Dan Savage has earned his own MTV reality documentary for several reasons. That the 47-year-old writer is a weekly sex-columnist and best-selling author is a solid one, and that he and his husband created the viral It Gets Better Project in order to curb the rise in suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgsender youth is another. But if your new series Savage U (Tuesdays at 11pm) requires you to travel cross-country and help confused co-eds with their first-time sex and relationship conundrums, it’s only fair that your own romantic history can back it up. BULLETT sat down with Dan in Times Square while he led us through his firsts: a curious tale of lovers, exes, growing up gay, and coming out strong by banging his brother’s girlfriend. Wait. What?
A crossing guard, in Kindergarten. I remember him really distinctly- he had huge teeth and a big mouth. And one day, my mom reminded me: all of my boyfriends have huge teeth and big mouths. I was obsessed with him, and I guess that explains my whole Muppet face thing. All my boyfriends have Muppet faces; [my husband] Terry looks like Janice from the Muppets.
I had a couple of girlfriends, I’ve messed around, had sex with girls… but I don’t remember which was my first kiss. It was late, though- I wasn’t doing Spin The Bottle or anything like that. I was too paranoid. But I remember my first kiss from a guy. Joe. He was 21, I was 15 or 16. It was illegal. He asked me if he could kiss me in his apartment in the middle of the night. And I said ‘Yes! That would be awesome!’
First time you realized you might be gay.
Puberty. Which was, ‘why is that making my dick hard when everyone says it should be that other thing?’
I know that people in college now think they invented hooking up, but people didn’t date [when I was in college], either. People met at parties, and danced, and drank, and went home. The first guy I dated was someone I met working on a play, and then we started screwing around. And then we went on a date.
First time having sex.
15 years old, in a tent, camping. It was a three-way with a woman who was 21 and a man who was 22.
You had sex with them both?
I had sex with her. I didn’t touch him. I thought if I touched him, he would realize that I was gay and he would kill me! So it was me looking at her, but my peripheral vision was all about him.
I’m Irish Catholic, so odds are I was born drunk. My parents had all these cocktail parties when we were little so that they could have a social life—even though they were young and burdened with four kids. I’m sure my first drink was at seven or eight years old, under their supervision. We did the same thing with our son when he was curious as to what this magic stuff was that adults could drink but kids couldn’t. He took a taste of champagne and spat it out. Said it was foul and horrible.
First time getting really drunk.
High school. I was a real lightweight. I don’t get shitfaced now, but… I was a cheap date! The first time I got really, really drunk, though, was in London, and I passed out in Trafalgar Square. That was a bad idea- British cops don’t take too kindly to drunk American college students throwing up all over their national monuments.
I was still in high school; he was 28. And that’s true for a lot of young gay guys- we end up dating people with large age gaps. I dated Joe—a different Joe—for a summer. It was a bad relationship. We were wrong for each other, but he did right by me. I hadn’t been exposed to a lot of gay people; there wasn’t an internet where you could go and learn about yourself. I was of the era where you looked up ‘gay’ in the encyclopedia and saw terrible, horrifying bullshit. Joe, in addition to fucking the shit out of me for three months, was introducing me to a different perspective of what it meant to be gay.
First time you said “I love you” and meant it.
To someone I was ejaculating inside of?
My college boyfriend, Peter. We were together for five years, and we’re still really good friends. He came to my wedding… I still do love Peter, and we’ll always be friends, and I’m glad I said it and I meant it and it’s still true.
First time dumping someone.
I dumped Joe. And that was hard. I was 18 years old, and he was 28, and he said he loved me, but was telling me that means I shouldn’t go to college. That didn’t sound very loving.
First time getting dumped.
College. His name was Tommy. I fell hopelessly in love with him, moved in with him, took over his room after he graduated moved away. We couldn’t be together because he had a boyfriend. I was the piece on the side, but I was so smitten. I didn’t date for two years after Tommy (partly because of Tommy, and partly because of AIDS). I was completely besotted and heartbroken when he chose his actual husband over me.
First time you realized it gets better.
My family demonstrated that to me. My family was really homophobic when I was growing up, and I thought that I could never come out. I was suicidal for a while because I thought it’d be easier for them to bury a kid than to have an out kid, so I wanted to do the nice thing and die for my parents. It was really hard for my mother when I came out, but it only took that summer for her to come around. At first they weren’t into it, and then they got there and accepted it. And then they became aggressively supportive, which meant that anyone who had a problem with me had a much bigger problem with my family. So when I was just a teenager in high school, I didn’t have to run interference with my homophobic uncles or extended family. My mom got out in front and ordered them to get over it or get the fuck out of our house. To watch them all in that one summer change their minds and become totally different, and the ultimate loyalty being to family, like they had always said it was, was the proof that it already had gotten better.
So who was the first person you came out to?
My brother Billy, right before he got on a plane for a year abroad in Ireland. Because I figured that if he reacted negatively, I’d have all the time before he landed to move out of the house.
How did he react?
He said, “Are you sure?” What’s funny is, that girl I lost my virginity to was his girlfriend [at the time]. I slept with her in part so that my family wouldn’t think I was gay, and sleeping with my brother’s girlfriend was a good way to make it a huge scandal. So I wasn’t just telling my brother I was gay, I was also telling him, “hey, remember that time I had sex with your girlfriend? I was so not into that!”