After a brief absence Coupled Up returns to loldarian.com and I'm thrilled to share with you the beautiful 14 year relationship of Atlanta residents Phillip and Derek.
Not only is it important to me that Coupled Up shows gay men of color in committed relationships, but it's also important that the the wisdom couples such as Phillip & Derek can provide is accessible to those of us who wish to enter into healthy same-sex relationships, even in cities like Atlanta where this can be a challenge.
Phillip and Derek are another example that black gay love is real, attainable, and long-lasting. This is their story.
Phillip & Derek on how they met and how long they've been together:
Phillip: We met at a club in Chicago called The Convent. "Lil Derek" was there with my roommates best friend and we all hung out that night. He was the most adorable thing I had ever seen. He had on this fishermans hat that looked like Paddington Bear and I told him how attractive he was and that I was going to make him my lover. That was 14 years ago this May 16th.
Derek: When we met I lived in Chicago and I was trying my hand at pageantry and entertainment. We met at one of the show bars on a Monday night named "The Convent". I had a fishing hat on that was low over my eyes. As I tried to watch the show, I could feel him watching me. It Just so happened that we had mutual friends that introduced us and the rest is living history.
May 16th 2010 makes 14yrs of the best times of my life and counting. My anniversary with my soulmate.
Phillip & Derek on the possibility of their relationship becoming long-term:
Phillip: Honestly, I knew that night that I wanted to get to know him, but never did I imagine us making it this long from that one night. However, as time progressed I saw in him the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
Derek: We dated for about 6 months with me living in Chicago and Phillip living in Gary, IN. At first I thought, wow thats far, but the more we talked and hung out, the shorter the distance became. The rides became shorter.
Reflecting on the early possibility of their relationship becoming serious:
Phillip: I knew that the relationship was serious the morning I was awaken by my roommate saying, " Lil Derek is sleep in his car in the driveway". He had driven the 45 minutes to my house so he would be the first thing I saw when I awoke. We dated for 6 months and on a whim decided to pack up, leave our established lives as individuals and move to Kingsland, GA to start a life together. I swear to this day - that decision was the best thing to ever happen for us. Starting over as one unit gave us the chance to get to know each other with no interference from the negativity of gay life. We became friends which made us better lovers.
Derek:I knew he was the one for me when I wanted to move out of town. I wanted to move and have a change in my life. I wanted to just start over and see what life was like on my own as my own man. Without looking back, Phillip packed up his house and just asked me where and when. We only had each other and we became best friends and I knew he was my soulmate.
Phillip & Derek on the reaction of family & friends after coming out individually & as a couple:
Phillip: I come from a VERY religious family. I'm a P.K. (Preacher's Kid), so coming out was never a desire. When it did happen, it was not because of me but rather a friend. Adding two and two together, simply landed me on the other side of the door. I'm glad to say however, that my family has since come around and simply loves me for me.
My four brothers and one sister as well as my mothers sister accept my relationship with Derek for what it is..... besides them, WHO CARES! Dereks family on the other hand, accept me like I was born into their family (lol).
Derek: Well I came out when I was fourteen, so I can't say my family rolled out the gay welcoming mat. I lived with my grandparents, who grew up in a time when being gay was frowned upon. Time and prayer mends all. They love me to death and now can't stop talking about thier grandsons. My family likes Phillip more than they like me (lol). When I call or get calls from my family, they ask for Phillip before asking for me.
When Phillip first came around, my family didn't know what to think or how to take it. Like anything worth having, he and I worked on it and them. He is now my moms other son, my dad's son- in -law. LOL - when I hear them refer to him in that way - son- in- law I just can't stop smiling from the inside out.
Phillip & Derek on the myth that committed black gay couples are non-existent & success depends on dating another race:
Phillip: I believe that black gay men are too easily swayed in matters of the heart because there is an unspoken tradition of allowing a sneaky little third party into the relationship called "friends". We tend to be influenced by what is thought, said, and viewed by our friends. Instead of basing decisions on how we as individuals feel, we tend to lean more towards the advice of our friends. Many times the advice is drenched in jealousy, bitterness, and lonliness.
