Bailey Hanks is more than a chicken sandwich


I have to toss my hat in the ring on this Bailey Hanks feeding frenzy. I just returned from a seven-week stint in Birmingham, Alabama playing Emmett to her sparkling Elle and Bailey Hanks is charming and sweet, just as I expected her to be.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I fully support a strong fight for equality and have been quite vocal in that charge. It upsets me that the  president of Chik-fil-A donates significant funds to organizations that work hard to keep me less-than-equal in the United States. Seeing so many people turn out to glibly support a company’s thinly veiled PR campaign (“Chik-fil-A Appreciation Day”) turned my stomach. And yes, Bailey Hanks did tweet a photo of her meal on that day.

Which brings us to the crux of the issue: Bailey Hanks is not mean spirited nor is she outwardly hateful to the gays in her life. Neither is she terribly worldly nor strikingly politically active. I can’t expect everyone in my life to agree with my opinions, but I do expect my colleagues to treat me with respect in the workplace. And whether or not Bailey believes me to be living in sin, she was kind and generous in the theatre, treating me like anyone else in the cast regardless of sexual orientation.

And I don’t presume her to be duplicitous in the least. But even if she is being two-faced, I can hardly hold that against her. To quote my dear RuPaul, “What other people think of me is none of my damn business.” Now, what other people say and do to me are entirely my business, and by those standards Bailey is a friend.

I honestly believe that Bailey Hanks posted that photo of her meal because she loves those damn chicken sandwiches SO MUCH. Typing the caption for her Instagram, I can’t imagine her thinking, “Hahahaha, fuck you GayMerica! I’ll eat this sandwich and trample on your rights.” Is inadvertent support for inequality still offensive? Absolutely. Do I think her action stems from ignorance rather than hate? 100%.

Ignorance is never an excuse, but it is frequently an explanation.

It’s easy to slam her in this situation. Her post coincided with a Facebook avalanche of pithy photos and quotes taking up arms against Chik-fil-A. How could she not know what she was doing? But to assume she’s a bigot and that she’s schemingly used the gays for her own personal gain is too simple. The challenging option here is to ask her how she feels. Is Bailey informed on the issues facing gay citizens today? I don’t know, I never asked her. Perhaps some of you got in touch with Bailey before going live with your posts, but surely she had already received enough vitriol to properly push her into disappearance. Our path to equality is paved in education, not excoriation. Inviting our opponents into dialogue is essential to moving forward.

And yes, there are times to scream. When Rick Santorum likens my homosexuality to polygamy, incest and adultery? I will be loud. When Bailey Hanks posts a photo of her meal, a picture that unashamedly supports my foe? I will be kind.

Here’s where I stand: Bailey, I know you, I know you’re a good person. I’d like to hear how you feel about marriage equality and gay rights in America. If you agree with my stances, fantastic. I’ll kindly ask you to rethink your support of Chik-fil-A and know that we all have to pick our battles. If you disagree with my views (as is your prerogative), then I invite you talk. I’d like to understand where you’re coming from and hope to share my path with you as well.  Now, there is a third option. If you neither agree nor disagree with my opinions on gay rights, but rather, have little information on the current events, I’d like to help you understand what’s happening in this country right now. Deal?

I am a gay man and among my many parents are lesbian mothers. The legal challenges facing my family are absurd and unfair. I hope that my rights aren’t subject to money spent at a fast-food joint. I want to get married and I want to continue working with the same wonderful people I’ve had the honor of working with in NYC and abroad. Bailey, I count you among those people. I hope you think as highly of me, but more than that, I hope (and presume) you want to learn about the adversity your colleagues face every day. I don’t doubt that you are and will continue to be an advocate for equality. I know it’s in your heart.

