Q1. Tell us a little about your coming out experience as young adults.
Karen : I am constantly coming out. I had to “come out” multiple times to family members who fluctuate from a place of denial to one of acceptance. It has been difficult, but I have made a decision to live my life as openly as possible. I do not announce that I am gay when first meeting an individual since being gay is not an anomaly. I am not going to forewarn people about something that I am not ashamed of. In the course of conversation I will refer to my partner and our child. Overall, I have had positive experiences, where the acceptance and love outweighs those negative responses.
Jennifer : Similar to many queers, my coming out experience was rather traumatic. I married really young and then divorced, leaving the marriage with my one-year-old son Jadon. Soon after, I told my parents that I was interested in men and women. At first my parents treated it as a phase. It was easy to ignore my proclamation because they had never met anyone I had dated. When they finally met my first serious , they literally left in tears. Slowly I came out to all my friends, family members, and colleagues. People never assume I am queer and are frequently shocked when I talk about my partner. However, that doesn’t stop me from telling everyone from the taxi driver to my co-workers that I am femme, queer and fabulous!
Q2. Where and how did you two meet? Was it love at first sight?
Karen : We had a mutual friend in Atlanta who was convinced we were meant for each other. However, neither of us was ready for a relationship and ignored her for about a year. By some twist of fate we were at a party that we had both decided to attend at the last minute. We recognised each other from pictures our friend had shown us. We spent that entire night talking about a variety of topics. We dated for about a month before I really knew how I felt. Honestly, I fell in love with my partner’s son before I fell in love with her- with him it was love at first sight. I think my baggage from past relationships co-mingled with hers to prevent love at first sight. Now we live in Dobbs Ferry, New York with our son and our crazed rescue dog.
Q3. Relationships require a lot of work and you two decided to take it a notch higher by getting married. When did you realize that “this” was the “real deal”?
Karen : In my opinion when you’re living together and raising a child every decision you make carries extra weight. We both recognised early on that we needed to be sure of what we want and how our decisions affect our son. We learned to communicate and not be afraid of difficult topics. Even though we have our fights and disagreements, our lives fit seamlessly together. We talk every day and never seem to get enough of each other. For me there was no one moment of realisation but rather it was a growing awareness that every day I felt happier.
Q4. The State of New York legalizing same-sex marriage must have been a long awaited decision for you?
Karen : I am not an American citizen so the legalisation of same sex marriage at a state level does not affect us. Once DOMA is repealed, then, we will really celebrate! Right now DOMA keeps me from being in the US permanently with my family. However, we were excited and cried tears of joy when NYS legalised same-sex marriage, because it brings us to one step closer to being able to keep our family together permanently in the U.S.
Q5. How did you come out to your parents about your relationship and decision to get married? What was their reaction?
Karen : I spoke to my mother about Jenni and our son after we had been together for about 4 months. I knew that Jenni was important to me, and I did not want to hide this from my family. My mother was nervous and refused to discuss my sexuality for a long time. A little more than three years later, I told my mother that Jenni and I were thinking of getting married. Overall my mother’s reaction was positive. However she was nervous about the idea of two women being together. She still doesn’t talk about my sexuality but at least she doesn’t change the subject whenever I mention Jenni and our son. I brought Jenni and Jadon to Trinidad in 2010 to meet my family, and it was the first time I had ever introduced my family to anyone. She now asks me to say “hi” on her behalf every time we Skype. Some of my family members aren’t accepting of my choice to have Jenni as my partner but the only vote that really counts is my mother’s. My mother and other family members are travelling to NY for our second wedding ceremony in September.
Jennifer : When Karen and Jadon proposed to me, my heart swelled with love and devotion to our little family. Moments later, I was overcome with sheer dread at the thought of telling my family we were getting married. My family used to cope with my queerness by pretending that Karen and I were best friends who happen to live together. Getting married crushed their fantasy that I would eventually “come to my senses” and marry a man. It is still painful to envision my wedding day without my mother standing by my side, but I have a beautiful little family who will be there to love and support me.
Q6. Are your siblings supportive?
