Dan Savage’s Really Big Gaffe

And the apologies that follow

Dan Savage (screen capture courtesy of It Gets Better)

When Dan Savage appeared recently on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, the advice columnist and creator of the It Gets Better Project, promptly inserted foot straight into mouth. And for someone who spends much of his air-time criticizing those who say the same things about the LGBT community, the blunder may turn into a pretty big mess and – sadly – will likely be used against the gay community.

During the show, in which Savage appeared on a politically heated panel discussion, Maher compared congressional Republicans to the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. To that, Savage responded, “Unfortunately, not exactly like him. I wish they were f—ing dead.”

While we can certainly understand the frustration any gay activist may feel when it comes to pushing for change, sorry Dan, this is nothing more than hate speak – the same sort of stuff we’ve spent plenty of time criticizing many other folks for also using to describe, for starters, gay people. Though few politicos have gone so far as to wish death upon anyone – that job’s usually outsourced to the extreme religious right – as in the case of the preacher who said gays are “worthy of death” as New York debated its marriage equality bill – we worry that the statement may do plenty of unnecessary harm.

And like others who feel the heat (hello, Tracy Morgan), Savage, too, apologized for the statement – something he seldom does. On his blog, he wrote: “It was a stupid, rude, thoughtless remark. I regret it and I retract it and I apologize to anyone watching at home – particularly my father (!) – who may have heard me say it. I had a drink before the show – first and last time I’ve ever done that – but this wasn’t a case of, ‘In vino, veritas.'”

Blame it on the alcohol? Please.

Let’s just hope his foolish comments don’t tar the great work he has done with the It Gets Better Project – which has reached out to young LGBT people worldwide with a message of hope and solidarity from gay and straight allies alike.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t a feeling of defeat sometimes – and anger – when one hears yet another member of the GOP condemn things like gay rights and marriage (they’ll have plenty to answer for in a few years time in much the same way segregationists did by the 1960s and 70s) but having smart conversations will be the only real way to enact change (well, conversations and lots and lots of money – as we learned from New York’s legalizing gay marriage recently).

Is there a bright side to this black eye?

If Dan Savage proved anything, it’s that gay people can be just as human (read: fallible) as everyone else. Go figure.