My grandpa outed my aunt to me on a road trip to Tennessee.
“I think she’s a lesbian,” he half-whispered from of the side of his mouth. Not maliciously, just as a matter-of-fact, second-guessing himself as the words tumbled out. I was in my late teens and it was the first time I had ever heard the word.
Years later, on the way to my grandpa’s funeral with my aunt, she confessed, “I have something tell you.” I already knew what she was going to say. “You’re gay.” I told her the story that grandpa had told me on that road trip to the Tennessee mountains. She was shocked that I had known all that time, and not said a word about it.
For me, the idea of identifying as a lesbian or as queer wasn’t a big, thought-out process. I didn’t question: “Does kissing a girl make me queer?” I was just living in the moment.
It wasn’t until my late 20s when a friend confessed to me she was bi, that I put words to how I felt inside: “I’m bi, too,” I told her. Labeling myself at that very second was the first time it every really came out of my mouth.
I didn’t have the vocabulary to understand the significance of visibility. My sociology degree changed that. I think studying ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ from a sociological perspective helped me feel more surrounded and comfortable by the conversation. Examining oppression and marginalization is why visibility became important for me.
My first degree in college, though, was not sociology. I wanted to be an artist. I owe this in part to my grandfather. I would sit down for hours at my cousins’ dinner table in Tennessee over those fourth of July weekends and Christmas breaks and draw Disney characters from VHS boxes. I was a natural (or so they told me).
It was my grandmother, though, who inspired my love for chocolate.
My grandparents built the house where I was raised in. Tucked away in a nondescript pull-out drawer between the refrigerator and their pantry, my grandma secretly hid bags of Nestle chocolate chips, each one secured with a little clip to hold them tightly shut from prying hands.
It was easy to sneak a few whenever I got a chance. As I would grab a handful, I would turn around to look behind pantry, and there my grandmother would be, ready to jump out and nab me. Ostensibly, those chocolate chips were there to make cookies – but I never did see a damn chocolate chip cookie.
My passion for art and chocolate is rooted in these family memories.
Encouraged throughout school by family and teachers to grow my talent, I pursued a formal art education in college. But I didn’t feel that my art was valued. When I left with my degree, I left feeling like a deflated balloon. It made me think that art was simply not going to be in my life anymore.
I returned to school six years later to study sociology, and entered a graduate a year later in 2010. I went on to study rural agriculture sociology in a PhD program, but it wasn’t for me. After a three-year hiatus, I returned to Muncie, where I reconnected with my wife, who I met in graduate school at Ball State. We craved a queer community, and to build something together that reflected both our passions and experience.
Enter Queer Chocolatier.
It was honestly when I stumbled upon a truffle recipe on the back of a Ghirardelli bag of chocolate chips that things started to click.
I thought, oh, this has three ingredients: I can make this. This doesn’t look too hard and I like chocolate. Oh, I thought, “This tastes really good.”
Something in my art degree kind of woke back up and said, I wonder if there’s any flavors that I can do to make this.
There’s orange chocolate, and flavors that go with chocolate like raspberry and mint. OK, let’s play with some of these, dialing in and then getting creative. Now, I want to play with spicy chocolate, now I want to play with alcohol and chocolate.
In this moment now, I’m thinking: “What can I do with chocolate pasta or chocolate ravioli for the Queer Chocolatier chocolate house? Would I make it savory or a sweet dessert type of dish? Are there other elements of classical baking confectionary work that I can do that would be well-made but also Morgan-made?”
I’m not sure the name of our business would be as powerful or meaningful if Hillary had been elected president. But the personal is always political, and my personal identity is now intricately tied to our business.
Queer Chocolatier is really kind of a miracle for me. It ties everything together that is Morgan. It brings my love of food and my passion for social justice and queer community and art all together. Even my photography and logo design are a form of creative expression. I didn’t foresee using my art degree, but I am grateful for it.
I’m blending all the things I love about my past experiences. Even my experience as a stockbroker comes into play. There’s nothing that happened before Queer Chocolatier that isn’t a key part of Queer Chocolatier.
But I don’t tell people that I’m an expert in chocolate. I’m passionate about chocolate, and where it comes from and how and who grows the cacao beans. I’m passionate about the process of chocolate—not just how to make truffles.
It lends some additional credibility to me in the sense that I’m not just a flash in the pan saying, “I’m queer” and that makes me a cool business to support just because I’m queer. I am just as much a chocolatier as I am queer.
– Morgan Roddy ‘s Story as Told by Cheri Ellefson
Morgan is a native Hoosier and a graduate from the BSU Sociology Master’s Program, studying on food, agriculture, and community. She found a way to merge these passions into one by co-founding Queer Chocolatier, whose mission is to craft high-quality chocolate while standing in solidarity with marginalized communities.
Cheri Ellefson teaches gender and international women’s issues courses at Ball State University and offers community workshops on ‘unlearning gender.’ She co-owns Queer Chocolatier with her wife and serves on the advisory board for the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies.
This story originally appeared in Facing LGBTQ+ Pride in Muncie, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Muncie OUTreach in Muncie, Indiana.