Dan Savage To Bullied LGBT Students: Tell The Bullies That Homophobia Is Gay

Last week students at a Pennsylvania high school protested against the Day Of Silence by writing “Anti-Gay Day” on their hands, by posting bible verses to their social media accounts, and by wearing flannel shirts as a show of anti-gay solidarity. They also reportedly distributed a “lynch list” of students that participated in the Day Of Silence and defaced some of their lockers. Today Dan Savage points out a well-known study which reveals that homophobic people very often have strong erotic response to gay porn. Here is his suggestion to the LGBT students at that school:

Here’s my advice for LGBT students and allies at McGuffey High: Print out a few hundred copies of the abstract of the study I quoted from above—a reputable, peer-reviewed study published by the National Institutes of Health—and highlight the same parts I bolded. Then tape copies of the highlighted abstract to the lockers of all the boys who participated in “Anti-Gay Day” and hand out copies to everyone else at your school. Will you be accusing the boys who wore flannel, assaulted queer students, posted antigay Bible verses on your lockers, and passed out that a “lynch list” of being gay themselves? Yes. Does that mean you’re throwing “gay” around in an accusatory way? Yes. Does that mean you’re accepting, for sake of argument, the homophobe’s central premise, i.e., that there’s something wrong with being gay? Yes it does. But sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. [snip] By letting the entire student body know that science says being a homophobe is totally gay—gay as in the turned-on-by-homosexual-stimuli sense, not the gay-as-in-that-is-so-lame sense—will make these boys less likely to attack you. Because homophobia is gay.

Hit the link to read more and to see the abstract.

  • bkmn

    The fact that homophobes are often deeply in the closet is one of the first things I think about every time I hear about anti-gay bullying.

    • Strepsi

      …or look at Pete La Barbra, Matt Barber, and Tony Perkins.

      • bambinoitaliano

        Ewww ewww ewwww. No! Just no! There are pure breed straight homophobes! I should say inbreed.

      • Nuff Said

        If Tony would only change his name to Barkins, they could be the Bar-Bar-Bar-Bros.

        The root of the word “barbarian” refers to how the Romans said the German language sounded to them, like the bar-bar-barking of dogs.

      • Robincho

        Fagz, all of ’em, ever’ sangle one, yep…

  • Steven Alan Taylor

    Sounds like a quick way to make the bully go from tormentor to psychopath. If I’d tried that shit in my high school, they would’ve never found my body.

    • BobSF_94117

      Indeed. Of the several boys in 7th and 8th grades who made my life miserable, the meanest of the bunch turned out to be gay, gay, gay. He also was imprisoned for murder in his early 20s. I’m glad I didn’t give him more reason to go after me.

      On the other hand, two others who tormented me, though not as much, had weekly circle jerks on weekends. I wish I’d known about that at the time…

    • Gerry Fisher

      If one person (or two or three) spearheads the effort, yes. If a sizeable group takes on the effort, it’ll defuse the bully situation.

  • Frederick

    Once again…

    Dan nails it.

    • b

      Homophobia is the new gay. REAL straight guys don’t give one shit about gays. Way it should be. They want girls, and thoughts about gay are irrellevant to the truly straight.

  • Toasterlad

    I’ve always hated this strategy, not just because it reinforces “gay is bad”, but because it lets straight people off the hook. By saying that homophobes are secretly gay, you’re saying, explicitly, that the only people who hate gay people are gay people. That is a million kinds of fucked up.

    If homophobic people were secretly gay, we’d have wiped out homophobia years ago. We’d have had an openly gay President, we’d have openly gay judges on the Supreme Court, we’d have a majority of gay people in Congress. We’d rule the fucking world.

    Straight people are more than capable of homophobia, as history has proven time and again.

    • another_steve

      Agree. There are plenty of queer homophobes around, but the vast vast number of homophobes in the world are not queer. Anything else is magical thinking.

