I had a disturbing dream last night. I guess you could call it a homophobic nightmare. The fact is, wherever I turned in the dream, from McDonald’s to ESPN, charges of “homophobia” and “transphobia” were flying.
First I dreamed that I was sitting at McDonald’s with our two granddaughters, aged 12 and 6, and they needed to use the bathroom. “Go ahead kids,” I said. “I can see you from here.”
Off they went, under my watchful eyes, the older girl holding the younger girl’s hand, until they disappeared into the ladies room. But seconds later, they came running out, shocked.
“Grandpa, there’s a man wearing a dress in there!”
Stunned, I went to talk to the manager, but he informed me that this was the official policy of the franchise, pulling out a document that read, “We respect the rights of all customers and employees. We believe all people must have access to safe and dignified bathroom facilities regardless of their gender identity or expression. . . . Employees and customers may use any restroom that corresponds with and is based upon the gender identity they publicly and exclusively assert or express.”
When I asked him how this new policy respected the rights of my granddaughters to have access to safe and dignified bathroom facilities, he said I sounded homophobic (actually, “transphobic” was the word he used.)
Still stunned, I explained to the girls that my heart went out to this man, who was obviously very confused, and that we should pray for him. Then we headed back home where some of the neighborhood kids were having an animated discussion. Some of the older ones – perhaps high school age – were really passionate, so I asked them what they were talking about.
“Our school is so mean,” one of them said. “There’s a really cool guy who was born a girl and ran for Prom King, but our principal said he could only run for Prom Queen – even though she’s been a guy for one whole year!”
“Our principal is so homophobic!” another student opined. “You mean transphobic,” yet another student explained.
My mind was becoming numb. Yes, I cared about this young person, but what was the message for the other kids? And what were my grandkids thinking?
At that point my wife called our girls inside for dinner, and I went straight to my computer to check out the story. Was it really true? Sure enough, it was, and the ACLU was taking up the offended student’s cause.
“Time for a break!” I thought to myself – but it’s not because I dislike LGBT people. In fact, when I was just 5 ½ years old, my first music teacher was an openly gay man, and he would come to our house to give lessons to my sister and me, often accompanied by his partner. And both of them would then join us for dinner.
So, I grew up without a hint of “homophobia,” and, more importantly, as a follower of Jesus, it is second nature for me to treat everyone with dignity and respect, regardless of our differences. It’s just that I didn’t expect my granddaughters to encounter a man in the ladies room at McDonald’s, nor did I expect a girl wanting to be Prom King to be the topic of discussion among the neighborhood kids.
Getting back to the dream, as I was researching the Prom King story, I spotted a link on BBC News about Richard O’Brien, writer of the hit musical The Rocky Horror Show. According to the headline, he now described himself as “70% man.”
“What in the world?” I thought to myself.
So I clicked on the link to the article, which contained a totally unexpected, really sad picture. (If you think I’m exaggerating, go to the article.)
According to the story, “a decade ago, he started taking the female hormone oestrogen - and is happy with the results. . . . He has also developed small breasts. But O'Brien is not intending to go further and have sex reassignment surgery.”
“Enough with this!” I said to myself.
To be sure, I felt nothing but pity for this poor man, even if that makes me homophobic (or, transphobic) in some people’s eyes, but I was determined to change subjects, so I went over to the ESPN home page, only to find that the lead story was about . . . homosexuality. Who would be the first gay athlete to come out? And there was another article on Magic Johnson’s gay son, and another article on the top female college basketball player, who was also openly gay.
“Can’t I just enjoy sports for a few minutes without homosexuality coming up again?”
So I decided to go to another sports website, but there was breaking news there too: Jason Collins had just come out as the first openly gay NBA player.
Yes, I care about him as an individual too, but I had to wonder: Is homosexuality the biggest sports story out there?
So I turned on the TV to catch up on the latest scores, except the subject was not the NBA playoffs or the NFL draft. Instead, sports pundits were ganging up on ESPN reporter Chris Broussard who, when asked his opinion as a Christian about Jason Collins’ claim to be a practicing homosexual Christian, gave a straightforward Christian answer. “How homophobic!” everyone cried out.
And then I came to a startling realization. This was not a dream after all. I was awake the whole time.
This was a slice of America, April, 2013. Who can imagine what April, 2014 will look like?
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.