43 Following

A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


Book 86/100: The Anita Bryant Story by Anita Bryant

I first learned about Anita Bryant through the glimpses we get of her in the movie, MILK. Then I saw this book at a library booksale, and I bought it for two reasons:
1) I wanted to understand how these virulent homophobes manage to explain themselves; and
2) I didn't want someone to buy it for whom it would only feed and justify their homophobia.

This book was published in 1977, and it was remarkable to me both how much had changed and how much has stayed the same. Many of the arguments GLTBQ advocates are making today, and many of the allowances they are hoping for -- greater representation in media and government, inclusion in school curriculum, etc., were already being made back then. Interestingly, there is very little or nothing written about the issue of same-sex marriage. Back then, the main fight was still to get the general population to accept sexual orientations beyond heterosexuality as normal and acceptable.

Although I think Anita Bryant's heart was probably in the right place, this book is just a big ol' exposure of her ignorance. She does not know the difference between homosexuals and pedophiles, and basically uses homosexual to mean pedophile each time  she mentions it. She hides her prejudice behind her children by creating an organization called "Save Our Children Inc." under which she "fights" for her right to be bigoted. I know this sounds harsh, and anyone who knows me also knows that I'm on the other side of this issue, but seriously, her argument went something along the lines of: "You can't discriminate against our right to discriminate!"

I had to get halfway through the book before I finally got some insight into WHY she was so afraid of "homosexuals." It's because she believes that ...

"Homosexuals cannot reproduce--so they must recruit. And to freshen their ranks, they must recruit the youth of America."

Cue eyeroll.

She also is especially concerned about "militant homosexuals," which, as far as I could tell, refers to any gay person who lives their sexuality openly. And if that makes someone "militant," man, do I know a lot of "militant heterosexuals"!

She gives lots of examples of gay rights activists doing things that any activist would do -- handing out fliers, encouraging those in the closet to "come out," protesting, etc., as though she has uncovered the greatest scandal. While her OWN flier about an ordinance protecting gay people from discrimination looked like this (direct quote!):

The ordinance is not needed ...
It endangers our children ...
It is a dangerous precedent ...
It threatens your home ...
It attacks free enterprise ....
It debases religion ...
It is a peril to the nation ...

Any of these reasons is enough.
But the overwhelming reason is that Metro's pro-homosexual ordinance is an open invitation to recruit our children! Vote FOR children's rights. Vote FOR repeal.

She also has the mistaken notion that homosexuality is some sort of slippery slope:

"A couple of guys might live together for a while, but eventually one of them is going to get tired of it and go out looking for new kicks. He will go looking for a boy; he will start occupying bus station rest rooms or whatever, or will become a Boy Scout or Cub Scout leader."

See what I mean about the inability to separate homosexuality from pedophilia?

She boo-hoos a lot about the way she is "villainized" by the "homosexual activists," but is it any wonder? She bases her whole campaign on compete ignorance about the issues she is dealing with.

I was surprised, pleasantly so, to see that even in 1977 progressive Christians were speaking out against anti-gay discrimination.

Mostly, this serves as an interesting historical document more than anything, a glimpse into an earlier moment of the gay rights movement that takes us closer than any third-person, written-after-the fact history or fiction about it ever could.

Now, I need to decide whether I should put this book back into the world as a valuable historical document, or whether I should recycle it to get such toxicity out of our collective consciousness.