Beyond Savage Love: Columnist speaks on anti-bullying campaign

Dan Savage, sex columnist of “Savage Love,” visits Webster University to speak about his YouTube project. - Kaitlin Drake

Dan Savage, 37, brought hope to millions of YouTube viewers in September 2010 with his “It Gets Better” campaign. On Monday, March 21, Savage brought his sense of humor and his project to the Loretto-Hilton Center, speaking at Webster University to members of the school and community about homophobic bullying.
Savage is the author of “Savage Love,” an internationally syndicated sex and advice column. Savage has become a mouthpiece for LGBT issues in the media, who openly discusses both gay and straight relationships using his frank sense of humor in his writing and radio and television appearances.
While it is true that Savage has a reputation for saying outlandish and racy things, assistant director of the Multicultural Center and International Student Affairs Nicole Parres said there was no real hesitation in asking Savage to speak at Webster.
“We were already talking about [the It Gets Better Project],” Parres said.  “We have an active LGBT population on campus, and suicide is a common issue on all college campuses.”
After a series of bullying-related suicides by gay teenagers, Savage and his “HICBIA” — husband in Canada, boyfriend in America — felt compelled to say something. They created the It Gets Better Project, a series of videos telling LGBT youth to hold on, because being a gay as an adult is easier and better than it is in high school.
“These kids were saying on some level that they can’t imagine a (good) future,” Savage said of teens like Billy Lucas and Justin Aaberg. “At that moment, I needed to go to high schools, middle schools, talk to LGBT students and everyone — but I’d never get the chance — I’m the dangerous sex guy.”
Savage, with his media-shy partner, created a video talking about their experiences with bullying in the past and how they got past it. When reviewing the 16-minute first attempt, they realized it didn’t quite hit the mark, are many existing technology challenges,” Hayes said.
Among other notable speakers at the conference, former Egyptian Minister of Family and Population Moushira Khattab addressed the role of women in the recent revolution in Egypt.
“The role of women was pivotal for the revolution,” Khattab said. “The revolution was the work of men and women equally. Women voiced their concerns and fought in the streets alongside men, challenging traditional expectations for their behavior.”
Khattab said it is important women do not lose the momentum they have gained in improving their rights.
“The central role of women in the making and success of the Egyptian revolution made us all proud,” Khattab said. “The challenge now for women is to maintain the pressure as the nation moves forward.”
Michelle Odiambo, a communications major visiting the conference from the campus in Leiden, also commented on the hopes that revolutions happening in North Africa will be the beginning of new rights for women.
“We see women on TV walking on the streets protesting,” said Odiambo, a native of Neirobi, Kenya. “This is giving other women leeway to be more rebellious and in doing so they are empowering themselves.”
Jorge Oliver, chair of the electronic and photographic media department at the St. Louis campus, also attended the conference. Oliver currently teaches classes at the Webster Vienna campus but said he did not want to miss the chance to be present for the conference.
“You have the ability by going to an event like this to meet people from all over the world and hear their stories and I think that has been extremely valuable,” Oliver said. “We need to create consciousness regarding women issues. When you live in a western society you tend to forget that there are a lot of people who don’t have rights and there is a lot of work to be done. There is complacency and we say, ‘Oh that’s their problem.’ But it is not. It is our problem as well.”

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