If a guide were ever to be written for same gender loving couples of color I'd want Quincy LeNear and Deondray Gossett to pen it. This celebrity power couple have been together for over a decade and are now sharing lessons learned as the latest couple in our successful Coupled Up series.
Gay audiences are familiar with their work as the creator/director of the groundbreaking here! TV series The DL Chronicles as well as The Outside of Relationships; a web series created to promote healthy relationships in the LGBT community.
Deondray on how they met:
Deondray: We met on an indie movie that two of our mutual friends wrote and directed. Quincy doubled as a special effects makeup artist (he had to hide my eyebrows with makeup – I was playing Ronnie Devoe from New Edition). We have been together 12.5 yrs.
Reflecting on the early possibility of their relationship becoming serious:
Quincy: My long term vision was that of a wife and children. I had very heterosexist ambitions due to being socialized to deny my same sex desires. I never thought it was possible then to be in love with a man. My perspective was changed and I had to reconstruct what my heart felt against what the outside world told me to feel or not feel.
Deondray: I was still in a long distance relationship at the time with someone who only wanted to be gay during their once a month visit, behind closed doors in my bedroom. Quincy was supposed to be a one-night, “I’m gonna get mines” type deal. But somehow I knew, even before we did the deed, that this was someone who had crept into my consciousness. He made me feel new, needed, and we were always laughing. I didn’t have much to smile about in my previous relationship.
Quincy & Deondray on their courtship: Proceeding with caution vs jumping in:
Quincy: We dated for about 6 months or so before circumstances forced me to move in with him. It wasn’t an act of jumping in but being thrust into action so to speak. I would say I was careful because I had so much explaining to do to myself. I was very guarded and I didn’t have a model to compare a successful male/male relationship to. So it was all scarily new but ironically exciting too.
Deondray: It was all kind of circumstantial. We “cautiously jumped right in.” Quincy was just at the end of a not-so-perfect roommate situation and was looking for a new place to stay about six months into the relationship. I had a very spacious apartment in Sherman Oaks at the time. I had a roommate too who was straight and didn’t know that I was gay. The good thing was the apartment was sectioned off so perfectly that I didn’t ever have to run into my roommate if I didn’t want to. Quincy soon moved in with me, and this arrangement worked... For a while...
Quincy & Deondray on the reaction of family & friends after coming out individually & as a couple:
Quincy: The initial reactions were those of shock or being slightly taken aback, but overall it was mostly a positive experience. I would say 75% of the important people in my life could have cared less. Then there were the remaining 25% that needed to cope with it in their own ways. We have had to teach and lead by example along the way.
Ultimately, it’s a matter of challenging negative stereotypes. It’s not always an easy job. I think the scariest part of coming out was overcoming my own deep seated fears about how people would respond. We all fear being abandoned by those we love or being ostracized and cast aside by your community. Ultimately, it is those self doubts and fears that are hardest to overcome.
Deondray: To my astonishment, the people closest to me were not surprised, and say they knew for years. This was a relief at first, then in retrospect, I wondered, “Then why did you force me into so many boxes? Why did you always try to hook me up with girls? Why all of the uncomfortable questions and critiques about my masculinity.” I guess there was a difference between knowing it and accepting it.
Then there were others who threw Bible verses at me, and shunned me, but their friendship was always suspect anyhow.
I have family members who accept it, but won’t speak of us in the context of a relationship. My family often introduces Quincy as a nephew, or cousin. No one ever says, “This is Deondray’s boyfriend, Quincy.” I guess it could be out of respect. There are times when I too will hold the specifics back until I feel it’s appropriate and safe; usually after the newcomers have gotten to know us as people first.
Quincy on the pressure to remain closeted & keep their relationship a secret in Hollywood:
I am a public figure and my work record and personal history is now public domain. So it is rare now that my work environment isn’t already aware of who I am and my work in the Gay community. However, I have found myself in a work environment outside of the gay community that was heterosexist on many occasions, and depending on the situation, I will refrain from speaking about my sexuality if it does not contribute to my goals there. There is still lots of discrimination, racially and sexually, in Hollywood.
Like most African Americans you learn to play the game and wear the faces to get where you need to before you can challenge the status quo. However, if asked directly, I would not lie, but if there is no place in conversation for it, I won’t bring it up. So I wouldn’t say I returned to the closet, maybe dimmed the lights a few times.
In Hollywood there is a tendency to typecast based on perception. Once you establish a certain reputation people have difficulty seeing you outside of those parameters. You become the BLACK director, the GAY director, the BLACK GAY director vs simply a DIRECTOR. My favorite director, Spike Lee, says that he is a DIRECTOR, not a BLACK director. Why are we always hyphenated, some second class version of what we really are? We become the adjective and not the noun. The adjective gives someone else your defining power. The noun is the power to define yourself.
We as a community subject ourselves to that as well. The rainbow flag or the black fist comes through the door before the person does. I am out and proud, and I will fight hard and tirelessly for equality, but my sexuality is not my identity, it is simply a part of the whole. Some people will dislike me for that stance. Oh well.
Quincy & Deondray on the myth that committed black gay couples are non-existent & success depends on dating another race:
Deondray: Well, Quincy and I are black, and we’ve stuck it out for 13 years, so go figure. I’ve never actually been in a committed relationship with someone outside my race, so it would be unfair for me to comment because I have no vantage point to speak from. I have “dated” outside of my race, and I can tell you that the same challenges were there.