      Dan might try to finesse it, but the message he’s sending is essentially “Nya nya nya. You’re gay too! Te he he. Ha ha ha.”

      It’s a demeaning message, I think, for the LGBT community.

    • Gerry Fisher

      IMO, the top priority is to stop the momentum of the bullying. The second priority being addressed by Dan is to get people to apply some critical thinking to the situation other than to divvy up into mobs.

      To ask that such a tactic do more is asking too much, IMO. It’s going to take a number of tactics to address the bullying problem effectively. For example, as these bullies were hanging nooses off of the flags in the classroom, where were the teachers? Although the administration claims to be supportive of the LGBT students, exactly what are they doing to diminish the likelihood of this happening again?

  • TommyTune

    Sounds like a plan to me. In my experience, once people stand up to bullies with confidence and totally without fear they back right off, especially if it’s a one-on-one situation, which it rarely is with bullies, since with them there’s safety in numbers. I say go for it – with confident abandon. But I would add – counter their numbers with greater numbers.

    • Toasterlad

      Saying “You’re just as bad is me!” isn’t standing up to bullies. It’s acknowledging poor self-image.

      • TommyTune

        Standing up to bullies with THE TRUTH is hardly acknowledging poor self-image. Where the hell did that come from?

        • Toasterlad

          It is not true that all homophobic bullies are secretly gay, despite what Dan Savage says.

          • TommyTune

            Perhaps not all, but certainly most.

          • Toasterlad

            Not, not most. Very few.

          • TommyTune

            We’ll have to agree to disagree, because I think you’re wrong. Flat out wrong.

          • Toasterlad


          • RCChicago

            The abstract he refers to is a scientific study and worth reading. It’s not just about what he “says.” I vote for the assumption that most homophobic bullies are secretly gay—there doesn’t seem any other rationale for the vigorous motivation in our lives otherwise. Their involvement is so persistent that you really have to wonder…

          • Toasterlad

            I’ve read it, and I am not impressed. There have been other studies done that show people being aroused at all kinds of abhorrent things…it doesn’t necessarily mean they find them sexually attractive.

            More importantly, as I said earlier, it makes zero sense to conclude that homophobes are secretly gay. What you’re saying with that statement is that the gay population of the planet is an overwhelming majority. We life in a country that’s reasonably tolerant of gays, and yet we still have no national right to marriage or protection from discrimination. There are far more countries out there where simply being gay is a crime, worthy of death in many cases. Were all the homophobes actually gay, we would have figured out long ago that we’re the norm, rather than the exception, and it would be the straight people getting shoved into lockers and having “FAG” spray-painted on their doors.

            Upbringing, religion, ignorance, and teens establishing a pecking order create the vast amount of the world’s homophobia. The percentage created by self-hatred is surely no larger than the percentage of gay people on the planet.

          • robirob

            You believe what you want to believe and you trust the sources which mirror your belief while you dismiss everything that opposes your belief willingly. Some people may call that ignorance.

          • Toasterlad

            I’m not dismissing it at all. I’m giving it due consideration. I never said no homophobes are secretly gay. I’m saying the vast majority of homophobes are NOT secretly gay, and that study does not dispute me. If you don’t agree, I’d love to see the study that illustrates how homophobia exists in a world where the vast majority of the population is gay.

      • MarkOH

        Not at all. You call the bully exactly what he either fears or hates. He is either a self loathing gay (which I feel is the majority of the time) or a hater. Either way, Make HIM (or her) respond to the name calling.

        • Toasterlad

          If you call someone something intending to cause that person shame, you are, by definition, declaring that thing shameful. It’s really not that hard.

          • MarkOH

            Not at all.

          • Toasterlad

            Well, I can’t argue with that logic.

          • MarkOH

            Obviously. Do blacks using the “n” word consider it shameful? Not at all. They have taken control of the word.

