A Gay Dad Sounds Off on Nancy Grace Over Her Anita Bryant Fiction

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A few months ago, I appreciated Nancy Grace’s perspective.  News media were reporting that a woman named Jessica Dutro had killed her little boy because she thought he might be gay.  As a gay dad, I hurt for the little boy, but found that in much of the reporting, he had been ignored.  The reporting was around the mother and it was her picture that was plastered in public view.

Except by Nancy Grace.  When I went to her report, there was Zachary front and center. The focus of the attention was on him, as it should have been.  Through Nancy Grace, I met Zachary and was moved to write a requiem that seemed to mean a lot for tens of thousands of readers, and give his life some public legacy.

My gratitude for Ms. Grace waned significantly this week however.  In a report with author Dr. Bethany Marshall about celebrity stalkers and “enormous aggression directed at stars”, Ms. Grace fell into a pool of misinformation, revisionist history and mind boggling insensitivity, all within a matter of minutes.

After fairly interesting comments on the psychology of stalkers, Ms. Grace seemed to get struck in the brain with a whole lot of crazy,  “Do you remember Anita Bryant?”  she blurted out of nowhere.  “Anita Bryant was a religious singer, I think she represented the orange industry, she had a lot of conservative views, she had this beautiful voice, she was everywhere singing all the time, a lot of time it was Christian inspirational music.  I still remember when I was a little girl,  somebody came up and did this to her (picture of Anita with pie in her face), in public, I mean she was speaking on some issue dear to her heart,  (video of the pie throw) and I remember that as a little girl , she is a lady, to come out and  I, I,  don’t understand that, I don’t understand that, Bethany, why did that guy do that?  That was the first time I recall this happening …to her… I mean, look at her, she makes me think of my own mother,  why would you do this…to a sweet lady, whether you agree with her politics or not,  why would you do that?  “

Dr. Bethany Marshall, staying with her outline of what makes a stalker continued the madness. “Nancy, it speaks to the enormous envy I’m talking about.  The fact is, what do we do when we are envious, we try to destroy the object of our envy.  Anita Bryant was beautiful as you pointed out, she could sing, and what did he do, he attacked the most beautiful part of her.  He defaced her, he wanted to humiliate her, he wanted to cut her down to size, he wanted to say ‘you are not all that’ .and we think about this perp, he’s saying this to all these stars, “you’re not all that, I’m the one that should have the limelight, …so he’s climbing over the back of others to make himself a star, showing enormous aggression while he does it, it is really an attack on their agency.”

For those of us who lived through the days of Anita Bryant, and for those of us who simply know how to google, the conversation was shocking both in its dishonesty as well as in its disrespect for the historical context of the event it described.  Author Christopher Rice posted on his Facebook page:  “This is a prominent T.V. personality replacing history with lazy, uninformed crap and it has to be called out. Taking this incident out of context and weaving it into a bland, boring story about celebrities getting harassed on red carpets is outrageous and irresponsible. If Anita Bryant reminds Nancy Grace of her mother, should we also hold Nancy Grace’s mother responsible for scores of gay suicides?”

Calling out Ms. Grace, and her minion, Dr. Bethany Marshall sounded appropriate to me as well.  Here is my open letter to them:

 Dear Ms. Grace, with a copy to Dr. Marshall,

Your recent commentary on the danger in which stars find themselves due to stalkers was perversely intriguing.  While I give you the benefit of the doubt on Brad Pitt’s recent situation, your leap into drawing a parallel with Anita Bryant was fallacious and deeply offensive.

I realize in the pace of television some facts are easy to skip, or even disregard.  It would be easy to chalk some inaccuracies up to being “honest mistakes”.  In this case, such a dismissal is a little tougher when you, Ms. Grace claimed   recall the incident from the perspective of “being a little girl”, when it actually occurred nine days before your 18th birthday.  You were actually a young adult and surely one that knew that Anita Bryant was not just some “sweet lady” singer with random conservative views.  Anyone of my generation knew she was the freshly minted lightning rod for gay hatred.

To be fair, she did not see herself that way, but many of her own supporters did.  Her son Robert Green Jr. made this clear in an interview.  He said, “I remember in the heat of the controversy going into a shop with my mom… [a man] came over and shook her hand and said he backed what she was doing and basically said “I hate fags, too.” She immediately set him straight about that, that she did not hate anyone. That wasn’t the point for her about what she was trying to do.” 