Karen : I have four sisters, and it’s split evenly down the middle. Two of them love and support me while the other two have nothing to do with me, my partner and our child. It’s hard not to have the support of all my family, but I am much happier being true to myself. It’s interesting that the majority of my aunts and uncles are supportive while my sisters who are closer to my age think that my life choices are fundamentally wrong.
Jennifer : My brother and I mostly avoid the fact that I’m queer. I think the entire topic is overwhelming for him on many levels. He asked me if I was sure this (getting married) is what I want and I said, “yes”. That was the extent of our conversation. He may or may not attend the wedding…..we will see.
Q7. You had a beautiful church wedding! Please tell us all about it.
Karen : This was a civil ceremony at our Village Hall. Jenni and I will have a Hindu ceremony at a temple in New Jersey in September. You can check out our weddingwebsite for details. However, since New Jersey has not legalised same-sex marriage, we had a legal ceremony in New York. Our simple ceremony turned into a Wedding when our friends surprised us by decorating and planning a special luncheon to celebrate. Eventhelocalpressturnedup. We were the first same-sex legal ceremony in our town of Dobbs Ferry, NY. We had a great time at lunch and then headed home for a dinner party with some queer friends.
Q8. Since you both belong to different racial backgrounds what kind of differences and/or adjustments did you have to make as a couple (if any)?
Karen : We may both speak English but there is definitely a language barrier and a lot of information gets lost in translation. I am East Indian but I grew up in the Caribbean so I have a blended outlook on life that is eastern but at the same time very West Indian. This was confusing to Jenni who grew up in California with many Korean and Chinese people but no one from the Caribbean. I am now very aware of how I may be perceived and I try to communicate clearly what I’d like to be understood.
Jennifer : This is an ongoing challenge and opportunity for me. When Karen and I first started dating, I had a difficult time understanding how her culture influences nearly every decision she makes. Although Karen explained Trinidadian culture, I still viewed her through my lens as a white, American, queer woman. It wasn’t until I visited Trinidad in 2010 that I fully realized the many ways Karen’s culture shapes her. Karen’s family and friends were playful, loving and embracing like Karen. It is truly beautiful how important family is in Trinidad, and I now understand more clearly who my partner is. Her family lives next door to each other, eats together, plays together, and supports each other. Karen’s Indian Trinidadian roots make her even more dynamic and gorgeous in my eyes.
Q9. Karen how was your struggle coming out as a Queer person different from Jennifer’s?
Karen : I found that my struggle was different in that my family and culture created a different atmosphere than that of Jenni’s. I had to consider how my family would react to my coming out as well as that of our community. Hindu families and their communities are so tightly knit that it’s hard to ask for space to work things out. My family is not as aware or comfortable with LGBTQ issues, and I find that most of their prejudices stem from the media.
Q10. What do you think about the on-going Queer movement in India? Do you plan on visiting anytime in the near future?
Karen : I am very impressed with how vocal the Queer movement in India is right now. It seems that they are so far ahead in their activism. Also, many of the voices that are speaking up appear to be coming from elders in the community. It inspires me in my activism as the Western world has more forums available for me to speak up in comparison to India. If my counterparts in India can accomplish this much despite a less welcoming atmosphere, then clearly I can do more for our community in the U.S. I would love to visit India but with my job, our child and possibly going back to school it may not be any time soon.
Q11. Both of you have been involved in the State level LGBT movement for some time now. Are you content with the progress made by the Queer community so far or do we still have a long road to travel?
Karen : I am not as happy as I could be with the progress that we have made. I believe we could be farther along if we worked together more. There are so many groups of Queers all trying to do the same work and not communicating with each other. We could be learning and working with each other, focusing our energies, and ultimately making a bigger impact.
Q12. Karen, since you work with children and are the new political chair of SALGA; what is your opinion on the Dharun Ravi verdict?
Karen : Firstly let me say that this is solely my personal opinion and does not represent the opinion of SALGA or any of its members. I believe that Dharun Ravi is guilty of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation and to some extent, intent to distribute pornographic material. In my opinion, Ravi is guilty, and I am happy with the verdict based on the information I gathered through following his trial. However, I do not believe he should serve jail time. Ravi has not received his sentence yet, and I hope that in May, at his hearing, it is more therapeutic than punitive. Otherwise, an opportunity to educate would be lost and two young men would have lost their lives in vain in this tragic case.
