So often I hear the myth being perpetuated that same gender loving men of color aren't interested in or capable of having long-term relationships. Well this next couple I'm about to introduce you to in our ongoing "Coupled Up" series defies that myth. Meet Atlanta couple Christopher & Shelton. After being introduced to each other by a mutual friend eight years ago they're still going strong and have extended their love to include a son, five year old Jonathan.
Chris & Shelton on past relationships and how they knew this one was different:
Chris:We had dated other guys in the past and those relationships were fun but always revolved around superficial things like partying. We both were looking for a long-term commited relationship with the "house in the suburbs with the white picket fence and 2.5 kids". It was very encouraging to know that Shelton was supportive in my "coming-out" phase as that was a stressful time in my life.
Shelton: I also admired that Chris wasn't just interested in sex alone and was willing to take it slowly with the relationship. We both became good friends before we became lovers and to this day we are still best friends and can confide in each other our deepest secrets.
On coming out individually & as a couple:
Chris: Shelton was always more confident in his sexuality and came out to his family while in college in his early 20's. His family welcomed him with open-arms and indicated that they had known all along and was just waiting for him to be comfortable in his own skin.
Shelton: Chris, on the other hand, was not openly gay to his traditional Caribbean family but I encouraged him to be honest with them and with my support Chris composed a letter to his family regarding his relationship with his "room-mate" (as I was know to Chris' family back then).
Chris: After the storm cleared both families have embraced us with open-arms and we both regularly visit Shelton's family in North Carolina and my family in Florida for holidays each year. Our coming out has definitely made us closer with our families. We both have also lost some friends after coming-out but realize that these were not really friends after all.
On obstacles they've experienced maintaining a healthy relationship:
Chris: Most definitely homophobia! We both enjoy traveling and dining out and find it challenging in our society to express public displays of affection. One of our most memorable vacations was our trip to San Francisco as it was liberating to walk in the Castro district while holding hands with each other. We love Atlanta but still wish that it was more liberal and accepting of same gender relationships.
Shelton: We have the same problems in our relationships like other couples but we have always maintained that communication and honesty is the key to our bond. We try our hardest to listen to each other's side of the situation and compromise on the resolution.
On starting a family:
We both have always wanted to have kids and knew that was not negotiable in our future. We actually tried for one year to adopt kids through the foster care system in Georgia but after numerous rejections by social workers because the "kids would do better with a mother and a father" we decided to go the route of private adoption and within 1 week of employing an adoption agency we were matched with a birth-mother that was pregnant.
Everything went really quickly after that and one week later we were in the delivery room in Louisiana at the birth of our son, Jonathan. Our families were both thrilled to have a new baby in the family and Shelton's mom was overjoyed that he was born on her birthday. Having a child changed our life and many of our gay friends found it difficult to relate to our "domesticated lifestyle".
Responding to anti-gay critics who say children are best raised by two heterosexual parents:
We tell them the same thing that we tell our son and even he understands the basic premise - children need a loving family and the world is made up of different types of families. We believe strongly that the success of raising a child has nothing to do with the parents sexual preference but more so based on instilling good values in the child.
Chris & Shelton tells loldarian.com "that over the past 5 years since his (Jonathan's) birth we have changed the minds of some critics that thought that we would not be able to raise a child. One particular critic was Shelton's cousin Darrell who left an amazing message of support on Shelton's Facebook page after having a change of heart:
"All I can say is I have seen first hand how much two people can love each other and a child regardless of sex. Shelton is my cousin and one of my best friends and we love Chris & Jonathan just as much. My children adore Jonathan and love his company- he is one of their favorite cousins. I can't imagine not having Shelton, Chris & Jonathan in our lives.
I used to be obnoxious, ignorant and rude to many things and Shelton helped me become a better person and grow to learn that love truly has no boundaries. I admire your relationship and respect your freedom of choice. Together you guys have inspired me and my family in ways you may never know. I fully support you in all your endeavors and wish you all the happiness life has to offer. Together you all have done so much good. I know the future only holds brighter days. I pray that life continues to bring you joy and you both continue to be a blessing to my lil cousin."
Many thanks to Chris & Shelton for sharing their family with us.