As a gay dad, father to two eleven year old boys who were adopted from foster care as babies, I can tell you that what Anita Bryant WAS trying to do was de-humanizing.  Under the rallying cry of “save our children” she fought to keep gay people from becoming school teachers.  I can only imagine what she would think of me saving mine from death and disaster at the hand of drug addicted birth parents.  She stated, “As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children.” 

Her commentary was not some benign statement of conservative political ideals, they were vile attacks on LGBT people.  She called the initial campaign “the seed of sexual sickness that germinated in Dade county “ and considered herself at war.  In an infamous Playboy Magazine interview she justified calling gay men “fruits” because “they eat the forbidden fruit of the tree of life. God referred to men as trees, and because the homosexuals eat the forbidden fruit, which is male sperm.”

So, no, Thom Higgins who mashed a strawberry rhubarb pie in her face was not imagining a personal relationship with her where he was envious of her beauty queen looks and ability to sing.  He was angry.

While on camera, she and her husband were forgiving and gracious.  Afterwards, Robert Green Sr. smashed another pie into one of the gay men’s faces in the parking lot.   

Had she gotten her way in the national campaign she launched, first in Florida and then in Kansas, my family would have no rights.  LGBT people would be unemployable, and with a health crisis on the horizon, many more of us would be dead.  Her intention still rings out, “If homosexuals are allowed their civil rights then so would prostitutes, thieves or anyone else. “ Her victory in Witchita allowed many who fought against her in the campaign there to be evicted from their homes afterwards. 

Sometimes the war for civil and human rights mirrors the laws of nature however, and Newton’s third law specifically: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. “   Anita Bryant became the image of the threat to LGBT people everywhere and her voice galvanized activism.  Her actions inspired a city politician named Harvey Milk to get elected, and gave him a voice that not only drowned hers out, it catapulted on into immortality.

As a dad, I tell my kids not to throw their food.  Thom Higgins did that, and I would have scolded him.  I also teach my sons to respect and give dignity to others.  Anita Bryant did not do that, and as such, I would have had her face some consequences for her actions.  She lost her marriage, her career and her fame.  Ultimately her efforts turned on her and she inspired a movement that was unified against all the bigotry and hatred she personified.  She paid her price.

Most of all, I require my sons to be honest and communicate with integrity.  You did not do that.  We expect better from you. 

If I was your dad, you would be getting a big timeout right now.

 

 

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About robw77

A single gay dad who cares. His story can be read here: http://www.imagaysingleparent.com/2013/02/02/rob/ and here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/31/rob-watson-gay-family_n_4689661.html
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18 Responses to A Gay Dad Sounds Off on Nancy Grace Over Her Anita Bryant Fiction

  1. Good way of telling, and pleasant post to obtain information about my presentation focus, which i am going to convey
    in university.

  2. praw27 says:

    Once again, nicely done! I remember Anita very well and how “respected” she was by my very conservative parents. It was scary growing up in a household that thought I should be put in a concentration camp so that AIDS would become extinct. The sad thing is that she perpetuated that horrid, dehumanizing thought! I did not know about Wichita, maybe that is how the town got its wacky church and reputation! Thanks for the post!

  3. KR Short says:

    Sweetie, it was a banana cream pie. Two pies were taken to Iowa, because we wanted a spare, BOTH banana cream…

  4. Michael North says:

    You can see the original footage of Anita Bryant getting the pie in the face in this Youtube video, about 40 minutes into it. It was sad and funny. She and her homophobic friends started praying for the person who “got” her. It was a turning point- gay people were not going to sit back and get pummeled by ignorant homophobes without fighting back, even back in the 1970s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=x0lGI9gBxzk&app=desktop

    • robw77 says:

      Thanks Michael. In one of the links in the article you can see Anita Bryant’s husband catch up with the guys who had the pies in the parking lot and hit one of them in the face with a spare pie. The prayer on camera was just for show.