Q13. Jennifer, do you agree?
Jennifer : I am incredibly disheartened by the entire U.S. judicial system, and the case of Dharun Ravi is no exception. It is no coincidence that the media chose to obsess over a case where a person of color violated a white, young, gay man. We are using Mr. Ravi to set an example because he is an easy target. He’s a brown immigrant who represents a population of people that are becoming increasingly marginalized, disenfranchised and targeted. Were Mr Ravi’s actions homophobic, violating and grossly inappropriate? Yes. Does he deserve to be imprisoned and deported? Absolutely not.
Q14. And now on a lighter note: How does it feel post marriage? Is the honeymoon period still on?
Jennifer : It feels like we have been married for a long time since we have been raising a family together for a while now. When we first moved in together it was a very difficult transition for both of us. A couple years ago we started seeing a couples’ therapist, and our relationship continues to get better every day. Of course, there are days where we argue and walk off angry, but we always come back to one another and our love. I hope the honeymoon lasts forever!
Q15. Time for Fun stuff:
Pet Name for your partner?
Karen : My pet names for Jenni include JGrif, monkey pants and honey.
Jennifer : My pet names for Karen include cupcake, moo shu, squish, and pumpkin.
Most annoying thing about her?
Karen : This is a dangerous question to ask any couple. I would rather use the word frustrating. I am frustrated by Jenni’s habit of staying up late at night and then struggling to wake up/stay awake the next day. I spend a lot of time making sure she hasn’t dosed off on the couch instead of getting ready for work and that’s precious time when you’re also getting a little boy ready for school!
Jennifer : I was told by Karen that I must say “nothing!” Truthfully, I don’t find Karen annoying in any way. However, I find it frustrating that she feels like she has to be perfect for Jadon and me and meet all our needs. Sometimes it’s difficult for her to be vulnerable with me but thankfully I’m very good at prying.
I absolutely love it when…
Karen : I love when Jenni dances and sings in the living room especially when she gets silly and makes faces while dancing. I also love it when she holds my hand.
Jennifer : There are so many things!! Karen combs my hair almost every night, and it feels incredible. It’s a very intimate bonding ritual that I look forward to. I also love when Karen cooks Indian food for me (which is everyday). In case you weren’t aware, she is the BEST cook + baker in the WORLD! Karen’s connection with Jadon surpasses all my expectations of a co-parent. They have philosophical discussions about the meaning of life, have a mutual love for the outdoors, read books together, and wear matching clothes.
Dream lesbian couple…
Karen : I don’t have a dream lesbian couple. However, I recently read an article about a biographical novel by a man who claimed to be in charge of sourcing secret same sex partners for some of old Hollywood’s leading men and women. In this book he names Katherine Hepburn as one of his clients. If I were to have a dream lesbian couple she would be half of it.
Jennifer : My dream couple is probably Bettie Page and Marilyn Monroe. The wardrobe, make-up, and shoe collection would be FIERCE! I would definitely insist on doing lunch and tea on a regular basis.
Your favorite Queer themed book & Movie?
Karen : One of my favourite Queer themed books would have to be Interview with a Vampire. The love between the two male characters has undercurrents of romance and lust that make their relationship very intimate, much more so than just lovers
Jennifer : My favorite queer themed book is Just Kids by Patti Smith. Her sexuality and fluidity feels liberating and embracing. Her irreverence for societal norms, passion for art and music, and openness regarding love speaks to me.
Karen : One of my favorite Queer themed movies is Hedwig and the Angry Inch. An amazing rock opera about transgendered rock stars, androgynous gender queers and same sex love. It is such a well written play turned movie with an impressive soundtrack.
Jennifer : My favorite queer themed movie is Ma Vie en Rose which shows a young boy who loves to wear dresses, play with dolls and dreams about becoming a woman one day. His struggles with his family reflect the larger conflicts our society has with gender fluidity.