Much love,


*Update: 8/11/12*
My reaction to a reader on Facebook who questioned why Bailey hasn’t responded more quickly with something other than her religion as defense:

I see your point, wanting Bailey to mount a stronger defense than “I’m a Christian.” But in all the time I worked with her I never experienced cleverly stated, scholarly-wrought arguments and discussion from Bailey. That’s not who she is. Why expect her to flourish with wit and intelligence now, under fire? In fact, she responded just as I thought she would. When we’re put in a corner most of us fall back on the things that are basic to us, and for Bailey that is her relationship with Christ. I don’t think she means to avoid defense by invoking religion, I actually think she has no other way to explain herself. She’s defended her actions in the most heartfelt and logical way she can think of. It may not be what you want to hear, but why expect a cat to bark?

We use the words we know in the ways we understand. I’m trying to hear Bailey in her language, not mine.







  1. Jamie McGonnigalAugust 11, 2012 at 3:42 pm Edit #

    Hey there Dan,

    I’m the guy who kinda started this whole thing. And I thank you for your thoughts. For the record, I don’t believe Bailey deserves quite the level of anger and vitriol that has been leveled at her. Unfortunately I have no control over how people respond. I do know however, that when people feel hurt and betrayed – especially after a lifetime of hearing “there’s something wrong with you,” it’s easy to lash out.

    I spent my whole life doing theatre, and feeling like there was something wrong with me. I made it to New York and I was where I belonged. I was in a place of support and love – a place that my hometown never provided. And I’m not alone in that part of my journey. So when someone in your community does something to tell you “there’s something wrong with you,” it rips the rug out from under you. And when you have that feeling, it’s frightening and frustrating.

    I tried to contact Bailey through Facebook messages and Twitter and all she wrote back was “I’m a Proud Christian.” That exacerbates the problem, it doesn’t solve it. I don’t agree for a second that she happened to stumble into a Chick-fil-A on Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day with no clue as to what it was all about. This was one of the most covered stories I have ever seen. Every major media outlet and everyone on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and everywhere else was talking about it. It would literally be impossible to live in this country and NOT know what the situation was about.

    You choose to give her the benefit of a really enormous doubt here, and that’s your prerogative. She’s your friend, I get it. But you said it all here: “Is Bailey informed on the issues facing gay citizens today? I don’t know, I never asked her.” She can say she supports gay people all she wants, but not for a second do I believe she went to Chick-fil-A and tweeted her support without knowing the implications of that. I think it’s quite possible that like many anti-gay Christians, she saw what she was doing as “Pro-Christian” and not “Anti-Gay.” But upon being told quite plainly that Chick-fil-A has given millions to groups who want to see gay people put to death in some countries, her response was not “I was unaware of that, I’m sorry.” It was “I’m a Proud Christian.” And that’s a bigger mistake than her original visit to the fast food restaurant. That’s where she essentially said “I don’t care how it makes you feel, I will continue to support this incredibly anti-gay chicken chain.”


    • Dan KohlerAugust 13, 2012 at 3:49 pm Edit #

      Hi Jamie-

      Thanks for responding, it’s great to keep the dialogue open.

      I posted a response to your comment here, but realized it was too long and moved it over to its own post for easier reading. Check it out here:


  2. JayAugust 12, 2012 at 11:17 pm Edit #

    You seem to think that because she is a “nice” person and not very bright that she isn’t a bigot. That’s nonsense. I remember my Louisiana Grandmother, whom I loved, saying was outrageous that people in the North called her prejudiced because she was an ardent supporter of segregation. She did not hate colored people, she said, and even helped some. But her Southern Baptist pastor told her that God did not want the races mixing, so she donated to the White Citizens’ Council and voted for George Wallace and every other segregationist that she could. Was she a racist? She didn’t think so, but believe me she was. Likewise, this dimwit is a bigot.


    • Dan KohlerAugust 13, 2012 at 3:58 pm Edit #

      While I know she is a nice person, and not terribly educated, what I’m saying is this: If she’s bigoted, that’s her prerogative. She entered the work place with professionalism and treated me with respect. I can’t expect my colleagues to hold my opinions outside of the workplace. Though in this case, I know Bailey to be apologetic for her post. Don’t get me wrong, supporting Chik-fil-A is nowhere on my agenda, but I won’t condemn her for eating there. We all pick our battles. You don’t have to like her, you don’t have to eat at Chik-fil-A, but based on my relationship with her before this went down, I will still hold her as a friend. I will also try to engage her in dialogue to educate her on the issues that matter to me as a gay man.



