Dan Savage: “Monogamy Is Like Sobriety”
Every so often a meme comes along that reaffirms the positive potential of the Internet. Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better Project” is one such example. “When a 13 year-old kills himself because he is gay what is he saying is ‘I can’t picture a future for myself with enough joy in it to compensate for the pain I’m in now,'” he says. “And gay and lesbian and bi and trans adults, we need to share our stories with these kids so that they can picture those futures, not one future.” This has only become possible since the advent of YouTube and other social networking tools.
During his Big Think interview, Savage shared with us his coming out story, as part of our Stories of Gay Identity series. As he said in his It Gets Better video, he grew up in a very Catholic family. But surprisingly Catholicism, in the form of a priest named Father Tom, helped ease his coming out process. (This might be the one happy story about a gay priest and a young boy you’ll ever hear.)
But not everyone is so fortunate to have a Father Tom. And society shouldn’t encourage all gay teens to come out regardless of the situation, as Savage learned when he counseled a young Jake Shears (now lead singer of the band Scissor Sisters) to tell his conservative family. “Unless we’re willing to take as a community financial responsibility for these kids who get thrown out we just can’t glibly tell middle schoolers that they have a responsibility to come out in middle school and make it better for themselves if it really is going to imperil their lives and their futures to do that,” he says.
Savage also speaks to us about his adventures in gay fatherhood, which he says is, for all intents and purposes, just like raising a child as a heterosexual couple. There have been a few unique moments, though. His 12-year-old son was reluctant to come to his dads with girl issues because he thought they wouldn’t understand. “That was kind of heartbreaking because when we were kids we felt we couldn’t talk to our parents about gay stuff when we were 12 because we were hiding from our parents,” Savage says. Also, despite being a sex advice columnist for a living, he screwed up the birds and the bees talk with his son—to humorous effect.
And finally Savage talks about why society needs to reassess its view on love and commitment. Humans did not evolve to be monogamous, he says. “60 years ago was when we decided that men had to be monogamous too.” Before that, men always had concubines. Accordingly, we should think of monogamy more like sobriety, he says. Someone can fall of the wagon, but they can always sober back up. They haven’t popped their “monogamy hymen,” he says.