My interview with Dan Savage about his book, bisexuals & Mai Tais (video)

I hosted a Google+ Hangout On Air today (Friday June 14) with sex advice columnists, author, LGBT activist, and my friend Dan Savage.

We talked about Dan’s new book, “American Savage,” and about other things like how a gay guy knows so much about straight sex, whether bisexuals are real, whether gays “should” get married, whether he’d choose for his teenage son to be straight or gay (his answer might surprise you), his Catholicism, and Dan divulges his husband’s secret Mai-Tai recipe.

Photo by © LaRae Lobdell

Photo by © LaRae Lobdell

I had no idea Dan was on the Colbert Report this week! Here's the clip:

PS I'm going to add a few links to Dan's writings that I'm finding in preparation for the interview:

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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87 Responses to “My interview with Dan Savage about his book, bisexuals & Mai Tais (video)”

  1. Yeah it is an interesting format, I like that the camera auto-switches to whoever’s speaking, it makes the video more dynamic and interesting.

  2. zappernapper says:

    You’re permitted to say anything you want, it’s a free country… doesn’t make it true ;-)

    We agree that people adopt an identity which might not always define their behavior and desires well (people who’s desires conflict with their behaviors are having a classic identity crisis, but that’s something different). Usually people will, over time, adopt a new identity which seems more in line with their behaviors and desires. Less often (but for specific cases), some people attempt to redefine their chosen identity to include their behaviors and desires (it only works long term if there’s community support).

    I’ve been trying to write a coherent response to this, but to be honest I’d rather just give you the homework. You need to understand the definitions of identity, orientation, and read up on why the kinsey scale isn’t meant for identity – it’s like using BMI to gauge an individual’s health (any trainer, doctor, etc. will tell you body fat % is better), scales meant to represent populations (like BMI and Kinsey scale) don’t translate usefully down to individual levels (that’s the statistical logical argument), you could also reread the part where I said that Kinsey himself said that was a bad idea, and he’s more qualified than either of us to make that argument.

  3. Butch1 says:

    I enjoyed the interview very much! Many thanks. We live in Olympia and when my husband gets a chance to make a trip up to Seattle to visit friends for a drink or two at one of the “watering-holes” he usually brings back the local papers for me to read and of course Dan’s column is in “The Stranger.” I look forward to reading his advice column when it arrives.

    One would think I was Jewish we I start reading from the back of the paper where Dan’s column is located first instead of at the front. ;-)

  4. karmanot says:

    This interview is just great! Well done John. Hi Sasha!

  5. karmanot says:

    “chooses” her sexual orientation” This is interesting, because it’s not intellectual guile, when one affirms or chooses an authentic identity over an assigned one. On the few occasions, when a religious bigot would attempt to damn my sexuality by choice, I usually congratulate them on being perceptive and say ‘yes, I certainly did choose my identity and it wasn’t easy. I would further, rigorously attend discussions on ‘lifestyle.’ The best way to cream bigots is to use a little Sun Tzu and use their own arguments against them.

  6. FLL says:

    “Intellectual rigor on these topics matter.”

    I think that’s why Kinsey relied on in-depth interviews as a means of gathering data rather than filling out a paper form or answering a question from someone making a random phone call. Kinsey added the “6”s and “5”s from his 6-point scale and got 10 percent, which is where that estimate comes from. Of course, that gives you an accurate picture of the U.S. during the late 1940s, not the Roman Empire at its height.

  7. Well, when Cynthia Nixon – and I just heard a gay-ish blogger make the same comment the other day – sloppily claims that the fact that she’s bi means she “chooses” her sexual orientation, then the way people identity themselves, the labels they use, do in fact matter. Intellectual rigor on these topics matter.

  8. BillFromDover says:

    When all is said and done, what difference does it make one way or the other?

    After all, aren’t they all simply tags?

    We all prefer whom we do simply because we do, not because of a label attempting to categorize us.

    And what’s the problem with having tastes change from time to time?

    Besides,, the only one who give a shit one way or another are the fuckin’ bigots who have a Good Book explaining exactly how they should feel and act.

    And they have their own brands of specialty labels.

  9. BillFromDover says:

    Back in the day, my wife use to be like that.

    Now it’s just bi, bi, and bi me more.

    Oh, for the good old days… sigh!

  10. karmanot says:

    And a very smart one at that!