ABC, I’m coming for you.

I began writing this post a week before Anderson Cooper came out publicly. I’d be remiss to neglect the importance of his declaration, and I’m not being glib. Our greatest strength on the path to equality is visibility. I applaud and encourage everyone who comes out, celebrity or neighbor. My thoughts on gender identity in media below…


The short story:
I made this audition video three weeks ago, just before I jaunted off to Alabama for the summer. The last one (for Food Network Star) was a hoot to shoot so I figured it was only logical to try my hand again. This time I’m auditioning for ABC’s latest cooking show. I don’t know whether they’re looking for personalities, chefs or some hedonistic combination of the two, but I wanted to throw my hat in with this snappy video recipe for Berry Clafoutis.

The long story:
As I am wont to do with most things I produce, I showed it to my mother. When it was finished playing she let out a withering, “Do you want me to tell you what I think?”

I boned up and told her, yes, I’d like to hear her opinion, though in truth, by the time anyone finishes asking that question you already have a good idea of what might come next. She told me she didn’t recognize the man on screen. She thought I came off affected, and, meaning no offense, quite gay. She expressed her confusion, was this how I wanted to portray myself? Something I was trying? An on-camera experiment? It was so very different from what she was used to, from the on-camera son she knew.

In the moment, I told her it was something I had wanted to try for a while. Yes, an experiment, but also something I dashed to get recorded before I had to board a plane to Birmingham. We sloughed it off and got back to the business of packing (I was helping my moms move out of their apartment). I had a feeling this was meant to be a larger conversation, but at the time didn’t want to initiate a capital Family Discussion.

I knew it would surprise my mom to find me acting stereotypically flamboyant on camera in great part because I had always played it rather straight at home. But my “straight-acting” self wasn’t a conscious decision, it wasn’t born out of self-hatred; I wasn’t trying to sublimate my sequined heart. My parents are the epitome of support and neither my gender and sexual identities nor my choice of a career in the arts have ever been contentious. My personality at home is a fairly neutral, relaxed version of myself; an outcome of having such a loving and uplifting family.

And part of having such a strong support system is the responsibility to see things from my parents’ perspective. As a parent, I imagine one believes she knows the very core of her child, and that of all the endless possibilities, the version she knows is the most true, the most authentic, the most real. But, in reality, the “me” my mother knows is, indeed, just one variation, one point on spectrums of both character and gender.

It must be startling then, to look at a perfect representation of your child and see him performing and entirely different role, a variation on gender which, up until now, you had known only in the abstract. Is it a character? Is he pretending to be this way?

You see, my mother knows I’m gay. We talk about dates with men, she has seen photos of my glittery nights and she knows I identify with the queer community. But at the same time, she has never actually met anyone I’ve dated (having never had a boyfriend), she’s never been out dancing with me (bringing her to CHERYL is questionable at best), and she has never seen me in the company of my chosen community. As such, my gay life is almost entirely theoretical to my family, while to my friends, the makeup-wearing, lovingly affected dandy I portray is part and parcel of who I am.

How difficult it must be to see someone you know so well acting in a way that stands in such stark contrast to your understanding of their spirit. Knowing that my mom was seeing a side of me she had never witnessed made me wonder what parts of her I haven’t yet met. How does my grandfather see her? What version of my mom does my sister know? Will I ever know those variations on mom? Can I know them? Should I know them?

Watching the video through mom’s eyes I also see the fear that might creep into her heart upon seeing her son act in a manner that might pigeon-hole him in his chosen career. Let’s be honest, I am better served to let a casting office believe I am straight (without lying) than I am to walk into an audition with an outsized personality that distracts them from my work. Much like Anderson Cooper says in his letter, I am a storyteller and blending in can be as important as standing out.

Having had these conversations with my mom, I’m fairly positive she watched the video and thought, “Is this castable? Does he want the networks to see him in this way?” And she’d be right to ask those questions. Despite the growing acceptance of the LGBTQ community, it’s still risky to be an out-and-loud personality in mainstream media. Ideally we’d live in a world that could judge talent and ability equally with or without foreknowledge of sexual orientation. But we don’t live in that society, and consequently, I’d be foolish to pretend we do.

