Earlier this year, my usually peaceful Greenway Plaza neighborhood was invaded one Saturday afternoon by a couple of men holding gigantic protest signs. One sign proclaimed “Homosexuality Is A Sin.” Another sign listed an ecumenical litany of reasons for their God of Love to send folks to hell, ranging from “unsavory” behaviors like homosexuality to horrendous acts of violence like rape and murder.
Loyal WAW readers may recall how, at that time, I considered honking my horn in disapproval, but feared the beep might be mistaken as a gesture of support. I vowed then and there to begin carrying some rolled-up poster board and a Magic Marker in the trunk of my car, ready to deploy when such occasions presented themselves. It’s my free speech too, after all.
Truth be told, I never got around to stockpiling those poster boards and Magic Marker in my trunk. On a more recent Saturday afternoon, as I rolled through the intersection of Westheimer Road and Montrose Boulevard, I wished that I had.
Bulldog Ministries, as friends have come to call these men, had planted themselves at Houston’s gayest crossroads and was open for business with their sin signs, bullhorn, and bad vibes.
Timing, as they say in comedy and juggling chainsaws, is everything, and the Bulldogs had picked the wrong time to bring the message of the “sin” of homosexuality to my other neighborhood of Montrose. I had just come from an Assist-Hers meeting—a selfless group of women who for the last 20 years have been taking care of the needs of lesbians when they fall on hard, unhealthy times. LHI (Lesbian Health Initiative), another one of our city’s outstanding organizations improving the lives of lesbians, had delivered the featured talk that morning, concentrating on steps women can take to better care for themselves and each other.
At that very meeting, a round of on-site screenings found a dear friend’s blood pressure to be at stroke level. Sweeping into action, AssistHers’ president swept her to a clinic, where she was treated. Our friend is now on her way back to better health.
Caring for the sick, loving our neighbors—that’s how my lesbian friends and I had spent our morning. Some threatening Gay Agenda, right? Bulldog Ministries had evidently spent their morning putting new batteries in their bullhorn so that everyone in Montrose could hear how my friends and I would burn in hell. I wonder who Jesus was more proud of that day.
Driving past the corner where the Bulldogs were spewing their hate, I noticed one lone young man mounting a counter-protest. The small, barely legible sign he had spontaneously fashioned from the back of a Papa John’s pizza box proclaimed the familiar taunt, “This Guy Sucks!” with an arrow pointing at Bulldog-in-Chief, Pastor Dave.
Before you could say “Hey, Walgreens sells poster board and Magic markers!” I returned to the corner, armed and inspired. We counter-protesters quickly made our own signs. That first young man replaced his feeble pizza box, still informing passers-by that “This Guy Sucks!” but now against a big, bright, cheeseless orange background.
More and more counterprotestors joined us, seizing the Magic Markers to make their own signs. “Jesus Loves Whores” appeared, along with “Gay Is Good.” The whimsical “This Protest Is Gay” sign offered a sense of irony.
A “Honk for Equality” sign quickly turned the intersection into a small but loud and passionate pre-Pride celebration. Difference was, everyone on Westheimer that day was sober, adequately attired, and—whether supporting them or discouraging them—focused on gay rights.
A pick-up truck pulled into the adjacent parking lot, unfurling two large rainbow flags, blaring dance music from a generator-powered PA system, escalating the noise level. The Bulldog with the bullhorn yelled directly in the face of one of the pro-gay guys who tried to match him decibel-for-decibel, though without benefit of a sound-amplifying device. Bullhorn Guy, by now glassy-eyed and giddy, oddly observed as the other guy’s voice got raspier and raspier, “The Lord is making him hoarse! The Lord is turning him into a horse!”
I’m no doctor, but I couldn’t help suggesting to him, “Or, it could be the pollen.”
I struck up a conversation with the senior member of the Bulldogs’ troupe, an elderly gentleman who, it turns out, has a gay grandson. I shared with him my experience with my own family’s rejection of my homosexuality and the consequences of that whole love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin thing.
Throughout our 15-minuteish conversation, Grandpa refused to make eye contact with me. Was he afraid to peer into my soul, or afraid I might peer into his?
I asked him, biblical doctrine aside, if he thinks it’s fair that, in Texas, it’s legal for a gay person to lose his job, regardless of how well he performs that job, simply because he is gay? No, he replied, but fat people lose their jobs all the time, too, just for being fat.
When it sunk in that Grandpa was not only calling me a sinner but a fat one, to boot, I’d had enough. I needed to get back to my Gay Agenda of grocery shopping and doing a couple loads of laundry before finishing off my wild night by walking to the post office to mail my income tax return. Mamas, hide your daughters!
Frankly, I didn’t expect to change Grandpa’s mind that day. I quit worrying about trying to change my family’s mind years ago, after God—the God the Bulldogs claim exclusively as their own—told me in no uncertain terms: “It is not your
job to convince them. It’s your job to
Seems it’s also my job to keep that Magic Marker handy.