THE CAKE: How a Simple Slice Could Save a Life

By Matthew Buxton

Two cups of instant mashed potatoes, three tablespoons of sexual politics, a heaping teaspoon of Christian not-so-hospitality, and a sprinkle of occasional nudity is the perfect recipe of a play that is THE CAKE. Originally written by Bekah Brunstetter, THE CAKE was performed by the Salt Lake Acting Company from February through March 10. It tells the story of Della, a hilarious and charming married Christian woman in North Carolina who runs her own bakery. Although she helps her customers decide on their perfect cake, she leaves the rest of the important decisions to her husband.

But when her deceased best friend’s daughter asks her to bake her a wedding cake, she is all but thrilled to until she learns that the groom-to-be is actually a bride-to-be. Della has to decide for once in her life to either turn away the closest person she has to a daughter, or to challenge the narrow-minded thinking of her faith and learn to truly love her. In a country that seems to have come so far, THE CAKE testifies that discrimination still runs rampant through our streets when people will still be shut out for something as simple as a slice of cake.

Directly following the March 3 matinee showing was a panel titled “Equality & Marriage: LGBTQ & Religious Rights in 2019, comprised of LGBTQ+ activists in the Salt Lake area: Executive Director of the Utah Pride Center Rob Moolman, Filmmaker Holly Tuckett, Co-Founder of Mormons Building Bridges Erika Munson, and Assistant Professor of Gender Studies at Westminster College Eileen Torres. The objective of the panel was to explore what’s next now that same-sex marriage has been legalized. As shown by this play, the problem doesn’t seem to have been fixed with a legal document. The nation has to learn to love and accept even within the most religious and politically red regions.

Although we reside in one of these very conservative and religious states, I was still shocked to hear from the panel just how far Utah has to go. With suicide rates not only dangerously high for LGBTQ+ youth but LGBTQ+ men over 50, a state that prides itself in its Christlike acceptance for everyone is falling very short. The panel, coming from all different walks of life–current and former members of the LDS church, an ex-Catholic from Puerto Rico, and even from across the world in South Africa–seemed united in the fact that discrimination is still a major issue in Utah. Whether it be employment-related, gender, emotional (conversion therapy), or even physical discrimination, LGBTQ+ individuals do not have the basic protection rights that seem to be so fundamental for everyone else.

The last question of the evening was, “How will we know once we’ve made it?” The panelists each gave their own unique answers based on what they thought equality truly meant regarding LGBTQ+ individuals. However, my favorite response came from the audience. An older gentleman raised his hand and said, “We’ll know we’ve made it when this play no longer makes sense to anyone.” When it would be impossible for anybody to comprehend why discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, race, or any other background would even occur. How ridiculous it would seem for somebody to be turned away for a simple cake because of who they are.

Unlike Della, we can’t just sit back while others make the decisions for us. Coming away from the play, it’s evident that change needs to take place not just nationwide but in our own backyard. We have to decide for ourselves if we are going to love others actively, or passively let them die because of the discrimination that is happening right here in our own state. We can’t just settle for knowing that same-sex marriage has been legalized, but we have to take action both socially and politically to continue to progress. We have to choose to heal from the inside–within our homes, communities, and neighborhoods or else the policy changes won’t ever make a difference in the hearts of those around us. We have to choose to love. And although baking a cake doesn’t really shout acceptance for all, I think at the very least it’s a good start.

This article was originally published on March 9, 2019.