderism." Savage has repeatedly been the focus of controversy for his use of slurs regarding the transgender community, other remarks regarding trans issues, and for joking that the then Attorney General of Washington was trans (who was not trans). He has been glitter bombed three times, twice in 2011 and once in 2012, by protesters who alleged that he is transphobic, among other accusations. In June 2014, during a seminar at the University of Chicago on social media, Savage discussed his past use of the word "tranny". He objected to a student's request that he use the phrase "T-slur" instead, and gave examples of other slurs. Some students criticized him, claiming that he tried to make the student feel threatened and uncomfortable. A University representative said, "A guest used language that provoked a spirited debate. The speaker was discussing how hurtful words can be repurposed and used to empower; at no point did he direct any slurs at anyone." Savage later thanked the University for standing up for him and demanded an apology from those who had accused him of hatred towards trans people.
Savage coordinates the annual Hump! film festival, which is made up of clips of up to five minutes on any pornographic topic, submitted by viewers. Winning submissions are shown in Seattle and Portland theaters, providing an unusual experience as straight, gay male, bi, lesbian, and fetish porn are all shown together, one after another. Savage publicly destroys the submissions after the festival is over.
|1999||The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant||PEN West Award for Excellence in Creative Nonfiction||PEN Center USA||Won|
|2003||Skipping Towards Gomorrah: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Pursuit of Happiness in America||Lambda Literary Award||Lambda Literary Foundation||Won|
|2004||The Best American Sex Writing 2004||Running Press||Featured selection|
|2011||It Gets Better Project||Webby Award for Special Achievement||International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences||Won|
|Anthony Giffard "Make the Change" Award||Master of Communications in Digital Media program, University of Washington||Won|
|2013||It Gets Better Project||Bonham Centre Award||The Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies University of Toronto||Won|
|2013||Advocacy of separation of church and state and work for LGBT youth||2013 Humanist of the Year||The American Humanist Association||Won|
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- O'Connor, Daniel (2004). The Best American Sex Writing 2004. Running Press. p. 187. ISBN 978-1-56025-598-7.
- "IBM's Watson named 'person' of the year". The Pantagraph. www.pantagraph.com. Associated Press. June 2, 2011. Retrieved June 2, 2011.
- "Robot Watson wins Webby: Should a computer be 'Person of the Year'?". CBC News. www.cbc.ca. June 2, 2011. Retrieved June 2, 2011.
- Bishop, Todd (June 9, 2011). "Dan Savage, Starbucks honored for 'digital disruption' by UW program". GeekWire. www.geekwire.com. Retrieved June 9, 2011.
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- "Mark S Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies Announces 2013 Award Recipients – Stephen Lewis, Dan Savage, and Bent-on-Change".
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- "Pink is the New Blog, Dan Savage Named The 2013 'Humanist Of The Year' By The American Humanist Association".
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