Gay siblings Brian and Erica Felicella give their mom props for…. well, for pretty much everything

SIBLING UN-RIVALRY | Thanks to Mom (and Dad), Brian Felicella, left, and sister Erica thrive in their creative pursuits as chef and photographer. (Photo courtesy Erica Felicella)

When a mother hears the words “I’m gay,” from her child, there is likely an initial shock, maybe followed by dying dreams of grandchildren. But when that happens twice — well, it might take an extra special mom to work that all out.
Photographer Erica Felicella and her brother Brian, an executive chef at the Dallas Museum of Art Cafe, recall that moment with Mom when they learned just how awesome she is.

Mom and baby sis Tara, who is straight, got in a few words as well.

Happy Mother’s Day!

— Rich Lopez


First born: Erica
Dallas Voice: What makes your mom unique? Wow, there really is no short way to answer that. That mom of mine still can run circles around me. There was no challenge too big if it involved fighting for what was right for her children. If I was to say one trait that makes my mom unique, boundless acceptance and support no matter what comes along.

How was she when you came out? I came out in high school. My mother was my mother. She has always taught me to treat everything and everyone with respect. So as in her own teachings she was there in a time when other friends of mine were being kicked out of their homes or disowned by their family. I am eternally grateful to have the mother that I do. The bottom line has always been to love unconditionally.

Do you ever share “girly” moments with her? [Laughs] Most mothers and daughters do girly things I suppose, but that was not how my mom and I spend time together. It is not a bizarre sight to drive up to my parents house and see my mom in the front yard with a jackhammer doing some gardening, covered in mud doing a quick sprinkler repair or watching a Red Sox game — after all, we are transplanted Yanks.

What are you going to do for Motherʼs Day? I will be in Dallas as will my brother and my sister. However, we did a surprise photo shoot and the photo should arrive at my parents’ doorstep in time for Motherʼs Day.

Whatʼs the best thing about her? My mother is a 5-foot-2 Irish-Leo. She is the one we all turn to in moments of sadness, feats of personal victory and times of new discovery. She is the root that things can grow off of.

Supportive? I am a multimedia fine-artist, mentor to young artists and I work in production and post-production in the commercial world of still photography and video. My mother has been there every step of the way. I have always had her support even when she did not know what the heck I was working on. She has been on set with me, worked as an agent and advocate for me when I was starting. She was the bartender at my first solo show. She is a real life superhero to me and I am one lucky gal to have her.

The son also rises: Brian
What is your motherʼs best feature? Her compassion and ability to love endlessly even when it could be hard to love someone she still finds it in her.

How did she react when you came out? If I remember correctly she said, “OK.” I was in college between sophomore and junior year and was freaking out about the call. When I finally got the courage to call, both my mom and dad were on the phone and the main thing that was said was, “We don’t love you any less.”

What is your favorite mom memory? Recently I called and asked how she knew she was in love with my father. That was conversation that I will remember for the rest of my life.

What was your best Motherʼs Day experience? Talking her out to lunch back in 2006. I drove down to San Antonio early in the morning to surprise her on Mother’s Day. Just having time with her these days is a gift.

How did she react to your most rebellious moment? Which one? I have never been one to go with the norm so my tattooed and pierced friends were never a shock. In my darkest place, she never turned her back on me. Drugs and alcohol can tear a family apart but she never lost hope in me. For more normal rebellious moments, she never asked me to change my hair color if it was blue or green, but at times did request a hat when we went to dinner as a family.

Supportive? I am currently an executive chef at the DMA, which is the second major career path I have taken. She has always been supportive on the choices in my life concerning work. She was helpful getting me on track and offering to send me back to school to study the culinary arts. I have been blessed with a family that has my back no matter and a mother that will pull out the boxing gloves when someone messes with her kids. She really has put herself out on the line to raise my sisters and me.

The baby: Tara
What was it like when they came out to you? When my brother came out I found he was getting harassed at college. This was the same college I graduated from and that really disappointed me. It wasn’t really a shock, it was more of “glad you’re comfortable enough to say it.”

How is the family dynamic? I don’t feel she treats any of us differently based on orientation. If you do something stupid, you do something stupid. If someone broke your heart, someone broke your heart. If whoever your dating or engaged to is being an pain, your partner is being a pain. If she doesn’t like who you are dating, she won’t ever tell you. I don’t really think she bases her advice on that. She gives us the same advice.

Do you feel pressure to produce grandchildren? She doesn’t need grandkids — she has three granddogs.

Mother’s turn: Maggie
What does Motherʼs Day mean to you? It reminds me how lucky I am to be a mom. There are highs and lows that come along with that job but I remember the highs.

So, a proud mama. My children are very kind and caring individuals. They have grown into adulthood nicely. I have always been proud of them as human beings and continue to be. They see all people as equals and treat all people as they wish to be treated. They are good kids!

What was it like when they came out to you? As parents, we have the dreams of weddings and grandchildren. We had to digest how things would be different. As parents, you want to shield your children from hurt and harm. We didn’t know how we were going to do that but we figured it out along the way. In the end, they are our children and that is all that matters.

Was it at the same time or different? Erica was the first to tell us she was a lesbian. She was still in high school. She came down the stairs, sat on the coffee table, started spinning around and announced, “I am a lesbian.” Then she got up off the table and went back upstairs to her friends. Brian called from college and left a message, “Mom, I need to speak with you and Daddy.” I told my husband, he is calling to tell us he is gay. When he called, he was stumbling over his words. I finally said, “Brian are you trying to tell us you are gay?” He was shocked and relieved at the same time.

OK, so what about the grandchildren issue? I don’t dwell on grandchildren. If they happen, they will; if not, they won’t. I have three grand dogs and they have their own stockings at Christmas. I know I won’t have to help pay for college. I always look for the bright side over every issue!

Just like a mom.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2011.