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Savage, Dan (b. 1964)  
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Best known for his internationally syndicated sex-advice column, Dan Savage is also the author of books chronicling his and his partner's experiences in adopting a child and dealing with the issue of same-sex marriage.

Dan Savage, born October 7, 1964, was the third of the four children of William and Judy Savage. While he was a boy, the family lived on the upper floor of a two-flat house in Chicago. His maternal grandparents and several aunts and uncles occupied the downstairs apartment. So many other relatives lived nearby, wrote Savage, that "I couldn't go anywhere without running into someone I was related to by blood or marriage."

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This became problematic for Savage when, at fifteen, having realized that he was gay, he wanted to explore Chicago's gay areas but was apprehensive since he was not yet prepared to come out to his Catholic family. Nevertheless, he made occasional trips to a North Side bar, Berlin, where he could be "outrageously out."

Adding to his stress at the time was the ending of his parents' marriage. They divorced when he was seventeen.

At eighteen Savage disclosed his sexual orientation to his family, who, he stated, "became, after one rocky summer, aggressively supportive."

Despite his family's eventual acceptance of his homosexuality, Savage wanted to get away from Chicago; so he decided to attend the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana for college. He received a bachelor's degree in theater but said in 2002, "four years of studying acting in college made me never want to act again . . . I graduated not knowing what I wanted to do."

Savage was working in a video store in Madison, Wisconsin in 1991 when he met Tim Keck, one of the founders of the satirical paper The Onion, who was planning to move to Seattle and launch an alternative newspaper, The Stranger. At that point, Savage recalled, "I made an off-hand comment that forever altered my life: 'Make sure your paper has an advice column.'"

Keck asked him to write it, and he agreed to do so despite his lack of experience. "If you read the first couple of years of Savage Love," stated Savage in a 2006 interview, "it's pretty clear that I'd never written anything before in my life."

Savage's choice for the name of the column was Hey, Faggot. The editors rejected it, but Savage included it as the salutation to each letter, although some syndicators refused to print it. Eventually Savage dropped it.

Of his initial plan for the feature Savage said, "I just thought it would be funny for once if there was an advice column written by a gay person where straight people had to get slapped around or treated with contempt . . . . That humor vein lasted about a year, and then I realized that I was going to actually have to give advice and learn a little about heterosexual life."

Not all of Savage's correspondents are straight; he dispenses advice to readers as well. That advice is delivered with sarcastic humor and a vocabulary far removed from the genteel expression of traditional columnists like Ann Landers, whose desk Savage bought at an estate auction. The questions that Savage fields are distinctly unlike the standard fare in advice columns--or anywhere else--in "family newspapers," and he is blunt in discussing the wide variety of sexual activities.

Commenting on the 1998 compilation of Savage's columns, Savage Love, Guy Trebay observed, "Mouthy, obnoxious, rarely consoling, Dan Savage is at the same time a reliably funny dispenser of practical, funky home truths and a spirited reporter from the not-so-nether reaches of kink." Savage himself stated in 2002 that he saw his role as an advice columnist as "giving permission" to his correspondents to explore the sorts of sexual expression that appeal to them.

Some therapists have warned that Savage's approach is not the best for everyone. Malcolm McKay of the Seattle Institute for Sex Therapy praised Savage for making sex a topic that could be discussed openly and for providing accurate information, but commented, "What really fascinates me about Dan is how incredibly moralistic he is. If you're really confused and looking for a place to turn for help, Dan's not the place to go."

Savage's column proved extremely popular and is now internationally syndicated. For several years in the mid-1990s he also dispensed his individual brand of advice on a weekly late-night radio call-in show in Seattle.

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Dan Savage speaking at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois (2004).
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