At this point, almost everyone involved in gay rights issues — and everyone interested in sex, so pretty much everyone — knows Dan Savage. Notoriously outspoken, Savage took on a new role when he and his partner, Terry Miller, began the “It Gets Better” project in 2010.
Earlier this year, Mark Oppenheimer of The New York Times moderated a “Dinner Table Debate” between Savage and the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown.
Today, Oppenheimer is self-publishing an e-book that he writes is “the first full profile of the man.”
Although Savage is now known far and wide for his ongoing feud with much of the religious right, Oppenheimer goes back to the beginning, before his “Savage Love” sex advice column was even born:
After high school, future “Savage Love” columnist Dan Savage attended the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, where he majored in theater and met his second boyfriend, the son of the chairman of the English department. After graduation, the boyfriend moved to West Germany to study arts management, and Savage joined him in West Berlin. “It was really the highlight of my life,” Savage says. I don’t believe him—in the years since, he has met his husband, adopted a son, and become very famous. Still: “I was there the night the wall came down. We were in Prague the night the government fell.” They were in Europe for a year and a half, long enough for Savage to acquire the basic continental skills. “We had sex-and-supermarket German — you could get groceries and get laid but that’s it.”
The boyfriend got a job back in the United States. They moved to Madison, Wisconsin. The job was supposed to be temporary; the relationship was supposed to be forever. The boyfriend traveled a lot for his new job, and Savage stayed in Madison, where he worked in a video store. He became friendly with Tim Keck, a co-founder of The Onion, the satirical newspaper. Keck and his partner had just sold The Onion, and after a bit of market research he decided to move to Seattle to start a new alternative weekly paper. The reigning alt-weekly in Seattle, the Seattle Weekly, was not very alt—it was ignoring the grunge scene being born in the city it was supposed to cover—and Keck thought he could do better. Before they headed west to start what they would call The Stranger, Savage, the witty gay kid behind the video counter, said their paper should have a sex-advice column.
After detailing Savage’s start through the celebrity that followed the It Gets Better project, Oppenheimer’s studied conclusion: “Savage isn’t perfect. If he were, I wouldn’t like him at all.”
The full e-book is available for sale now here.