An openly gay and popular syndicated sex columnist was raised in a Roman Catholic family and at one point attended seminary preparatory school. When he admitted his sexuality to his mother, he thought, like other members of the gay community, that he was saying he wouldn’t get married and that he wouldn’t be able to provide her grandchildren.
Today, he’s gay, he’s married and he’s raising a child with his husband. Now he’s making his case for homosexuality against the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church should change its negative opinion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning people (LGBTQ), said Dan Savage in his keynote address for the “Pro-Queer Life” conference on Saturday. Fairfield University provided transportation for students to see him speak at Union Theological Seminary in New York.
Even though many Catholic institutions have expressed positive views and acceptance towards LGBTQ people, Savage wanted to speak against the remaining opponents in the Catholic Church.
He denounced the Bible as a credible source of model behavior, saying that sins, like masturbation, premarital sex and use of condoms and birth pills, once so adamantly prohibited in the past, can no longer be judged by the authorities of the church.
“We have got to ignore the b——t in the Bible about gay people, just as we’ve learned to ignore what the b——-t in the Bible have said about women … about polyester, about farming and about slavery,” said Savage.
Priests cannot see the sins of people, and according to Savage, homosexuality cannot be so easily judged from the outside.
“They can’t see past our homosexuality to see our shared and common humanity, which is hugely ironic considering how many of those priests behind those pulpits are gay,” he said.
LGBTQ people continue to face much external conflict, but they also face internal conflicts like faith. Still, faith can also be a source of solace. “For many LGBT people, faith is at once the affliction and the solution,” said Savage.
While he still believes in some aspects of Catholicism – partially out of respect for his mother and father, who were active in the Catholic Church – Savage is not afraid to express his negative impression of other people who have made homophobic remarks based on their religious beliefs.
He called Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, and Maggie Gallagher, a well-known syndicate columnist, both of whom oppose same-sex marriage, ‘vile’ people.
Besides religion, Savage also talked briefly about his It Gets Better Project, which began in 2010 and has had great success in the past year.
According to Savage, It Gets Better is saving many lives by allowing people to help other LGBTQ peers through videos. The overall objective of the project is to tell LGBTQ youth struggling with identity and facing bullies that “there is enough joy that will compensate for the pain,” Savage said.
Savage views bullying as a cause of suicide but notes other factors are just as important to consider. Negative parental involvement is just as powerful and hurtful as cyber bullying and physical bullying. “There are kids who, at the end of the day, go home to no one,” said Savage.
The project is also shattering “the old order,” when homosexuality was suppressed and when people believed LGBTQ adults were recruiting people to their cause,.
Savage’s keynote speech was met with a standing ovation.
Savage became popular for his sex advice column “Savage Love,” which runs in The Stranger, a Seattle-based newspaper. Since 1991, he has become a powerful speaker for LGBTQ rights, including same-sex marriage.
Meredith Marquez, assistant director of Student Diversity Programs, felt Savage’s speech was a fitting opener for LGBTQ History month.
“I feel like while we’re celebrating LGBTQ people of America,” she said, “One of the pressing things that’s going on right now … are the suicides that have been happening. This event allows students to go and hear from probably the most popular and the funniest—definitely the funniest—and, I would argue, the most effective person to talk about this issue.”
Marquez also noted that the conversation between homosexuals and the Church needs to continue.
“To [Fairfield University], being Catholic is being accepting,” she said. “That’s how we can be the best Catholic institution if we live up to that mission. [It] is to be the most accepting that you can of all people. I am hoping that little messages will get through and it’s things like these that I would love all students will come to.”
This event was part of “More Than a Monologue: Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church,” an effort by two Roman Catholic universities and two non-denominational divinity schools to spark conversation about sexual diversity and the Catholic Church’s relation to the controversial topic.
On Oct. 29, Fairfield will host its part of More Than a Monologue with a “Care of Souls” conference. The event will address the responsibilities of LGBTQ Catholics in educating and spreading awareness and making the issue relevant in their communities.