How one dad and performer is teaching his son about the people who helped make their family possible—and passing down family traditions, one casserole and banana pudding at a time.

Will Nolan
June 01, 2021
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Banana Pudding
Credit: Brie Passano

I have always had a complicated relationship with Pride Month. Ever since I came out in my early 20s, I have found the need to "celebrate" my pride unnecessary. I never wanted to be on a float or in a parade telling the world I was gay. I just wanted to live my life quietly. Luckily, I have been with a partner for 23 years who feels the same way. I know, that makes us bad gays, probably. Hopefully the fact that we worship Kelly Clarkson, Indigo Girls and Broadway wins us some points back?

When our son was born and then when gay marriage was legalized in New Jersey and later by the Supreme Court, I got it. Pride wasn't just about lots of glitter and rainbow everything, it was about celebrating the history of the incredible women and men who came before us and paved the way so that we could live our lives quietly if we wanted. They made noise so that we wouldn't have to. And our son needed to know that. 

Will Nolan with his husband and son
The author (on the left) with his son and husband.
| Credit: Will Nolan

Celebrating Pride, weaving that more consciously into our family life, meant parties. For years, we hosted a Big Gay Ice Cream social at our house. It was a chance for all the gay families (and straight families too!) in our lives to hang out and binge on ice cream. We even had a bounce house for the kids (and usually the adults as the night wore on and the ice cream turned to iced cocktails)! Pride became something joyous for my son and our "gayborhood" of friends because it was another celebration and, like most good celebrations, it centered around food. My son loved (and still loves) helping us prep for guests and has become quite a chef in his own right.

Baked cheesy potatoes
Credit: Jason Donnelly

So many family rituals revolve around food for my family, and my 14-year-old is learning these traditions. Being from the South, I always tell him that with a can of cream of mushroom soup and a Pyrex dish, you can feed anybody. For religious holidays like Easter and Christmas we make potato casserole (aka Funeral Potatoes), for Passover and Rosh Hashana we make brisket and kugel. And for Pride, it's all about the Buffalo chicken dip and banana pudding—because at the end of the day, the best part of any meal are the appetizers and desserts. Try to serve him banana pudding in October and he'll pass, saying, "Thanks but I only eat that in June." 

Last year, Pride was virtual, so our celebration was quieter. We watched drag queens on Zoom and our only parade was back and forth to the kitchen. This year, though, as the world reopens, I'm excited to get together with our vaccinated, safe little gayborhood and celebrate our collective queer history again. But I'm especially excited for the banana pudding.

Will Nolan is a writer and performer, known for his award-winning drag persona Leola, a senior citizen lesbian on a mission to heal the world one audience at a time, teaching gay history to straight people and preaching about Kelly Clarkson. He lives with his husband and son in northern New Jersey. Visit www.leolasladyland.com for more info.