  11. Papa Bear says:

    At least you know that those of us who hold you dear inside our hearts just think of you as a sweet and wonderful person…

  12. BeccaM says:

    There’s a third population group. Some who drop their dishonest self-identification as straight and identify themselves as gay, and who then, after a while realize that gay self-identification is also less than honest, and then accurately identify themselves as Bi.

    An identification that remains what it is, no matter who they are dating or decide to marry.

    One of the biggest problems is as soon as someone like myself settles down with a woman, everybody assumes that means I am and always have been a lesbian, and that I was lying (consciously or unconsciously) when I used to say I was straight or bi. Or if I settle down with a man, that I was just ‘fooling around’ with lesbianism and am actually straight. Or no matter which person I’ve chosen to be monogamous with, they assume I must pine terribly for sexual experiences with the opposite gender.

    None of which is true.

  13. BeccaM says:

    I’m probably a 4. Lean somewhat lesbian, but find some men quite attractive sexually. For example, George Clooney makes me go all melty. Even when he’s not naked.

    However, I have no desire whatsoever to leave my wife. Until 1998, I had no idea what ‘happily married’ felt like.

  14. BeccaM says:

    It’s a weird insecurity issue, and I ran into it frequently when I was dating — from both genders.

  15. Oh god, googled that after you mentioned it and put the video above, that was an amazing segment

  16. Naja pallida says:

    In the end, it doesn’t matter what someone wants to label you. It is entirely in your own self-perception. A perception which can change with any number of factors, from outside societal ones, to levels of personal acceptance ones. Human beings lie to themselves all the time, about all manner of things. It doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t believe the lie at the time.

  17. FLL says:

    I like Dan’s guideline for compiling statistics on who is gay and who is bisexual. He is in no way disrespecting bi people; he is only asking for honesty. Dan is noting the obvious fact that there are people who are, in fact, gay but who self-identify as bisexual, and this phenomena is particularly true of teenagers. Dan gets it right when he says that this phenomena is not the fault of people who are truly bisexual, but it just muddies the waters and gives us an inaccurate picture and inaccurate statistics.

    The only way I would amend Dan’s discussion is to take his argument to its logical conclusion, which is to note the equally obvious fact that there are people (in all age groups) who are, in fact, bisexual but who self-identify as straight. To get an honest picture, then, we have to perform two shifts of population groups:

    (1) Some gay people drop their dishonest self-identification as bisexual and identify as gay.
    (2) Some bisexual people drop their dishonest self-identification as straight and identify as bisexual.

    By the way, I love Dan’s comment on the Colbert report where he describes the single-payer health care system in the Vatican State, which doesn’t cover birth control. Dan gets it right again when he says that when altar boys can get pregnant, the Vatican State health care system will cover birth control. If there were a progressive equivalent of sainthood, Dan should be canonized.

  18. Jim says:

    Thanks John! Loved it!

  19. karmanot says:

    You can tell you are not BI if you are fantasizing about men in a hetro sex encounter.

  20. karmanot says:

    “what’s your opinion of a straight guy who occasionally goes to the gay bar” That’s called rough trade and a red flag for danger.

  21. karmanot says:

    It’s always good to read personal perspectives like this. Thanks for contributing. The GLTBQ community is very diverse and we all belong.

  22. Maurine says:

    Thank you for asking. Great interview :)

  23. I think we’re now arguing apples and oranges. No one said anything about lifelong exclusivity. 1s and 5s clearly have the potential to sleep out of their “base” as it were. That doesn’t change the way they perceive their orientation, as 1s or 5s. And I actually find the Kinsey scale very helpful – why can’t it help us understand identity as well, at least at any one moment of our lives. And now we’re using lots of words that need to be defined – identity vs orientation etc. And even identity – is it what you feel, or what you want – meaning, someone who is bi could still feel equal attractions to bother genders but identity as gay. So a lot of this gets lost in the semantics.

  24. A bi pun? Ruh roh …. ;-)

  25. Indigo says:

    That pretty well describes my day-to-day. Yours too, I’ll bet.

