Each week the Honey newsletter includes a column from women and LGBTQ folks in the South, in collaboration with See Jane Write. We’re always looking for more stories from you. Click here to learn more about how to get published.
By Tyler S. Hatcher
Preheat the oven. 350 is fine. Set the pans to the side. Dice up the eggplant, slice your peach. Measure out the sugar, two cups exactly. Queer Cobbler is an unusual recipe, but, if carefully prepared and left untampered, will produce a beautiful golden-brown dish sure to be enjoyed by all.
Growing up gay in the South was much like preparing a complicated recipe. At any moment, life could take a turn and yield something burnt.
It took me years—11 to be exact—more than a decade to find myself and realize I’m just not all that great at following recipes. I’m what one would call a kitchen chef. A dash of this, a pinch of that, and I’ve found that’s all you need to make something great.
Truthfully, I wish there was a recipe to being gay in the South. A recipe to follow, a dish that everyone would devour and ask for seconds. But life for a Southern gay just isn’t that sweet. It takes grit to survive here, ironclad confidence, and sharp knives. To cook up a successful life here in the South requires natural skill and finesse. Throw in a pinch of color and it downright takes every allied kitchen hand in the state to make it out alive.
Making Queer Cobbler isn’t always so delicate, though. There are parts of the recipe filled with fun and flavor. Samplings of better days and a life unforeseen. There’s a new spice fluttering around these days called inclusivity – that’s the secret ingredient. If you strive to mix in inclusive practices and welcoming spaces, everyone can eat.
While the South is slowly becoming more welcoming to all of us gay bakers, we don’t talk about giving everyone a seat at the table nearly enough. Is it really so hard to make an equal plate for all your guests? I don’t think so. Every person deserves the right to enjoy a slice of pie—or in this case, cobbler—however they see fit and with whomever they please.
For the South to produce bigger and better meals, we must first look at all the many ingredients already sitting on the shelf. We need to inventory the nationalities represented, embrace the variety of religious spice, celebrate the palettes of each beautiful soul that sums up our humidity-filled region. The people of the South are incredibly unique. We are set in our ways, we prepare our kitchen the way our elders told us, and we share an accent that lets others know we can throw down in the kitchen. So why don’t we admire all the folks and flavors that make us what we are?
I am proud to be Southern and I’m proud to be gay. I’m proud of my identity. I just don’t understand why we can’t be proud of one another. We continue to accept chefs and kitchen staff that make our lives Hell’s Kitchen and burn every effort to make a meal for us all. When we could enjoy a healthier, more palatable vegan selection that benefits us all. We just don’t want to take the time to go down the more culture-centric aisles of the grocery store to see what else we could spice things up with.
Honestly, though, it brings me joy to see us queer folk and to see the people of color here in the South living in a time when it’s okay to cook up a life together. A time when we can taste all the many flavors the South has to offer without taking so much heed to the critics of yesteryear. We finally have the luxury to concoct culinary masterpieces in remarkable peace. Now it’s time for us to stock our kitchen shelves with even more flavorful possibilities for the generations ahead.
So, you don’t need to follow any specific recipe as presented. Blend in your own seasoning and set the temperature to a heat you’re comfortable with. Ask for help when you need it and slow-bake a life that fits your own desired perfection. Ignore the others when they tell you it’s time to come out of the oven. You’re the chef of your own kitchen — you’ll know when everything’s cooked just right. You’ll know when to share a dish with hungry mouths.
Bake a life you can be proud of.
You see, making Queer Cobbler isn’t all that delicate. Just a dash of perseverance and a pinch of whatever makes you happy, and you too can share something baked to a beautiful golden brown.
Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, Tyler Hatcher graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2014 and is a marketing & public relations professional. After a successful marketing career that has taken him across the world and back, Tyler now works for himself as a marketing consultant with a focus on implementing equitable and inclusive marketing strategies. Learn more about his professional offerings at www.tylerhatcher.com