          • Toasterlad

            I see you have a firm grasp on the idea of context. In order for “gay” to be used as you intend, BOTH sides have to view it the same way. As long as one side views it as insulting, you aren’t educating anybody. You’re shaming them.

          • MarkOH

            “In order for “gay” to be used as you intend, BOTH sides have to view it the same way”

            Again, not at all. I do not feel shame when someone calls me “gay”,because I do not see it as an insult. Reversing the use affects them more as they are using the word in a derogatory way.

          • Toasterlad

            YOU don’t feel shame. But you’re not calling yourself gay, you’re calling someone gay who DOES view being gay as shameful. If you want to pretend to be educating them by calling them something they view as hateful, fine. But you’re deluding yourself. All you’re doing is either (at best) amusing them, or (at worst) infuriating them.

            You’re like a black man calling a white supremacist a “n*gger”. How’s that make any sense?

          • MarkOH

            you just contradicted your own argument.

          • Toasterlad

            Please proceed, Governor.

          • MarkOH

            A meaningless response.

          • Toasterlad

            Oh, so you had no intention of explaining your nonsensical comment. My mistake.

          • MarkOH

            Sigh, I have explained it. I am only sorry you fail to recognize logic.

      • JustDucky

        Why would you frame it that way? Seems more like you’d be kind and sincere: “It’s okay, I understand how scary it can be. But you’re not fooling anyone by acting like that. Everyone knows now. So hey, welcome out!”

        The bully will still be upset by the accusation, no self depreciation necessary.

        • Toasterlad

          Accusing someone of being gay because you don’t like their behavior is homophobic, no matter how much sugar you spread on it.

          • JustDucky

            And what about accusing someone of being gay because at least two studies have found a strong correlation between his behavior and same-sex arousal? I don’t have any reason to disbelieve the results of the study Dan Savage posted. Do you? Is there a conflicting study of which I am unaware?

            “It’s okay” might be exactly what a closeted homophobic teenager needs hear to eventually stop acting like such an asshole.

          • Toasterlad

            The conflicting study is called life, and it’s been going on for eons. If your contention is that if someone is a homophobe they’re secretly gay, you’re going to have to explain why gays are a small minority of the population, and homophobes are a large majority. Or are we just waiting for 60% of the world to realize that being gay is okay?

            Pretending to understand what’s going on in someone’s mind because a few rednecks got a hardon while watching two guys fuck is the height of quackery.

    • BobSF_94117

      My best friend freshman year “stood up to the bullies with confidence” and broke his hand when his punch missed and hit the wall. Granted, had he made contact with the jerk he was trying to punch, it probably would have put an end to the bullying. But as it turned out, it just made things worse for him.

      • TommyTune

        Perhaps if your friend had better aim things might have turned out differently.

        • BobSF_94117

          It wasn’t the aim so much as a bit of hesitation. He was a “gentle giant”, probably the biggest kid in the class. Physically, he could have taken down a dozen boys in a fight. It just wasn’t in his character.

  • another_steve

    To his credit, Dan acknowledges that this tactic constitutes “shaming” by suggesting that a person is gay. It’s different though, in my opinion, from outing a closeted politician who harms the LGBT community by supporting anti-queer bills and initiatives. In the latter, you’re shaming based on the person being a hypocrite — not based on the person being gay.

    So I’m not loving this one, Dan.

  • gaylib

    Um, no. Please shut up Dan Savage.

  • Octavio

    That Dan Savage is SO gay! 🙂

  • AmericanPaPISSED

    I’m totally GAY!

    • Octavio

      That’s not what your boyfriend says.

  • As a parent of a child who was bullied, standing up to them, and shaming the bully in front of the bullies pals, does work. Our son went from dead last, to king in one easy step, he stood up to the school bully. When the bully hit my son, he laughed it off saying, “That’s all you got? I’m the lowest of the low around here, hitting me proved nothing. Now pick up your books and go.” Bully quickly lost all his friends and our son became one of the most popular kids in school. Our son always refused to hit back, he was punched quite a lot, but never ever hit anyone, ever, and that was one reason he was bullied. Oh, and for being scary smart…..