  26. zxappernapper says:

    without debating the simplicity of the kinsey scale, i’m going to respond that the scale was never meant to be a way to define yourself for the rest of your life – it’s not to be used in conjunction with identity (i fully agree with Sweetie about the distinction between behavior and identity)

    the scale measured the range of sexual behaviors and experiences (notably leaving out future desires). the scale found that MOST people had engaged in or thought about both same- and opposite-sex behaviors. VERY FEW people have been exclusively hetero- or homo-sexual. It’s an objective scale, independent of how you feel about those interactions. Kinsey himself wanted people to be aware that where they landed on the scale could change over time, as their sexual experiences grew.

    people make this mistake all the time, but hopefully now you won’t ever try to equate the scale with someone’s identity :)

  27. FunMe says:

    Well I trust everyone here to keep my secret … I haven’t told many. So keep it between us.

    I am bisexual …

    Bi me something, I’ll get sexual! ;-)

  28. zappernapper says:

    “very few teenage declarations of any sort turn out to be true into adulthood… politics, sexuality, religion, etc., all can and frequently do change dramatically from age 15 to 25.” – that’s my point, straight and gay identities change too, but dan makes a special case for “bisexual”.

  29. pappyvet says:

    Well done John !

  30. zappernapper says:

    sexual exploration does not strictly follow a given path. i know people who identified as gay from day one, only to accept their bisexuality much later, mostly because i’m active in the bi community. when people go from gay to bi, they don’t always stay in the gay community, and they aren’t always upfront about their sex lives to their gay friends.

    my experiences when coming out in social settings have mostly been negative, luckily i had the support of my wife to keep me strong. but a single guy in his teens or early twenties? he’s gonna believe it when he hears enough times, “oh, you just don’t know yet.”

    the issue is dan’s perspective assumes that only a bisexual identity needs an age-qualifier to be “valid”. straights and gays are fine. THAT’S why he’s wrong.

  31. karmanot says:

    It truly takes a Catholic or Ex Catholic to read the hate filled heart of the Catholic cult.

  32. karmanot says:

    Yes, and we can’t dwell too much on all the death we have experienced. Our neighborhood is an old one and we find great compatibility, garden visits and share food often. There are a mixed lot of GLTB and Straight couples here and a few families with kids….it’s a great environment for the continuity of life.

  33. As I note in the comment above, we’re haggling over whether Kindey 2s and 4s are bi in addition to Kinsey 3s.

  34. karmanot says:

    Build communities and adult friendships, keep busy, don’t isolate and kick Republican butt whenever possible.

  35. Yep, just as fewer gay guys will claim to be straight.

  36. I believe in the Kinsey scale, 0 to 6. I’m a 6, totally gay. Bisexuals are 3s. I’m not sure that 1s and 5s are bi. Maybe they are, but maybe they’re not. 2s and 4s are a better argument for bisexuals. So it totally depends on the person.

  37. karmanot says:

    Absolutely excellent advice. Legal advice is expensive, so be sure to get as much info from Google as you can and be prepared to make the best of your time with an attorney. Be prepared. We have been together twenty years and simply cannot afford to get married because in many cases it means reduced benefits for seniors. We are living right at the minimal line now. It makes us sad, but survival is more important now that all the old safety nets are being phased out.

  38. But what if they’re lying? And experience shows more people lie about being bi than about being gay. Unless you’re suggesting that gay people who are first coming out don’t lie about being bi. Now, even if that’s true, that doesn’t mean that perhaps the conclusion isn’t to simply take them at their word, even if we privately suspect they’re lying. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But I feel like we’re arguing over something that’s a fact, and folks aren’t explaining why what Dan said in the interview is factually wrong.

  39. karmanot says:

    Maybe it’s because you are just so special.

  40. karmanot says:

    Probably because of people like me, who slept with both sexes during my younger years and was married for 6 years. Now, in the late years I wholly identify as gay. I think the choices we make when younger have a lot to do with maturation, exploration of identity and other co-factors. I have friends my age who still identify as BI—-it’s no big deal. I think that the notion of closeted heterosexual behavior is hysterical….good one. I lived for years in the Castro. There were no Hetro closets there. Maybe you are thinking of Dupont Circle or the Vatican.

  41. Mike_H says:

    I think as the stigma about being gay continues to fade, you’ll see a lot fewer people coming out as faux-bi as a way of putting their toe in the water, before coming out as true-gay. Plenty of the “bi” guys I group up with (myself included) are gay now, and admitted that even their then-reported attraction to women was really more of an act of denial than anything real.

