This week, instead of a physical brawl, the Housewives treated viewers to what amounts to a very special episode.
Jennifer Aydin and her daughter talked to her mom about Jennifer’s gay brother, helping the conservative Turkish grandmother open up.
On this week’s The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Jennifer is surprised when her daughter, Gabrielle, overhears that her uncle Steven is gay.
They have a brief if largely superfluous heart-to-heart about it.
Let’s be real — Gabriella is an American teen who’s met Ariana Grande. Her reaction wasn’t bigoted, she just wished that she’d known sooner.
But they both knew one family member who did not feel as open and warm about Steven’s sexuality — Jennifer’s grandmother, Nana.
“Nana, at church, the priest was talking about how God says to love everyone, but someone said the priests don’t support gays,” Gabriella said.
Continuing to prod her maternal grandmother for a response, she added: “I was like, don’t the priests love my uncle? ‘Cause Dayi Steven is gay.”
Jennifer was visibly proud of her daughter in the moment but remained silent, wanting to hear what her mother would say.
Unfortunately, Nana simply said “no,” then claimed that she didn’t know that Steven was gay, and very transparently tried to change the subject.
“I knew my mother didn’t like talking about Steven’s sexuality,” Jennifer told the camera, “but hearing her lying to her own granddaughter?”
“That really bothers me ’cause I grew up with my mom lying to keep up a facade,” she explained
“”That was my normal, and that’s not what I want my kids’ normal to be…” Jennifer expressed. “I’m so proud of Gaby for bringing this up to my mom.”
“My mom has to stop dancing around the issue. You need to face this, privately, publicly,” she said. “She doesn’t get how important that is to Steven.”
Jennifer attempted to broaden her mother’s horizons by taking her to a drag brunch at Margaret Josephs’ house.
Drag performers are generally (but not always) men, but Nana did not realize that this was the case until Dolores Catania explained it to her.
“Well, I’m very proud of you that you’ve lived through your first drag party,” Jennifer praised. “I feel like you’ve come a long way.”
Nana was very emotionally honest as an older Turkish woman, replying: “Honestly, a lot of things I see now, it wasn’t normal before to me.”
“Well, I just want you to know that the way that I’m raising my kids is to always be accepting of people,” Jennifer emphasized.
“You know, Gaby was just a little confused as to why you said you didn’t know [that Steven is gay].” she prompted, but Nana did not respond.
“It’s okay! We all know he’s not in the closet,” Jennifer expressed. “I feel like you’re the only one that still tries to hide it.”
“I know it’s hard for you to talk about,” she acknowledged, “but I just don’t want you to feel like it’s something that you need to hide, ever.”
“I’m not ashamed of my child,” Nana finally said. “It’s not his fault. If you have a sick child, you gonna throw them out?”
“But this is not a sickness,” Jennifer quickly corrected her mother, who was growing increasingly uncomfortable.
“Why do we have to keep talking about it?” Nana asked, then began to cry. “When I was in Turkey, I never know anything like this.”
“I still have problem with it because I’m old fashioned, but it’s his life,” she expressed. “If he’s happy, God be with him.”
Jennifer told her mom that Steven would be “so much happier” if she could bring herself to “acknowledge him in public.”
At this, realizing the way that she was hurting her son, Nana cried and admitted: “I know.”
“Like, ‘You’re out and proud? Good for you! Good for you that you’re not living a lie,'” Jennifer suggested.
“”I know you can do it,” she affirmed to Nana. “You’re a strong woman.”
Honestly, Nana’s response to the drag queens wasn’t really any worse than Vicki Gunvalson’s, which says a lot about both of them.
For the record, Turkey has a decidedly above-average history when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights.
Same-sex intercourse, legalized nationwide in the US just a couple of decades ago, was legalized in the Ottoman Empire in the mid-1800s.
It has been legal since Turkey’s inception as a nation. Legal rights aside, culturally, the nation’s views on the LGBTQ+ community trend conservative.
Only during the past several years, under Erdogan’s increasingly tyrranical government, have events like Istanbul Pride been banned or met with state-sanctioned violence.
Nana’s struggles in accepting who her son is may have to do more with age than nation of origin.
We’re all learning and growing as human beings, and Nana is no exception.
This was an almost uncharacteristically heartwarming storyline for RHONJ.
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