Dan Savage: Colleges Have ‘Responsibility’ To Combat Anti-Gay Attitudes

SantorumsavageStudents and faculty at the University of Madison will be in for a treat next Monday when Dan Savage speaks as part of the Wisconsin school's distinguished lecture series.

In preparation for the event, Savage sat down with Nico Savidge to discuss the current political climate in Wisconsin, how AIDS changed LGBT politics and what it's like to be the man known for two seemingly divergent movements: It Gets Better and the infamous "frothy mix" Santorum definition. To Savage, they're not contradictory at all, because we humans have the amazing capacity to be both serious and silly.

An excerpt:

Q: Probably your two best-known projects are It Gets Better and the Santorum definition. Is it strange to you that your most famous endeavors are such a mix of extremely serious and intentionally juvenile?

A: All human beings are serious and juvenile; none of us is a dour adult all the time. There are times when you’re engaged in very serious topics, pursuits, interests, debates, and there are times when you’re cutting it up with your friends. And you can do both and be the same person. You can do both in one column and be the same columnist.

Savage also told Savidge that even though LGBT activists don't win all of our legislative or electoral fights, the simple act of debating is a move in the right direction. "Just fighting the fight wins for us in the long run, even if we lose at the moment," he said.

As for University of Wisconsin and other colleges, Savage says they have a responsibility to teach students about human sexuality.

"And colleges have this responsibility to provide… this crash course in human
sexuality and good human sexual conduct," he said. Because in a college
environment, having a bunch of kids rattle around without that knowledge
is really dangerous… Behaviors — and bullying is a big thing
for me — behaviors that, in high school, will make you king of the
campus get you expelled in college. … It’s not just the kids that are
being bullied who are going to be destroyed, potentially, by it. It’s
the bullies who will be destroyed by it."


  1. simon says

    It is called University of Wisconsin – Madison.
    Teaching about sexuality is more the responsibility of high schools. The University already have courses dealing with those topics.

  2. Magutia says

    In most civilized countries, yes, even those with theocratic leanings, human sexual behavior is taught in highschool.

    In a country where teen pregnancy in many states is on the rise, and where the average age is around THIRTEEN YEARS OLD, frank and honest sex ed is a must.

    And yes, human beings are multi-faceted. A person is not only one thing and most of the time is quite multi-dimensional… Unless you are a Romnibot from a futuristic kolob star

  3. Greg says

    God Bless Dan Savage for having what it takes to be a leader today for the LGBT people who need more leaders like him to take a stand for truth and expose the lies of the anti-gay Christians who want to stop gay marriage and people who only want to live and love.

  4. says

    Yup. He speaks the truth about this. And elementary schools need to start addressing this, too. There’s a reason Catholics convince 8 year olds that they’re full of Sin and need to confess it – they get ’em young.

    You’ve got to be taught how to hate. “South Pacific”, anyone?

    From elementary on, children should learn about LGBT people. diversity. it’ll be their classmates, family, and often themselves.

    and colleges have a responsibility to combat the anti-gay attitudes and prejudices that remain. that’s the point of college – learning truths, no matter how much they differ from the supposed-truths of your hometown mentality.

  5. Caliban says

    Yeah, but the reality of the situation is that the hysterical harpies of the Religious Right are going to KEEP screaming about “indoctrination” in public schools so there is going to be a lot of variation in what student have been taught.

    It’s in important point Dan makes about how it isn’t just gay students who are risk, but also the bullies or the unaccepting. It isn’t necessarily about “sex education,” the mechanics of sex, but about kind of language and behavior is no longer acceptable, will get you expelled. A diversity class is a good step but it isn’t going to reach everyone, so perhaps it’s better to focus on behavior instead of beliefs. “You may have gotten away with this in High School but it will not fly here. Engage in bullying behavior and you WILL be expelled.”

  6. says

    Well said, Caliban.

    I was having this same discussion up in Canadialand at a community meeting about LGBT education in schools. Yes, there were the “we dont’ want our kids to learn about this” folks. I, and others, did our best to remind them of a reality – their anti-gay attitudes, and them not wanting their kids to “learn about gay people”, will not guarantee that they’re children are straight.

    Being anti-gay doesn’t ensure your children are straight. It will only mean your potentially-gay children grow up with a terrifying fear of their own futures, and a devastated sense of self worth. And if they’re not gay, that’s where the Bullies come from.
    And in the best possible case scenario – a non gay kid with bigoted parents still ends up being divided – as the world spins forward, those kids will distance themselves from the bigots they’re bound to by blood.

    It’s the kids whose parents “don’t want them to learn about gay people” that we need to reach the most. All students, and educators, need to be enriched by workshops, classes, and the simple implementation of the realities of diversity in their everyday classroom studies.

  7. Ted B. (Charging Rhino) says

    Hopefully this reflects real-world changes.

    The most homophobic environment I’ve been in was not a workplace, but the five years I spent on-campus in college from 1977 through 1983. Not that was official policy…but certain high-ranking officials of the University made it so by cultivating an atmosphere of fear and sexual-paranoia Who ever heard of a university Art and Architecture Dept. that didn’t have one G/L person as faculty or enrolled major? And those few of us in the shadows had to go off-campus to the next county to find a gay-bar where you basically pretended not to see any familar faces in the crowd. Like pre-Revolutionary Communist cell-members; if you didn’t know any names, you couldn’t betray others if interrogated.

    … And the irony? Years later I heard through the grapevine that the major homophobic Univ. official responsible for the repression was a Jerry Sandusky-type chicken-hawk cultivating the local HS boys from the off-campus neighborhoods through his on-campus outreach basketball program. And he actively-squashed and “gay goings-on” on-campus so no questions might be directed at his outreach program and his “boys”. And the then-Univ. President was protecting him.

    Once a new President came in, he was quickly and quietly retired…

  8. chuck says

    “It is called University of Wisconsin – Madison. Teaching about sexuality is more the responsibility of high schools. The University already have courses dealing with those topics.
    At my University, we have numerous remedial courses that students have to take because high schools are not adequately teaching subject materials. Our typical education majors spend most of their time learning how to prevent their students from having ‘esteem’ issues than learning about their own teaching majors.
    Typical is our science fairs for mid-level and senior high school students. Everyone gets a medal just for showing up…not for the quality of their project. Why, because parents ranted and raved that their precious little baby felt bad because he/she spent only 1/2 hour putting together a project of gluing nine styrofoam balls together and calling it a science astronomy project, and didn’t even get a medal.
    If high school teachers are failing to teach simple non-controversial science…how well do you think they are doing teaching about sexuality?

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