I stared at the gooey slice of pecan pie of front of me, poking it with my fork.
“Kel, is something wrong with the pie? It’s your favorite,” my mother remarked. “Want to join us on Earth? We’re just going around the table explaining the significant events in our lives this year that we’re grateful for. Want to go next?”
My sister, Liz, shot me a look across the table. This was her fault. She’d suggested this little exercise to give me an opportunity. I’d promised, after coming out to the rest of my family, friends, and colleagues, that this Thanksgiving, I’d bite the bullet and finally tell my Mormon mother. I’d spent the last two days anxiously wondering when it would happen and dodging any questions that hinted at my love life. I had it all planned out. I’d sit her down and quietly, gently bring it up—a plan that flew out the window every time I found myself alone with her and my anxiety took over.
My mom and I always had a complicated relationship. It had gotten particularly rough during my high school and college years through a messy divorce with my dad, when she’d moved to Memphis to remarry, and I’d left the Church. We’d gone through stints of screaming at each other and other periods where we wouldn’t speak for months. It had taken us a long time to heal from that, and things were finally peaceful again. I dreaded ruining all of the work we’d put towards rebuilding our relationship by waving my big fat rainbow flag.
My mother sighed. “All right then, I’ll go. This year, Mike and I bought a new car. It’s a Subaru. We love it but, you know, it’s a lesbian car.”
Liz choked on her 7UP. Trying to hide the redness in my cheeks, I ducked my head as I searched for answers in my untouched pecan pie. Did she know? What sick irony was this? She whispered the word like a piece of dirty gossip, like if she said it too loud, the devil might overhear and curse us all with (gasp) gayness.
“Actually,” my mother continued, “the company markets to lesbians! You wouldn’t know it, of course, from the ads. Normal people wouldn’t catch on. But there’s a whole science of subliminal marketing for those kinds of people.”
Something inside of me snapped. I slammed my fork onto the table.
“I’m queer, okay? I date women. I’m not straight,” I found myself shouting louder than anticipated. So much for quiet and gentle.
Liz sat quietly. My mom’s jaw dropped. My step-dad continued shoveling pie into his mouth. We sat in a painfully long silence.
“What’s ‘queer?’” Mike finally grunted from under a large, white, Republican beard as he chewed.
In a shaky voice, I carefully explained that I’d known my identity for years, and had been dating women exclusively for some time. That “queer” doesn’t have to be an antiquated, derogatory term. Liz smiled at me and nodded. I braced myself for every response I had imagined in my head as I dared to look up to at Mother.
“Well,” she said, after a pause, “you know I still love you. We all still love you. Now eat your damn pie.”
I breathed a heavy breath and took a bite that tasted like relief. She was right. It was my favorite, after all.
Kelly Victoria lives in Philadelphia. She and her partner are co-producing a short film, which you can learn about at www.gofundme.com/quartette-the-film. Her mom donated to the campaign.
1 3/4 c. white sugar
1/4 c. dark corn syrup
1/4 c. butter
1 T. cold water
2 t. cornstarch
1/4 t. salt
1 t. vanilla extract
1 1/4 c. chopped pecans
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, butter, water, and cornstarch.
Bring to a full boil, remove from heat, and allow to cool.
In a large bowl, beat eggs until frothy.
Gradually beat in cooled syrup mixture.
Stir in salt, vanilla, and pecans.
Pour into pie shell.
Bake 45 - 50 minutes, or until filling is set.