Gender is performative and I am an actor; I was, quite literally, born to play this role. Knowing when and where to employ my various social costumes is essential to pushing boundaries, both my own and the lines drawn in our grand cultural sandbox. I’ve got a gaggle of personae in the clown-car of my body and each of them deserves a turn at the wheel.

This video, something that was hastily shot and edited, launched me into a 7-car pileup of gender and identity questions. Many thanks to those of you who made it through this post. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Isn’t it electrifying to imagine just how little we know of each other?

Maybe my mom will introduce me to another side of her. (Love you Mom!)






24 Responses to “ABC, I’m coming for you.”

  1. emily | nomnivorousJuly 3, 2012 at 2:06 pm Edit #

    Dan, I have to tell you that I laughed heartily at the video and think you’d be a great on-camera food person. The last lines “All I want to do is talk about food. Feed you. Feed the people you love.” All that? I love it. It’s what I want to do with my life too.

    The post also got my brain spinning. You’ve been able to articulate the thing I couldn’t. I always felt like there were Emilys that my family never knew, and would have never been able to really “get”. And as soon as I moved to NY, it got worse. There’s so much of me that my family doesn’t see, so they completely don’t get. And it’s made me distance myself from them. I feel bad doing it, but you’ve spelled it out in a way that I “get” better.

    Also, a friend is telling me I should try out for this thing. Yep, my brain is a swimmin’ with a million thoughts. And I have quite the essay going!


    • Dan KohlerJuly 3, 2012 at 3:24 pm Edit #

      Emily! Thanks for the kind words. I sent this to my mom before posting and it sparked an interesting dialogue. She said she didn’t think that she had other versions of herself, that while she may present herself differently in a business situation than a familial one, that those were both basically the same mom I already know.

      It made me wonder, is the feeling of having so many faces an experience that one passes through in one’s twenties? Will I reach my mom’s age and find I’m presenting one version of “me” to the world? Or is this something that is new with our generation? Is this an experience brought on by the sharp uptick in technology in our lives? Do I have “multiple personalities” because I’m a member of so many divergent communities, some that are entirely digital?

      Clearly my mind is still jumbly on this.

      And yes, you MUST audition for the show! If not now, when?


  2. TonopahJuly 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm Edit #

    There is only one you. It would be logically inconsistent to say there are lots of you. Perhaps you emphasize different parts of yourself at different times. But those are the faces you always make, the way you have always had of making someone laugh, of inviting them into your kitchen, of making the craft of cooking seem simultaneously simple and elegant, of being genuine, of being interesting to watch, of telling stories, of being Dan. There is only one Dan, and he is effing awesome in all his presentations.

    Gender and sexuality get a lot trickier. They seems to deserve a constant and vigilant conversation. Perhaps not about what they are, but what they are not. Gender nor sexuality shouldn’t define a person; I’m not a girl, I’m a person passionate about helping people. I don’t wear dresses because I am “supposed” to but because they are comfortable. I’m not interested in men because I chose to be, but thats not to say I have never had sexual thoughts about women. Words, cadence, “affectations” don’t define gender or sexuality, they are only a part of the person exhibiting them. However it would be simplistic not to believe that gender, sexuality, and the self have an intimate relation to one another. They are part of how we are seen, and part of how we see ourselves, but all of that is fluid. Some days I like to wear lacy underwear and high heel shoes, other days I prefer jeans and no make up; neither one is somehow more inherently true to myself or my gender. Gender and sexuality aren’t static states of being, but the space to start to get to know oneself.


  3. JosieJuly 3, 2012 at 6:52 pm Edit #

    I love love LOVE the sentence:
    I’ve got a gaggle of personae in the clown car of my body, and each of them deserves a turn at the wheel

    I definitely believe that we are different people at different times and to different people. At work, I was known as the Type-A ass-kicker who had her shit on lock and never backed down.
    My friends definitely would describe me differently. My parents would describe me still differently. I think there’s a lot to be said here, and I also think that bringing gender and sexuality into the mix bring forth even more questions and sides to the story. There are so many expectations and views, from both inside and outside the LGBTQ community, of how one “should” act once the mantle of “gay” has been put on.

