Debating whether or not to invite homophobic family members can be difficult for LGBTQ people. However, imagine being the lesbian granddaughter of Anita Bryant, one of the most infamous anti-gay crusaders in modern history.
That is the dilemma Sarah Green is facing as she prepares to marry another woman. Green talked about her relationship with the notorious homophobe on a recent episode of Slate‘s podcast One Year, hosted by Josh Levin. The episode focuses on 1977, a year when the nation seemed on the verge of great change.
Bryant, a former beauty queen and pop singer, was a spokeswoman for Florida orange growers in the 1970s and rose to fame for her opposition for LGBTQ rights. Miami-Dade County’s government adopted an ordinance in 1977 banning employment and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, making it one of the first municipalities to do so.
Outraged at its passage, Bryant led a campaign dubbed “Save Our Children” to persuade voters to repeal it. She compared gay people to murderers and said they were child molesters seeking to “recruit” children to their cause.
Along the way, Bryant became a darling of her fellow conservative Christians and an enemy to LGBTQ people and their allies. At one point, an activist threw a pie in her face, which has become one of the most significant moments in the Gay Rights Movement.
Unfortunately, Miami-Dade citizens did repeal the ordinance, with over 70 percent voting in favor. The city-county government restored the ordinance in 1998, and added gender identity to it in 2014.
Although times have changed, according to Green, her grandmother’s views have not softened. Toward the end of the episode, Green says Bryant, who is now 81 years old, was a doting grandmother and she thought Bryant really didn’t hate LGBTQ people. She started to look at her grandmother different when Green realized as a teen that she herself was gay.
She had no intention of coming out to Bryant, but was spurred to do so on her 21st birthday. Bryant sang “Happy Birthday” to Green on the phone and said if she had faith, the right man would come along. She recalls, “And I 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 granddaughter that homosexuality is a delusion invented by the devil. That homosexuality “isn’t real” and “doesn’t exist,” and that she should focus on loving God because he 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 says.
Despite it being years later, Green says Bryant still will not acknowledge her sexuality. She is currently planning her wedding and debating whether or not to even invite Bryant. She and her fiancée have discussed it extensively.
“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 says. “I don’t know if she would be offended if I didn’t invite her.”
The podcast episode also features Green’s father, Robert Green Jr., who says his mother’s face “froze” after she learned of Green’s engagement.
“All at once, her eyes widened, her smile opened, and out came the oddest sound: ‘Oh,’ he says. “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.”
Green says she does not hate Bryant, but genuinely feels sorry for her.
“I just kind of feel bad for her,” she says. “And 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.”
Click here to listen to the full podcast.