- The Magazine
Debating whether to invite homophobic family members to a wedding can be hard for gay people. It’s even harder when that family member is Anita Bryant, one of the most infamous anti-LGBTQ campaigners in modern history.
That’s the dilemma facing Sarah Green, Bryant’s lesbian granddaughter, as she prepares to marry her partner.
Bryant, a former beauty queen and spokesperson for the Florida Citrus Commission, rose to prominence in the 1970s for her opposition to LGBTQ rights.
A conservative Christian, Bryant led the homophobic “Save Our Children” campaign to repeal a nondiscrimination ordinance in Dade County, Fla., which protected gay people from being discriminated against based on their sexuality.
Bryant compared gay people to murderers and said they were child molesters seeking to “recruit” children to their cause.
“What these people really want, hidden behind obscure legal phrases, is the legal right to propose to our children that theirs is an acceptable alternate way of life,” she said in 1977. “I will lead such a crusade to stop it as this country has not seen before.”
The campaign was an overwhelming success — the ordinance was repealed with 70% approval and record voter turnout.
However, Bryant’s influence quickly waned, particularly after she initiated divorce proceedings against her husband and her conservative Christian bedfellows denounced her.
Unfortunately, according to her granddaughter, time has not softened the now 81-year-old Bryant’s views.
Speaking on Slate‘s podcast One Year, Green said that she came out to her grandmother on her 21st birthday.
Bryant had told Green that a husband would be in her future, to which Green “just snapped and was like, ‘I hope that he doesn’t come along because I’m gay, and I don’t want a man to come along.'”
Bryant responded by telling her that homosexuality “isn’t real” and “doesn’t exist,” and that Green should focus on God, who would remind her that she is straight.
“It’s very hard to argue with someone who thinks that an integral part of your identity is just an evil delusion,” Green said. “She wants a relationship with a person who doesn’t exist because I’m not the person she wants me to be.”
Green told Slate that, despite it being years since she came out to her grandmother, Bryant still won’t acknowledge her sexuality.
Her reaction to Green’s engagement announcement affirmed Bryant’s lack of support, with Green’s father, Robert Green Jr., telling Slate that his mother’s face “froze.”
“All at once, her eyes widened, her smile opened, and out came the oddest sound: ‘Oh,'” Robert Green said. “Instead of taking Sarah as she is, my mom has chosen to pray that Sarah will eventually conform to my mom’s idea of what God wants Sarah to be.”
It has led Green and her partner to debate whether or not to invite her grandmother to her wedding.
“I think I probably will eventually just call her and ask if she even wants an invitation, because I genuinely do not know how she would respond,” Green said. “I don’t know if she would be offended if I didn’t invite her.”
Despite everything, Green said that she doesn’t hate her grandmother, adding, “I just kind of feel bad for her.”
“I think as much as she hopes that I will figure things out and come back to God, I kind of hope that she’ll figure things out,” she said.
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