“We allow each other space to breathe and just as easily enjoy the time we spend together everyday. We laugh at one another on a daily basis, and try our best to check in, ask questions and listen. We respect one another and our investment in this journey we share.” –Dwayne
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Together for fourteen years
When Dwayne Jenkins 45, and Nathan Mitchell 46, met in the spring of 1996 at a Nashville CARES volunteer meeting it was supposed to be all business. They were focused on creating a safe and affirming group for same gender loving black men in their area and weren’t the least bit interested in finding “the one”, nor did it ever occur to either of them that the one could only be a few feet away.
“Each of us were just getting out of four year relationships and the thought of immediately jumping into another one was the last thing on my mind”, says Dwayne.
It was literally a dare that set the wheels of this inevitable romance in motion, a romance that was clearly obvious to the men witnessing the connection developing between Dwayne and Nathan but somehow escaped the two people involved.
“One night after a meeting, we all got together at someone’s apartment and ended up playing truth or dare. It was my turn and the “truth” question I accepted was; “Is there anyone in the group whom you are attracted to?”
When I answered no, Nathan somewhat loudly stated to the person next to him; “Damn! He didn’t even give any of us a chance!” I tried to back track, but someone shouted, “Oh don’t try and change your answer now!” Later as we walked and talked ahead of the others to our cars, we were told everyone could tell it was a done deal.”
“Honestly, after I asked Nathan out on our first “official date” to the .99 cents Movie Theater, I suspected we were right for each other. If a man doesn’t mind you taking him to a cheap movie, and sharing the snacks you snuck into the movies, drinks and all, he’s a keeper!”
“Within the first few months we both decided to wear rings”, says Nathan.
Like many states in America Dwayne and Nathan aren’t afforded the right to marry in Tennessee despite their level of commitment.
“If we were able to get all of the same financial benefits that heterosexual couples have I would consider getting married,” says Dwayne. “As it stands now, we’ve had three styles of commitment rings, a mortgage, and various other legal documents within our fourteen year relationship so it’s safe to say that we feel more than legal.”
“Each of us respects one another and our investment in this journey that we share. Beyond it all, we are best friends who truly cares for the well being of the other. Regardless of what the future holds, our friendship is the most important ingredient that keeps us together.”
Note: This Coupled Up entry is an excerpt from my forthcoming book When Love Takes Over: A Celebration of SGL Couples of Color arriving this spring.