    • ColdCountry

      Sounds like a great kid!

      • Chucktech

        Sounds like a great dad!

      • He is!!! I adore that boy!

        • ColdCountry

          And to paraphrase Chucktech, ya done good, Dad.

          • blush! why gee golly gosh, thanks!

    • MarkOH

      Well done, Dad.

      • Grinning widely, thanks!

  • Richard

    You do not fuck with Dan Savage

  • Chucktech

    I may be wrong, but I would imagine that fag hating high school bullies are generally not receptive to peer reviewed studies conducted by the NIH.

    • robirob

      Maybe not, but they do care what their peers think of them and once they face the “I think he does protest too much!” ridicule they will most likely back off and maybe try to release their frustration elsewhere.

    • Gerry Fisher

      It’s more about convincing the herd that’s passively standing by and watching all of this. If the herd begins to believe that homophobia is gay, then…watch the bullies shift tactics. Watch the weaker bullies abandon their tribe under pressure.

  • David From Canada

    Dan’s idea sounds good on paper, but it might actually make the situation worse, with more fighting going back and forth.
    I’m shocked that the highschool actually allows all of this anti-gay nonsense to go on. Here in Canada, it would be nipped in the bud.

    • another_steve

      Many school districts in the U.S. have anti-bullying policies. Teachers and administrators receive training on how to deal with bullying — not just based on sexual orientation but on the whole gamut of what kids get bullied about. Kids get talked to about bullying in these schools, why it’s bad, and the penalties for doing it.

  • Ninja0980

    Stuff this is a doubled edged sword for me.
    As I mentioned yesterday day, one of the biggest bullies from my high school is now an out gay man married to his husband.
    On the other hand, other bullies like one of my former best friends aren’t closet cases, they are simply bigots who think they have a right to harrass and demonize LGBT youth because their Bible tells them to.
    Do I think one of the bullies is likely a closet case?
    Yes I do but the rest are simply bullies because their parents and/or society have said it’s okay to harass and bully LGBT youth because of who they are.

    • Ragnar Lothbrok

      Only had 2 in high school, and were half hearted bullies. Both dead now. Suicide.

      • John T

        My high school bully’s obituary said he died at age 30 of “heart failure” — so he was either a half-hearted bully or that was a euphemism for meth overdose.

  • zhera

    They should rather tell the bullies that girls like guys who are confident and secure in their own skin, which bullies by definition are not. Oh, and that gay snogging/sex is something girls like.

    I like Dan a lot, but I think he’s wrong on this issue. Calling homophobes closet cases won’t stop gay bashing or bullying, only escalate it.

  • ColdCountry

    I dunno. I know a few adults who would go into a murderous rage if you said that to them. Can’t say I know much about kids, but it seems to me it could put a real self-hater over the edge, being true and all.

  • Rebecca Gardner

    I love Dan Savage!!!

  • Guest Guestie

    Stupid fucking idea. REALLY stupid fucking idea. The kids doing this or even suspected of doing this will royally get the crap beaten out of them. Way to go, Dan.

    Sure this sounds great sitting here in my office looking through the rose colored glasses of nostalgia (wish I coulda woulda) and it sounds even better as a script treatment for a reunion episode of Glee, but real life is a lot messier than that.

    Not every bullied kid is going to be able to deal with the fall out this would cause.

    • Chucktech

      I must say, I really don’t think this is one of Dan’s best ideas…

      • Octavio

        Even though it contains a load of truth? Ok. We all don’t have to follow like mindless sheep. I usually prefer to be stubborn goat, too. 🙂

    • Gerry Fisher

      It depends. If it’s done by three people, then you’re right. If it’s done by dozens of people, includes an article in the school newspaper, and is followed up by a student assembly with a panel discussion to discuss the peer-reviewed science of bullying and homophobia, then…it could work quite spectacularly.