  5. bveltrop72 says:

    It bugs me when I hear some one say gay dad or gay family because that’s not what you are. You are a dad and a family. Your sexuality and gender of your spouse shouldn’t matter. Unfortunately, in this country of freedom we have some of the most ignorant people in the world. I say this because I didn’t have a gay dad. My dad happened to be attracted to the same sex. Just like I don’t understand the marriage debate. Ok you don’t want to call it marriage because it’s a sacrament then call it a civil union. I’m an episcopalian, in the prayer book there’s a service to bless a civil union. Jesus says nothing about sexuality. He said love thy neighbor as thyself. He also said I go to my father’s house to prepare a place for you. Jesus did specify just who YOU was. He also said in Him all things were new. I spent many years mad at my dad for breaking up our family by divorcing my mom, until I realized my dad had lived his entire life hiding, ashamed, and as a lie. We lost him to AIDS in 1988 but at least he died as he truly was.
    Now for Nancy Grace- I absolutely hate and despise Nancy Grace. She is the most bigoted ignoramus I have ever seen! Who the hell did she blackmail to get her show? She continually vilifies, slanders, and libels people on her show. How does it stay on the air? She had the Anthony chick in Florida in the death chamber before she was ever arraigned and she now has to live in hiding even though she was acquitted. Same thing with Amanda Knox, the woman in Arizona, the Trayvon Martin case, and even the Birdman, who we now know was a victim of internet “catfishing”. She is not a journalist she is a gossipmonger. This is America we are innocent until proven guilty. Sorry off my soap box now.

    • robw77 says:

      Thanks for your comment bveltrop. I appreciate your opinion. While yes, I am a dad, I am also a GAY dad, and I identify that way because while many know dads in their world, many still don’t know a “gay dad”. Through the pieces here, they can get to know one and understand a “gay dad perspective”. This is important because gay parents are still vilified in many parts of our society and by us being known, that will stop. I look forward to the day where such identification is not necessary, but we are not , unfortunately, there yet. I do appreciate your thoughts, thanks for sharing.

    • “It bugs me when I hear some one say gay dad or gay family”

      You say this because you don’t understand. You say it for the same reason that racists complain about the term ‘African American’. So here is the cold hard truth:

      no one complains about identifier terms (like gay, black, female) except people who have a prejudice against those people. The English language has the ability to modify a noun, i.e. to write ‘gay dad’ or ‘black attorney’ or ‘red apple’ or ‘good mother’ for a reason – people need that level of specificity. Bear in mind, the only time anyone complains about it when it involves “suspect” or oppressed peoples, are those who have a prejudice against those people. No one complains “don’t call them red apples, they are just apples”. No one complains “don’t call her a good mother, she’s a mother”. People complain about ‘gay dad’ or ‘African American’ when they perceive some wrong with being gay, or black.

      We talk about same-sex marriage, about being gay parents, to fight the invisibility that has been forced on us by heterosexist society for some 13 centuries (or more). That invisibility made it easy for people to lie about us, to persecute us, to push vicious and degrading fantasies about us that made us the targets of systemic eradication efforts.

      “until I realized my dad had lived his entire life hiding, ashamed, and as a lie. ”

      And yet you don’t get it that by complaining about how we describe our families, you are trying to make us ashamed of our sexuality, our relationships, our lives. You are arguing for us to go back into hiding.

      I think you are still angry at your dad on some level, and are taking it out on us.

      • bveltrop72 says:

        The “you” I used was not fingerprinting it was used as a collective. During my fathers lifetime, 1946-1988, all of those things applied. He never got to truly realize who he was. He never had the chance to be with his partner and introduce him as anything more than roommate or friend. He died at 42. I dislike the term normal and I dislike labels. I have no idea where you got the notion that I’m gay bashing because I wasn’t. The truth is we are all human beings first and foremost, whether we are purple, green, or polka dotted shouldn’t matter but it does. My dad died over twenty years ago and while things are no where near the equality it should, it is leaps and bounds better than what my dad faced. I empathize because I am female and still fighting for equal pay and equal rights. I empathize because my family is Jewish and has been systematically eradicated for eons. I don’t know where you jumped to the assumption that I’m telling you to be ashamed or to go back into hiding because that was neither inferred nor said. While I don’t have a clue what being homosexual is like I do know how it feels to be discriminated against and marginalized. You are using us as a collective phrase in your reply. I was not complaining. Maybe you should try reading my post without the chip on your shoulder.

