Why a Gay Cupcake is Worth a Thousand Words

Originally published on Freedom to Marry's blog.

I went home to Philadelphia this weekend for my college graduation party with my family, and when I got home, I was greeted with a delicious-looking surprise: Two dozen rainbow cupcakes were cooling on the kitchen table. They weren't exactly rainbow - the cake portion was green, yellow, and red, and my mom explained that she found a recipe for cupcakes made with lime, lemon, and strawberry Jell-O mix.

"Mom," I said, smiling as she explained how adorable the new springtime recipe was. "You made me gay cupcakes?"

Mom's face froze as it dawned on her that in the context of a June graduation party for her gay son, these "springtime" cupcakes would almost definitely be read as a proclamation of Pride.

Her expression relaxed as she realized that she didn't care. "I guess they are pretty gay," she conceded.

I came out to my parents almost four years ago, and after a few hiccups, we've reached a place where I'm able to talk about the boys I like just as openly as my straight sisters talk about the boys they like or my brother talks about his female fiancé. My parents have even grown into passive advocates; every time they talk with their friends and family members about my new job at Freedom to Marry, they stand behind me and support my work for this campaign.

On Saturday, the day of the graduation party, Mom was spreading frosting on the cupcakes when I suggested that we decorate them with rainbow sprinkles. "If we're going to put out gay cupcakes, we might as well go all in, right?," I asked.

My mom managed to one-up me - "We should hang a Pride flag on the platter," she said, before one-upping even herself: "Wait! We should print out the Freedom to Marry logo!"

It was a big suggestion for her to make. I only came out officially (whatever that means) to my extended family a year ago, when I brought my first boyfriend home to celebrate my 21st birthday. The aunts, uncles, and cousins were fine with me personally being gay, but for some, issues like marriage were still challenging, and their love for me didn't automatically translate into support for the freedom to marry.

By slapping the Freedom to Marry logo on these rainbow cupcakes on the dessert table, my mom was effectively ensuring that no one could avoid the fact that my next step after graduation would be working as a marriage advocate. The logo, I think, opened the door for some of my on-the-fence family members to ask questions about my job. I helped them understand how many states had already won marriage, the ways in which President Obama's announcement contributed to our work, and why marriage specifically is important to same-sex couples. I felt like the cupcakes provided me a window to share these earnest conversations about the freedom to marry.

These cupcakes may not be the official Freedom to Marry cupcake (the organization is well ahead of me on that one), but this simple display of rainbow baked goods and the Freedom to Marry logo was really significant for me. It represented how my family has become more open about discussing gay issues, the ways in which my parents and siblings have stood beside me in preparation for any negative push-back, and how confidently my mother is willing to assert that her son works on an issue that is still contentious in our country.

We often underestimate the significance of these small actions - like transforming "springtime" desserts into "Freedom to Marry" cupcakes, or having a conversation about why we're passionate about marriage. But we've seen over and over again that sometimes the smallest actions have the largest impacts. When we take the time to explain why marriage matters to our friends and family members - especially those who maybe aren't entirely in support of the freedom to marry - we continue propelling the national conversation on marriage forward. Gay cupcakes aren't even required - although they certainly are delicious.

Freedom to Marry / By Adam Polaski

Posted at July 3, 2012, 9:30am

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