A coming out story, with pride

by Karla Carey

I find myself constantly thinking about the idea of “learning and growing”. In my younger years I associated ‘learning’ with textbooks, reading, and rote information. As an adult, my definition has expanded and I’ve found an unquenchable thirst to continue to grow as a human. 

Luckily for me, opportunities abound. In the past few years I’ve grown in ways I never expected. 

As a young adult I began identifying as bisexual. Despite this personal understanding, I never experienced anything but heteronormative relationships. In the last few years, my experience has expanded and with new information came growth. Puzzle pieces that had long been hiding in the shadows began to fit into place. Childhood memories of my Catholic upbringing and random small moments began to resurface – moments that taught me that something other than a relationship with a man might not be ideal for me; the ‘inclusive’ teaching that supported gay family relationships but still believed their personal life choices to be sin. While I’ve long been separated from Catholicism, the guilt and teachings still had a grasp on me that I couldn’t see. The one-dimensional traditional view of family was deeply ingrained and I had followed the path of least resistance.

After my divorce, I paused to reflect on who I was and what I really wanted in life. Though I still thought I fit the ‘bisexual’ label, a dating app asked me to select who I wanted to meet- men or women. I chose women. Through this simple choice, and the resulting experience that came with it, I’ve come to realize that label isn’t quite right. I’ve blossomed into someone who is more self-confident, more balanced, and has a healthier perspective on relationships – all from accepting new knowledge and truth that I am actually a lesbian. 

Rainbow Pride Bark, giving back, and a local collaboration

Well, hey, isn’t this a chocolate blog?

The opportunity to use my chocolate craft to express myself, my identity, and my values – and the courage to do so – didn’t come overnight. Long before I had accepted my identity, our founder at Laughing Gull Chocolates, Lindsay, did something very simple. She offered me a job. Not just any job- a job that fit my true self. I wanted to continue growing – but I wanted to do it with my son (a newborn at the time) by my side. The opportunity to follow one’s truth doesn’t come along just every day. I jumped. 

I’ve always been passionate about the environment, supporting the local economy, and food (ha!). The opportunity to be a Laughing Gull chocolatier brought about new information – and with it – growth. In the early days I quickly learned about cacao and chocolate – the sourcing, the ingredients, the science, and the people. I continue to delight in seeking out new knowledge every day and find glee in sharing this passion with my two best friends and business partners. Even though the work is sometimes hard, the shared passion we have that drives us often makes the work feel easy. The support from those who have similar values has also provided an influx of courage I never had in my younger years. 

One of the components of our business that always feels right is when we collaborate with local businesses, especially in giving back to the community. Our Inspired By Rochester line has given to Foodlink Rochester, Willow Center, Action for Education Equity, and Saving AJ. Small actions that feel good and push us to continue pursuing the hard parts of our jobs. We’ve expanded our giving back to include Support Your Sistahs – part of a Reproductive Justice Center in Texas. In a time that feels like many components of our world and government are spiraling uncontrollably, using our business for good gives us a sense of control over senseless things. 

As rights and people continue to be pushed into the darkness through acts like the “Don’t say gay” bill in Florida and other state laws suppressing gender identity and expression, we decided to bring a colorful new project into the light. Doing so has given me the opportunity to express my personal journey and connect with a new community. I am proud to be able to create a product that shows the delight I have for my true self and the pride I have in others who are shining through the darkness alongside me. Our Rainbow Pride bark begins with a thin layer of smooth dark chocolate. Our clean and delicious white chocolate is colored into 5 soft but vibrant colors with strawberry powder, tangerine powder, matcha tea powder, butterfly pea flower powder, and dragonfruit powder. Powders create light fruity flavors and allow us to stay true to our mission of clean and natural ingredients. In true Karla style, I’ve artistically and enthusiastically piped the rainbow onto the dark chocolate to create layers of color and flavor. The freedom to design and create this product has been helpful in connecting two unique parts of my identity that have grown and flourished in the last few years.

The second component of this project was a collaboration with local queer artist Anna, of Anna Parade. A quote from her website says “I have a sneaky feeling that every single person on this earth deserves to be celebrated – every single body, every identity, every gender – and I want to throw a parade for every single one of you.” How absolutely fitting for our Pride project. She created a beautiful “Made with PRIDE” sticker to sell alongside our rainbow bark.

For every bag of bark we sell, we are donating $1.50 to The Trevor Project, and $1 for each sticker. The Trevor Project combines individual outreach and assistance with national action and policy advocacy. This organization hits every box for what we want to support in the America we are raising our kids in. Learn more about The Trevor Project here.

I will continue to grow through cacao and chocolate, through self discovery, through business ownership and friendship, and through parenthood. Some of this knowledge might be forced upon me, some I will seek out. As I learn, I hope that the positive impact of being true to myself, how it spreads like wildfire to reach the hearts and souls of others, continues to push me towards growth and discovery and being my best, truest self for those around me. For those in my LGBTQIA+ community, shine on with your true beautiful selves, the world is better for having you.