    So in the end, all I guess I can say is… great post. 


    • Dan KohlerJuly 4, 2012 at 5:49 pm Edit #

      You make a great point Josie. The weight that “should” carries when applied to how we act and how we identify is extreme. I guess we all have a choice to play into or against expectations. Being aware of the game takes away some of the power, yes?


  4. Jenny McNeiceJuly 3, 2012 at 8:42 pm Edit #

    “I wasn’t trying to sublimate my sequined heart.” Your writing is a performance of wit and I love when you dive a little deeper in these posts sometimes.


    • Danielle MayockJuly 3, 2012 at 9:24 pm Edit #

      Dan, I’m glad to know you and agree with my sister entirely. The article made me tear up and the video made me spit up my tea with a snort, I hope ABC sees what I do, and if they dont, then its their loss


      • Dan KohlerJuly 4, 2012 at 5:50 pm Edit #

        Darlings, make no mistake-I carry you in that sequined heart everywhere I go.


  5. Danielle MayockJuly 3, 2012 at 9:28 pm Edit #

    Dan- I’m so glad you put this up. I heartily agree with Jenny, the post made me choke up and the video made me spit up my tea with a snort. If ABC doesn’t see this video like I do, then they are ridiculous, and are completely missing out on you.


  6. Sarah E. WelchJuly 4, 2012 at 6:10 am Edit #

    I saw drama & life here, not sexuality or gender issues.

    I think the ‘different faces’ thing depends on the person. Some people are truly, authentically one personality no matter what. Others are someone different for each person they met. Once we had caller id at home so that my Dad would know who was calling before picking up, I had my own version of caller id from across the room. I could tell who was on the other end of the line simply by his greeting.

    I still surprise my husband every now and again–after 16 years together. We’ve known each other as friends, classmates, co-workers, spouses, lovers, and more. He’s seen me in so many different settings with so many different people over teens, twenties, and now as DINKs, but he still feels like he’s getting to know me. While I think there’s something to the twenty-something thing (I’m barely into my 30s), I’m not sure that it ever goes away for most of us–maybe settles down a bit. I think that’s lovely.


    • Dan KohlerJuly 4, 2012 at 5:53 pm Edit #

      That’s what I thought I might hear from my mom (and was consequently surprised to hear that she feels somewhat opposite). I hope I keep changing, I hope that the things in my life continue to affect me in deep ways and that I respond with new flair each time. I love to hear that even after being together for 16 years you and your husband are still learning more about each other. Cheers!


  7. Annie vanDykeJuly 4, 2012 at 4:48 pm Edit #

    You are amazing, funny, fabulous, deep, entertaining, instructive and a buncha other identifiers for all those peeps in the clown car! And, can you believe? he can cook…a total package,a dream! You are, without a doubt, much more interesting and real than Mr. Cooper. LOVE YOU! And that crazy clafoutis!


    • Dan KohlerJuly 4, 2012 at 5:54 pm Edit #

      Annie! Honey, go make that crazy clafoutis, you won’t regret it! Thanks for your words, Happy Fourth!


  8. Andrew HydeJuly 4, 2012 at 5:57 pm Edit #

    Fantastic as always Dan.


  9. Sarah Colley JonesJuly 6, 2012 at 4:07 pm Edit #


    It was entertaining, educational, inspiring, and — of supreme importance – fun!!

    I loved it, and look forward to watching your new show, wherever it lands (Food Network? Cooking Channel? Style???)

    Thanks also, for making the clafouti Gluten-Free! I shall replicate tonight, with local blackberries, and a white peach, or two! {to be washed down with chilled Bailey’s — happy Friday to me!}


    • Dan KohlerJuly 11, 2012 at 8:43 pm Edit #

      Happy Friday indeed! How did the clafoutis come out? Local black berries and white peaches sound perfect, I’ll have to try your combo. Cheers!