        • bveltrop72 says:

          And I was referring to my dad trying to live life like a straight married man with two kids, in regard to hiding, ashamed, and living a lie. You took that phrase out of context then attempted to call me a bigot.

        • Artemis says:

          “The truth is we are all human beings first and foremost, whether we are purple, green, or polka dotted shouldn’t matter but it does.”

          Yes, exactly. It does matter. No matter what we see ourselves as, we queers (and any oppressed minority) know that that adjective, whatever it is, not only describes us but defines how we are perceived and treated by the majority, who are not going to stop using it in whatever way they deem fit (usually derogatory) and, since how it’s used affects how people who don’t think they know us treat us, not using the terms for ourselves puts us at the mercy of those who do use them.

          “During my fathers lifetime, 1946-1988, all of those things applied. He never got to truly realize who he was. He never had the chance to be with his partner and introduce him as anything more than roommate or friend.”

          And why was that? Was it because he didn’t know what kind of relationship he had? Or was it because he was so afraid of the backlash that identifying as an adjective that had been used so negatively by so many people for so long would bring? Do you not think that he would have loved to utter the phrase “I am a gay dad” just once and have everyone just smile and nod at him? Or to hear you say, just once, casually, “Yep, that’s my gay dad”? Do you not think that being accepted as both a father and a gay man in the same breath would have given him peace even as he was dying of a disease called “Gay Cancer” by those who, like Anita Bryant, believed he should not have been allowed near his own children because he would of course rape them? A little affirmation is sometimes all we can give, and it is often the most powerful, loving thing we can do.

          I did not know your father. But I know my people, and we aren’t “just people”. I know my community, and we aren’t “just a community”. We’re queer people, in a queer community, because that IS IN FACT what defines us against the majority norm.

          We’re here. We’re QUEER. Get fucking used to it.

          • bveltrop72 says:

            WTF? Why the hell are you yelling at me, when I am not bashing or saying anything derogatory? How about you get the chip off your shoulder and actually read what I’ve written than judging me and jumping to conclusions! What I wrote is what I meant. There is no hidden meaning or agenda in my words. So chill out!
            That being said:
            I’m sure it’s difficult to be openly gay in today’s world but it was impossible in Dallas, TX in 1988. Twenty six years has passed since then. You can call yourself anything you like but I respectfully choose not to call anyone any name other than Mr., Miss, Mrs. Ms., sir, or ma’am. I ask my patients what they prefer to be called before I presume to call them anything.

          • bveltrop72 says:

            I never got to call my dad anything because I only saw him maybe twice a year and they he died when I was 15.

        • ” I have no idea where you got the notion that I’m gay bashing because I wasn’t.”
          Missed this in the shuffle, but since this article reappeared in my facebook feed –

          I got it from your post. You don’t empathize, if you did you would not make the argument you did.

          “While I don’t have a clue what being homosexual is like”
          You have no business telling us how to describe our lives. Maybe you would have a clue, if you actually listened to us instead of trying to assert your heterosexist privilege.

          ‘Maybe you should try reading my post without the chip on your shoulder. ”
          Actually, that would be you with the chip, trying to tell someone else how he should identify himself to please you.

  6. Dave Lesser says:

    Damn. I’m not sure how you just put Nancy Grace so firmly in her place with so much respect (or at least more than she deserved), but you did. Well done.

  7. Reblogged this on JerBear's Queer World News, Views & More From The City Different – Santa Fe, NM and commented:
    Setting the record straight (so to speak)…

  8. Ben in oakland says:

    Anita Bryant called me and mine child molesters, perverts, threats to all that is good and holy. She tried to disguise her hatred and contempt as Christian love, but it was simply hate and contempt dressed in its usual sunday-go-to-meetin’ drag.

    If she was a nice lady, then I guess hitler was a nice man. After all, he didn’t personally do any of the killing, he just ordered others to. And he like his vegetables, children, and dogs. He was even known to smile.

  9. Sabete says:

    Pretty pathetic that a show like that could not do its research. I had not heard of Anita Bryant until fairly recently. Google is my friend. There is simply no excuse at all for this.

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