It’s not to say that mixed relationships don’t work, a lot of my friends are in them and are genuinely happy, but to say that one is preferable over the other, I don’t know. I think who ever we chose as partners have to be compatible, and compatible means, having similar interests, goals, ambitions, philosophies, background, etc. Ethnicity is really inconsequential.
I always say gay blacks are still infants in the dating game. We haven’t had as much exposure or practice. We don’t have a strong community or strong support groups that foster our self love and existence, so we still date in fear and self-loathing.
Then there’s the new generation that idealizes relationships which only encourages “serial monogamy,” meaning that they’re committed to someone new every other month because of the most trivial things. No one sticks in there and gets to know anyone. As soon as some food flies out of his mouth while he’s talking, you’re out the door and ignoring his phone calls.
Quincy: I know way more same-culture long term relationships than cross-cultural ones, especially amongst Black gay men. I don’t think race plays as big of a role in it as people make it out to. You are no more likely to find compatibility with another race than you are with your own race. However, perception shapes reality and if you believe that, you may act accordingly and subconsciously look for ways to stay committed and falsely attribute your success to factors such as race.
It is possible that one’s perception of Black men may shape their interaction thus molding their relationship experiences leading to either failure or success. If you think they are all no good, then that’s what you expect and demand of them, whether you are aware of that or not.
Quincy & Deondray on the obstacles of maintaining a healthy relationship:
Deondray: Quincy and I have always been good about getting things off our chests. Most things don’t go unsaid around here. When there’s an issue we get it out and in the open and deal with it. It may sometimes involve cussing and screaming, but we’re really always just saying, “Stay with me, damn it!” As long as you’re fighting to stay together, have that fight. If your anger is full of contempt, hatred, and disgust you need to reevaluate the relationship.
Quincy and I will come right out and ask the question to each other, “Do you still want to be here?” And sometimes in the heat of passion, we’ve yelled, “No!” As soon as the word flies from our lips, we are running to go catch it and swallow it back up. So far we’ve never meant it. If you can say no to that question and mean it, then don’t force the issue. Have the courage to end it.
Quincy and I live in the now. The future is too vast and expansive to put restrictions on it. When I do ponder my future, he is there, but we try not to hold today’s actions responsible for what MIGHT happen tomorrow.
Quincy: Developing a level of respect for one another and a since of selflessness, forgiveness (not foolishness) and most importantly trust. Love is not the basis of a relationship. I can love him to death but if I don’t respect his feelings or I am unable to set aside my own selfishness then the relationship is doomed. People put so much on love. I am certain that many men love their mates and continue to hurt them because they lack the other important ingredients.
So I would say the biggest obstacle for me has been learning outside of the myth of LOVE and discovering and nurturing the other important ingredients to make it successful. Without those we are living a lie. And to tie it all together COMMUNICATION is the main tool to develop these key ingredients. If you can’t communicate in order to learn one another, it’s a waste of time.
Quincy & Deondray on the future prospect of marriage:
Deondray: I would like to have a ceremony someday. It’s been on my mind a lot lately. Though I do have some qualms with whole label “marriage.” None of the definitions apply to what I want my commitment to be based upon. We are non-descript religiously, so having the Church recognize our union is not important to me, and he isn’t property or chattel, so I don’t need a marriage.
I would, however, like to one day have a commitment ceremony that is recognized by my state and local government and comes with all the same legal rights of a “marriage”. That would be just fine for me.
Quincy: I firmly believe in the separation of church and state. I don’t need anyone’s church to approve of my relationship. My belief in God or not is personal and not subject to anyone’s opinion. So I believe in a two tiered system; go to the church to receive your “religious” ceremony, but go to the state for your benefits. One shouldn’t prevent the other.
Quincy & Deondray on the effect of Proposition 8 on their relationship as California residents:
Deondray: My relationship didn’t hurt much because Quincy and I validate ourselves in our relationship, and no certificate could change that, but socially it stung like hell. It was just another reminder that we are still half-citizens in this country.
Quincy: Prop 8 had no affect on our relationship personally, as we were not planning on getting married when this all came to surface. We don’t hold the same high esteem or belief in “marriage” as many. People tried to convince us to get hitched during the brief legal period to prove a point. Our relationship is not to prove anyone’s point and we refused to use it as political play. However, we were visible and vocal for those who wanted it and we supported that right for them. So consequentially, we still became a Prop 8 poster couple.
For us it is a matter of equality. If you don’t speak out against injustice when it does not affect you, you can’t expect the same not to happen to you when it does matter.
Quincy & Deondray on keeping the flame in their relationship after so many years:
Quincy: Stamina. Lots of stamina. After 12.5 yrs I still can wipe the dust of my lenses and see the man I love and find him sexy and attractive. Sometimes we have to step back and remember how to see each other without the years clouding it. It is a fact that if you stare at something long enough it will disappear from your sight. You have to reset your perspective to see it again. Same goes for long term relationships. You have to step back and look at each other from a new place.
Deondray: You ever heard of Ginch Gunch underwear? Quincy in a pair of those is all I need! Lawdamercy!
Many thanks to Quincy & Deondray for sharing their love with us.