  • That Guy

    There’s really no catch-all method for dealing with bullies, homophobic or otherwise. Teenagers aren’t exactly predictable to begin with. I have a friend who says he got one homophobic asshole to back off by yelling “You weren’t saying that when I was sucking your dick last night!” Apparently the bully and his friends were so dumbfounded they never bothered him again.

    This method, ehhhh. Teenagers don’t care much about peer-reviewed scientific research. It’s problematic in that reinforces the notion that being gay is bad, but if it works, more power to them. I remember the fear and terror of being bullied, and anything that gets them to back off is fair game.

    • Gerry Fisher

      Agreed. No single tactic will magically make it all go away.

      I’m questioning the administration’s commitment to action. One thing that helps with bullying is for the administration to identify and separate the bullies from the other students, counsel them, and watch them. I wonder if there’s been any progress made on this front. I mean, the administration *said* they were supportive, right?! Exactly how so?

      • Nuff Said

        And, if the administration is reluctant to take action against the bullies, Savage’s tactic will give the administration the evidence they need to take action against the bullied kids. This is not the tactic to use. Rather, they should report the bullying to an adult (teacher, administrator, etc.) and keep reporting it until they are taken seriously. They should get their parents to back them up, going to School District Board meetings if necessary. They should not shut up until some action is taken to stop the bullying.

  • bambinoitaliano

    Thanks Dan! Now I can use That’s so gay in a positive way. That is if my math is correct…two negative equal positive….yup it is!

    • Octavio

      I’ve been using “That’s so gay!” in a positive way for a long time. Kids really are shocked when I use it to describe their bigoted behavior. But it works.

  • EDinMCO

    Hmm, Dan missed the mark on this one.

  • Wilberforce

    The argument is a good one, but it’s a bit convoluted for the general public. Savage needs to re-work it for the dumb masses.

    • David Walker

      By which, I assume, you mean the guys with the flannel shirts.

  • MythicalBeast

    Bullies are sissies.

  • Buster Bluth

    “Does that mean you’re accepting, for sake of argument, the homophobe’s central premise, i.e., that there’s something wrong with being gay? Yes it does. But sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. ”

    No. Fail. You lose the argument right here. They homophobes will not understand or accept the nuance of your concession, and will instead take it as a license to keep on using ‘gay’ as a slur and a putdown, the same way that “reclaming” the N-word in the African-American has led Republican Redneck Bigots to keep using the word in a derrogatory way. I do not EVER accept that using ‘gay’ as a putdown is acceptable. You are smarter than this, Dan Savage. You can do better. Don’t stay stuck in a state of arrested adolescent development.

  • necede

    Could you post this as a PDF? The website it’s hosted on is being blocked by the school content filter.

  • TheManicMechanic

    Eons ago I used to use a similar tack and mostly fanned the flames, so to speak. “What are you trying to hide, huh?”

  • Stev84

    Just pointing out how gay their outfits and their handholding are should be enough

  • Michael Varian Daly

    Straight men do not obsess about gay sex.

  • Ore Carmi

    That is an empowering message to young gay folks confronting homophobia, but if you’re the only out lgbt individual in your high school, or the only student perceived to be lgbt, and you don’t have the kind of wherewithal it takes to stand proud and bring attention to yourself by promulgating this message, perhaps a different approach is more useful: find those few individuals you can trust and confide in. If you can’t find any in your community, seek them through reputable support organizations. Just have some folks in your life you can open up to who will confirm for you that you’re perfectly fine, and that the homophobes are screwed up and pathetic. If you’re not the sort of person, at least at this stage of your life, who can be as daring as Dan recommends, at least build a little support network for yourself to withstand all the hatred hurled at you.

    • Reality.Bites

      He’s not giving advice to everyone everywhere, he’s giving advice to a specific group of students at a specific school where a specific incident occurred.