    When we get to a place where it doesn’t matter, when there won’t be any incentive to come “halfway out” by claiming to be bi, then it’ll be an easier discussion to have. Puberty, adolescence, is such a confusing time, with so much pressure, that it’s not surprising there are still people who are claiming to be bi while not really being bi — which does create the perceptual problem that you are concerned about. And frankly very few teenage declarations of any sort turn out to be true into adulthood… politics, sexuality, religion, etc., all can and frequently do change dramatically from age 15 to 25.

  42. karmanot says:

    That’s good to know.

  43. Sweetie says:

    There is a difference between orientation and behavior.

    Behavior does not create orientation.

    So, a person can be gay and enjoy some forms of hetero sex and the same thing is true for heteros. Most hetero guys, for instance, would probably not be opposed to getting a handjob or oral from a gay guy in the right circumstances. That doesn’t mean they’re bi.

    A bisexual is someone who is truly attracted significantly (sexually and emotionally) to both sexes, not someone who enjoys the feeling of a mouth on their member sometimes.

  44. zappernapper says:

    what’s your opinion of a straight guy who occasionally goes to the gay bar or public bathroom to get sucked off?

    now what about the gay guy who occasionally will have sex with women?

    being out about my bisexuality causes a lot of gay-identified men to admit their opposite-sex attractions – maybe it’s them just trying to hit on me… but it happens a lot more than people like dan savage or you seem to realize.

  45. Of course if they buy it via Amazon, AMERICAblog gets a small commission :)

  46. zappernapper says:

    i could play dumb and rephrase what you said as, “dan’s admitting the opinions other people gobble up as Truth aren’t based in reality.” but i’m sure that’s not what you meant.

    He needs to respect the fact that not everyone shares his life experiences, so a 15 year-old bi is just as credible as a 15 yo gay or lesbian.

  47. Thanks to you and a few others, I got it! It’s in the video.

  48. Good question, he was limited to 30 min, had to run edit something, so couldn’t ask, but it was on my list, sorry.

  49. I asked him that too, it’s in the video.

  50. I asked him, it’s in the video :)

  51. I thought it was funny. Just google it.

  52. Yeah I hope that’s not the case – I was told to not use earphones or anything else. And I have a new imac, and a great internet connection, so I’m surprised.

  53. Yeah, he’s just so good, I hate to not get him on video – the typed words would be so much less.

  54. ComradeRutherford says:

    John, Thank you for posting this video on your site. I had mentioned that I prefer chat sessions in the comment area, but this is a decent second-best.

  55. selonmoi says:

    G+ users may also be interested in buying Dan’s book from Google:

    Thanks for the interview! I’m buying the book just to find out what Terry said after the debate.

  56. Naja pallida says:

    I was getting a little bit of audio distortion from your end, John, but otherwise seemed to go flawlessly.

  57. Naja pallida says:

    He explained that it was primarily just his own personal experience as identifying as bi when he was younger, on his journey to actually coming out, leading him to that conclusion, not necessarily any actual tangible reality.

  58. That’s a good question. Though I suspect there aren’t a lot of bisexuals, or straight people, who claim they’re gay when they really aren’t. So that’s probably why he’d be more inclined to think that someone who says they’re gay isn’t lying. Because fewer people do.

  59. I can’t believe it worked. We literally were trying to figure it out up until 1 minute before the interview!

  60. Scott_Lumry says:

    Thanks to both of you for the interview. Always enjoy being informed.

  61. Zappernapper says:

    Dan has said he’s more inclined to believe someone is “really bisexual” once past a certain age. Why is he willing to fully support and believe a 15 year-old’s homosexual identity, but not a bisexual one? Especially considering the amount of homosexual women AND men who identify as bi later in life, and the closeted heterosexual behavior that exists within homosexual communities.

  62. Scott says:

    Hi Dan! I’m on chapter 2 – loving the book so far! Question about gay priests. I went to a Catholic university in the Pacific Northwest and know a lot of gay priests – some closeted, and others fairly open about their sexuality. Do you believe those who are open about their sexuality are hypocrites for remaining in the Church? Or do you believe they have a legitimate argument by saying that they’re doing a good job by staying put and trying to effect change w/ their presence?

  63. nicho says:

    I’ve found that after you hit 70, there’s less of a “crowd.”

  64. nicho says:

    Well, it’s everyone’s choice, and I don’t think you should feel pressured by anyone. having said that, please look into the legal ramifications for your state. I have a friend whose partner passed away. They had all the paperwork — wills, power of attorney, house as tenants in common with right of survivorship, etc. However, when one of them died and the other got the house, because they weren’t married, the county re-assessed the house and the survivor’s tax bill went up astronomically. Also, if someone were to bring a legal action against one of you and won, the plaintiff could get your half of the house in the settlement and then co-own it with your partner. That can’t happen to married couples.