We were young when we started dating, but decided early in our relationship that BREAKING UP WAS NOT AN OPTION. It was a committed relationship in terms of us committing to argue until the problem was resolved. Go to sleep mad if needed. Sleep in seperate rooms if needed, but to ALWAYS be friends and stay together.
Our counterparts stay together because they understand this and they seperate friends from "The Man". Its very possible for black gay men to achieve relationship longevity together but it has to be a conscious decision. We've made it this far because we wanted too.
Derek: In black society as a whole we spend so much time looking at the experation date on everything. I feel if you are always looking for something to expire and never enjoy the contents or true shelf life of something, it does just that...expire. We as black men expect the end but never put forth an effort to prevent the end, but it is possible-look at us. When people hear how long we've been together, they are always so shocked. I dont understand why since we've worked and continue to work at being here and staying together.
Phillip & Derek on the obstacles of maintaining a healthy relationship:
Phillip: Being a Flight Attendant has created a communication barrier at times because in my field we communicate differently than the rest of the world.. I am expected to be a mind reader and adapt to the situation as it arises and changes to achieve the outcome that I desire. Not being able to switch to a more realistic thought process at home has been our biggest obstacle. I know how to smile and give the emotion being desired even when thats not the emotion I feel. I'm fortunate that Derek knows my heart and understands me.
Derek: Communication has been the hardest part for us. We were so young when we got together. It has been a tug of war for some years but through trial and error , we've finally got it. There is nothing at all we can't or wont talk about. We both have strong personalities and didn't understand how to communicate, but the older we get the stronger we connect.
Phillip & Derek on marriage:
Phillip: We have discussed getting married, but not for the purpose of being legally recognized. We have been togehter for so long that a piece of paper could do nothing for us. Our everday lives are lived as a married couple. I feel the legal aspect is simply resolved by sitting down and drafting a living will and establishing documentation that entitles Derek to make medical, financial decisions on my behalf should I not be able to do so on my own. I'd like to have a ceromony simply to share with family and friends.
Derek: We are both spiritual people. We believe that what we have, could only come from God. We had planned on having a big ceromony just for our family and some close friends, however key pillars in our lives became ill and are no longer with us. We were doing it for them and to have them there to share that moment with us. They were the most important people in our lives. We never have had the ceromony. From a legal stand point however we do have documents in place that legally allow Phillip to make choices for me and vice versa. We also have matching bands that were got on our 7th anniversary so for all intents and purposes WE ARE HAPPILY MARRIED.
Phillip & Derek on starting a family:
We have no plans to adopt but have started a surrogate family if you will. We have what our community refers to as gay kids. We have 5 sons and 2 daughters. For those of you who may not understand, a gay child is simply a younger gay person whom you take under your wing and become a mentor of sorts (See Paris is Burning....... but note WE ARE NOT BALL KIDS...lol)
We also have 4 dogs (2 ten year olds and 2 nine month olds).
Phillip & Derek on the role religion/spirituality has in their relationship:
Phillip: As I have stated , I was raised in the church and have not strayed from God. I believe that my life is a testament of my faith and the relationship I have with him. I am blessed to share a fire for God with my partner. We recognize how fortunate and blessed we are and thank God for it everyday.
Derek: We accept God as being the most important thing in our lives. We know that he has given us purpose and that we alone must understand and live a life pleasing to HIM..... again I say HIM and not Man.
Phillip & Derek on keeping the flame burning after being together for fourteen years:
Phillip: When you have been together as long as we have, it's easy to forget the "hows" and "whens" of your history. But there are moments that are with you forever. I always try and create moments for him so that when he's in that moment he realizes how much I love him and that I am here to be his Ever After.
Derek: We are forever venturing to places and experiences that keep us intrigued with one another. We step outside our comfort zones and try new things. As I have said before, there is nothing that I cannot or will not talk to Phillip about and because we have that between us, theres always that fire!