  10. GailJuly 11, 2012 at 11:24 pm Edit #

    I think this is terrific! You’re so animated, so entertaining and obviously, so knowledgable about food! Much more so than so many other so-called foodie celebrities.

    Clafoutis for all, and all for clafoutis!


    • Dan KohlerJuly 12, 2012 at 5:51 pm Edit #

      I think that may be my epitaph. Clafoutis for all indeed! Thanks Gail!


  11. Kristen TaylorJuly 24, 2012 at 10:04 am Edit #

    I’m late to this, but in time to say – I hope the whole world gets to know this part of Dan Kohler too. As Wilde points out, there are two kinds of people: charming and tedious. You are always charming.


  12. Sarah E. WelchAugust 5, 2012 at 7:06 pm Edit #

    So, I thought I’d also comment on the actual recipe  I made this last night! I used local plums, coconut flour, and almond milk. It was *fantastic*! This is going to be a go-to desert for me. I’m going to pick up some coconut milk ice cream to keep in the freezer. I think it would be a delicious accompaniment!


    • Dan KohlerAugust 7, 2012 at 1:13 pm Edit #

      Oh Sarah! You’ve just made my morning! I really do love this recipe for the summer, glad to know it kicks ass with coconut flour and almond milk (a luscious combination if I do say so myself). I’m off to the market now, if I find some plums I might just make your permutation tonight!


  13. JayAugust 12, 2012 at 11:24 pm Edit #

    I just want to say that I find your two paragraphs below wonderfully insightful. They made me wonder how much I have repressed parts of myself. I do remember going through a flamboyant stage around 5 or 6 and then policing myself to uber butch straightness. Wonder if the real me is different?

    “I knew it would surprise my mom to find me acting stereotypically flamboyant on camera in great part because I had always played it rather straight at home. But my “straight-acting” self wasn’t a conscious decision, it wasn’t born out of self-hatred; I wasn’t trying to sublimate my sequined heart. My parents are the epitome of support and neither my gender and sexual identities nor my choice of a career in the arts have ever been contentious. My personality at home is a fairly neutral, relaxed version of myself; an outcome of having such a loving and uplifting family.”

    “And part of having such a strong support system is the responsibility to see things from my parents’ perspective. As a parent, I imagine one believes she knows the very core of her child, and that of all the endless possibilities, the version she knows is the most true, the most authentic, the most real. But, in reality, the “me” my mother knows is, indeed, just one variation, one point on spectrums of both character and gender.”


    • Dan KohlerAugust 13, 2012 at 4:02 pm Edit #

      Thanks Jay, writing this post really made me reflect on my behavior inside and outside the house. I think we all police ourselves for different character traits, it’s a biological and social need to fit in, right? I’m trying to be more aware of my many different personalities and not be so hard on myself for performing gender roles (be they stereotypical or antithetical). I love the conversation happening around these thoughts here, I really appreciate your contribution.



Get Out for Immigration

Hey Friends-

I’ve been doing some video work for a wonderful organization called Get Equal. They’re fighting for equality for LGBT citizens and doing a damn good job of it. Last week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech to the U.N. on LGBT rights across the world. It was a magnificent speech calling all nations to step up and recognize their people as full citizens. I’d love to say that our country is leading the way in LGBT civil rights, but we aren’t. Check out the video above to hear the story of one couple struggling to find a way to live in the states.


Rock on,



Get Equal

President Obama just ordered the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, a piece of legislation that has been brought to court as unconstitutional. I’m thrilled. This brings us one step closer to true marriage equality, a goal I support wholeheartedly. It’s rare that I devote an entire post to something other than food, but if you know me you know how deeply this resonates with my spirit.

I have two moms. They cannot get married. I am gay. I cannot get married.

It’s time to rip these laws out of the books and treat citizens as citizens.

I had mega help making the video above. @Kthread did the photography and Blue Kid provided the soundtrack. Both of these women are glorious and have been utterly supportive of me and my projects. Love to you both.

Civil rights are for everyone.