    Now these things may not concern you — although it would be wise to check with a lawyer — but they do concern a lot of other people.

    On the other hand, at this stage, it may be a financial disadvantage for you to marry, and then you’d be wise not to. But please don’t make a choice without checking out your options.

  65. Monoceros Forth says:

    Mr. Savage, what was with that idiotic Gary Bauer business several years ago that turned out to be completely made up?

  66. Monoceros Forth says:

    …if at all…

    The inclusion of this parenthetical phrase is strange.

  67. Jim says:

    My husband and I have been together for 35 years. By the luck of the draw, we avoided the HIV virus, though not the loss of friends. We have made a nice life for ourselves and fought for, and obtained, acceptance from our respective families. And yet, after all these years, the scars of internalized homophobia still raise their ugly head on occasion. I still look around my shoulder, should my husband grab my hand in public, when I should be enjoying the moment. I fumble to introduce him as my husband to random straight people, when I should be proud to do so. I’m so thankful for all that I have, but will it ever get so better that these remnants of feelings of self loathing, or perhaps perceived self preservation, disappear?

    My hope is that the gay children of today feel more secure and accepting of themselves! And thanks to Dan for being our warrior.

  68. Scott_Lumry says:

    As a gay couple of 20 years, I wonder how difficult it is going to be to explain to family and friends why we may decide not to marry, if the decision presents itself in our lifetime. My partner is 83 and, at this point, we do not feel it necessary. But, with these welcome, and fast changes taking place in regard to marriage, I feel some will just expect us to rush off and get hitched.

  69. Indigo says:

    Any advice for the over 70 gay crowd?

  70. codyJ says:

    He is a ‘treasure’ Im STILL laffin over his ‘remarks’ w/Colbert, on” turning around” the magnetic toy dogs,(perfect fit) ha ha ha

  71. DanFan says:

    Also … I second the request for Terry’s Mai Tai recipe! And please thank Dan for Terry’s instagram account!

  72. DanFan says:

    On his podcasts, Dan makes frequent mention about the ways women are socialized vs men. I believe his son is 15 at present, and he’s always been very candid about raising him. I am imagining, like most parents, that he would maybe have a different or extra set of rules/fears/advice if he had a daughter right now vs a son ie once the kid starts getting into the sexually active years but also … just in growing up – in what way or ways would he and his husband as parents of a young girl have perhaps guided or advised her differently about making her way in the world, personal safety, body image issues, dealing with boys, etc.

  73. BeccaM says:

    Win or lose, the fight continues.

  74. pappyvet says:

    What are you trying to say?

  75. Maurine says:

    I’m a mom of 4 sons, one son is gay & I have read all Dan’s books & so appreciate his work with LGBT youth in the It Gets Better Project, gave that book to my son’s boyfriend because he doesn’t have accepting parents (we live in TN, which should tell you what I’m dealing with)!
    I just finished “American Savage” and my question is:
    Will Terry please give us all the recipe for his Mai Tai’s? That’s got to be one hell of a good drink to get through a dinner with Brian Brown. And I need to add, that Terry’s “goodbye” to Brian made me scream out loud in laughter, made my day! Please give Terry a hug for that!
    Many thanks Dan for putting yourself out there for all of us that want equality!

  76. Mitchell Gold has been doing a lot of work these past several year focusing exclusively on religion, but yes, Dan has done it in a very unique, and fearless way, I agree.

  77. FLL says:

    I know of no one other than Dan who has made an argument against religiously based hate that is so fearless, honest and coherent. He is a national treasure.

  78. In what sense do you mean differently, like what?

  79. Sure does and sure is.

  80. KNotere6488 says:

    Have always wanted to know: how would he have raised his son differently, if at all, had he been a girl?

  81. DanFan says:

    Have always wanted to know: how would he have raised his son differently, if at all, had he been a girl?

  82. billylost says:

    BTW John: Dan Savage deserves the thanks of all our gay community for representing us in the best way anyone could. He’s a true hero for us.

  83. billylost says:

    what do we do if the Supremes don’t kick Doma and/or Prop 8 to the curb? just keep pushing, right?

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