While writing the memoir Diary of a Gay, Pregnant Bride, Kelly Frankenberg was doing more than telling her story—she was using it as an outlet to deal with her parents both losing their battle with cancer.
“I started writing a story about my mom and my grandma and how our lives were different and similar growing up and the differences in our relationships with each other,” Kelly said. “The week I started writing it my mother got breast cancer. Then my writing became my therapy about my mother, and then the recent death of my father, and then just about my life in my 20s. Then that therapeutic writing became my passion, my master’s thesis, and then the biggest and longest project of my life.”
The book is written much like a diary—each memory has a date, just like a journal entry—and Kelly ties the past together with related passages from the present.
“As an artist, I tend to group visual images together, so that’s what kind of happened with my structure,” Kelly said. “I made a list of the pieces of a wedding and all these moments, memories, and metaphors in my life came together and fit into each chapter. And with this structure of the book, the title came to me and made more sense.”
Readers become witness to significant parts of Kelly’s life: her coming out, the moment her father died, her mom’s getting remarried, getting engaged to her now-wife, the news of her mother’s cancer, finding out she was expecting, her wedding, and the death of her mother. Her story is exceptional and the amount of pain she endured during the loss of her parents brought me to tears.
“Some of it is still difficult to read when I relive some sad moments,” Kelly said. “But like I say in the book, ‘Fear can’t be colored or painted over. You have to look it right in the face until it doesn’t scare you anymore.’ So reading it and seeing it only helps me process, accept, and move on.”
Aside from the seriousness of life that Kelly encounters, there are moments of joy and humor. Kelly writes about going on a lesbian cruise with her friend and their adventures of meeting women. Kelly ends up hooking up with a woman for the first time while on that trip, who just so happens to be a moderately famous lesbian comedian. (Unfortunately Kelly won’t name names, so you’ll just have to use your imagination!)
Planning a wedding while enduring painful experiences proved to be difficult, but not impossible for Kelly. She and her wife had two ceremonies: the first was a commitment ceremony at her mother’s house. Her mom’s health was declining, and it was important to Kelly she attend. The second ceremony was held after the ban on same-sex marriage was lifted in Minnesota—and also happened while Kelly was seven months pregnant.
Sadly, Kelly’s mother died before she got to see Kelly and Donna legally wed at the courthouse, by the mayor, in front of news cameras and reporters. Although Kelly was close to her due date, she was determined to wear the same wedding dress she wore in their first ceremony, and designed an open back in order for it to fit over her belly. The second ceremony was bittersweet, as her parents couldn’t bear witness to her legal marriage, nor the birth of her son two months later.
While the jumpy structure of Diary of a Gay, Pregnant Bride can be a little rough to follow at times, readers will appreciate the sincerity of Kelly’s story and the courage it took to put it to paper.
“I hope people will take away some comfort in someone else sharing their story and hoping to inspire others to do the same,” Kelly said. “We can only get the world to see through new eyes by standing up, being who we are, and sharing our stories. I also hope anyone dealing with death, or coming out, can be inspired or helped by anything I’ve written.”
Follow Erin Faith Wilson on Twitter: @erinfaithwilson