  • MSW

    Love, love love Dan. Tells it plain and simple so even the dullest may understand.

  • robirob

    The most effective way to end bullying is to tell bullies: Hey bully, you know your friends laugh behind your back and think you are a big flaming fag who does protest too much, right?

    With that seed peing planted bullies will become paranoid enough to back off.

  • Gerry Fisher

    I like it….

  • YUP

    sometimes you have to talk to a complete fucking idiot in ways they understand.

    those boys are fucking pathetic, and no doubt there’s few closeted homos trying to appease their dumbass bros and lousy fathers.

    • John T

      Well, yes and no. One might fight fire with fire by telling them that they’re acting like closeted faggots. But the surest way to get a “complete fucking idiot” to ignore your words is to quote a scientific study.

      • TRUE DAT!

        complete fucking idiot hate facts. facts are for fems, right ? 😉

  • Skokieguy

    I don’t see the teachers or administration being discussed enough here. In many areas, where you’ve got homophobic communities, the teachers may be afraid to speak up on behalf of the bullied kids.

    Think of how adults who don’t immediately support things like the Memories Pizza might be attacked in their church or just the neighbor over the fence.

    In addition, to a fear of being tainted as “fag friendly”, there may be some closeted staff who are in fear of being outed for appearing to be too supportive.

    One of my many stories that remains vivid 40 years later, is being publicly teased during history class. The teacher laughed at the bully’s homophobic jokes and slurs. I now believe the teacher was an outcast himself when younger, and the desire to be the ‘cool teacher’ and liked by the popular kids outweighed his responsibility to look after all his students.

  • i prefer to do it like they did on ‘Buffy.’ “Now Andrew, (the closet case on the show always flitting between homophobia and prancing) we all know what homophobia really means…” this was said by his straight friend and the guy Andy had the crush on all season, wholly unrequited. the actor who delivered the line was playing one of the bad guys, and delivered it so well, even a numbskull would get the gist. and shut up.

  • agcons

    Oh fuck off and take your spam with you. I can’t even slag off these assholes any more. I’m out of ideas and out of snark.

  • Eebadee-eebadee-thatsallfolks

    Dan is as sharp as they come, as usual. However, though I agree with Dan’s idea and strategy, I don’t agree with everything in his post.

    “Does that mean you’re accepting, for sake of argument, the homophobe’s central premise, i.e., that there’s something wrong with being gay? Yes it does. “

    Not really. It means you are recognizing that they think that there’s something wrong with it and simultaneously suggesting that they themselves might be gay, which is the psychological motor for their anti-gay day actions.

    I have seen this happen with people I knew personally. One woman I used to work with went ballistic and created a huge scene at work when she found out one of our co-workers was gay, way out of all proportion of what you normally see as far as homophobia. Well, a couple years later, who showed up at a gay event joined at the hip to her new girlfriend? Yeah, that same woman. Another example: my out dentist in the 90s shared an office with an older dentist who used to make homophobic comments about him. One time, he kind of got overly honest and said, “in my day we just had to get married.” Even though he was a nasty old man, I really felt sorry for him and for his wife (in their 60s at that point) when I heard that.

  • Diogenes Arktos

    In my midwestern city, wearing a flannel shirt pings gaydar big time. (I know locality can make a big difference: a friend who moved here from Denver noted that all the guys there wore flannel shirts. It took a while for her to recalibrate her gaydar.)

  • bdsmjack

    Hahaha! Awesome, Dan.

    I remember this particular dumb jock, who sat next to me in high school, always making thinly-veiled gay comments to me, which I mostly ignored, (sometimes deining to flash a bored/perplexed stare at him). Then one day, after enduring more tired, gay inuendo from the knuckle dragger, I leaned in to him and whispered (with mock concern), “Mark, I’m actually not gay, but if YOU are, –maybe you should talk to a Guidance Councelor, because gay teens have a really high suicide rate.”

    He blanched, and never bothered me again.