Healthy Relationships: KICK Delves Deeper in Tuesday Night Talk

BY Crystal A. Proxmire

DETROIT -

What makes a healthy relationship work?

The folks at KICK, The Agency for LGBT African Americans, thought this was an important topic to explore, so for their Aug. 14 discussion group they invited a gay couple and a lesbian couple to share their story and answer questions about how they have a healthy relationship.

Unfortunately the lesbians didn't show, but it gave Anthony Boykins and Henry Walker a chance to tell a love story slightly more realistic than the hetro-normative Cinderella story that so many Americans base their ideas about love around.

Walker was visiting from Chicago three years ago when some friends took him to The Woodward. "I was standing at the back of the Woodward, having my first June Bug. There was nobody in there so my friends and I started singing. I saw him and I was like 'who is he?' And I had to go introduce myself," Walker said. The pair had such a nice time that they ended up going out for Mexican food and sitting in the parking lot talking until the sun came up.

"The time we met I was not looking for anything. But I saw him and I knew, like 'wow, he's not from here,'" Boykins said. "He is so great. He's educated. He likes to help people - he'd help the whole wide world. It happened and I ain't trying to stop it. It just hit me."

Like every relationship they've had their struggles. Early on it was the matter of the commute. Walker would drive from Chicago until finally he decided to find work in Detroit and get a place. He described the moment he knew they would have a lasting love. "He's not always too expressive, but he took me to look for apartments and we looked at one. Then he says, 'Why are you looking for a place? I love you. We can move together,' and that's when I knew that this was real."

Boykins, clearly the quieter one, had moments of sentimentality that touched the crowd and made Walker get sparkles in his eyes. "I don't see no end to us really. I mean, you have to die sometime, but no end until that," Boykins said.

The discussion centered around what makes a healthy relationship. Many in the group were single men, still struggling to find the right person. When asked what is important in a healthy relationship, most said communication though others talked about humor, compromise, trust and passion.

"Passion is being able to see your boy from across the room, and he's wearing boy shorts, flip flops...hmmm...ok, I'm speaking for myself, but it's when you see him and you want to go across the room," said one young single person.

Someone else later noted that "the younger generation learns romance from BET," adding that because of the glamorized playa lifestyle, "some men are too afraid to be nice."

KICK founder Curtis Lipscomb recalled going to a bar on gentlemen's night and enjoying mellow, romantic music like jazz or soul while talking with other men. "When I'm at the club and I hear Little Wayne I don't feel very loving."

Another complication brought up was the fact that people get to know each other differently than in the past.

"There's no need to court anymore," someone chimed in. "You can go to someone's Facebookpage and it's all there. Who they are. Where's their family from? What are their goals? You don't have conversations and get to know someone."

Others talked about the confusion of how one should be nice and behave appropriately in a same-sex relationship. "Sometimes if you hold a door for a guy he'll get mad and say that's he's not a girl," someone said.

"One way we learn about relationships is to mirror successful relationships," Lipscomb said. For him having a gay uncle made it easier to visualize a healthy gay relationship for himself, but he acknowledged that many people don't have that. Some even have the additional problem of being estranged from their families.

"I hate when you meet a guy and he wants to take you to his family and says 'they don't have a problem with me, but they don't like the whole gay thing', so we gotta act a certain way. I don't like that shit," said someone in the group.

Fortunately Boykins and Walker have family support and a good network of LGBT supporters in their life, including close family relationships and a gay uncle in Walker's family. Being active in KICK and going to positive community events helps solidify their bond.

Boykins says there is compromise and patience. "Like when he needs something for his art and wants to go to Lowes, I know to just be patient and let him get what he needs to get, and I try to think of what he might be making. I know it makes him happy and I know he'll make something beautiful. So I give him his space."

Sometimes in relationships people have an idea of a fairy-tale perfection, but Boykins said being realistic is a better approach. "I didn't have expectations. I just knew what I was not going to do. I just knew I had this good person in my life, so I didn't put too much expectation on him....This is my friend first. But we are in love. We get along. We talk to each other. We watch funny programs on TV. We're in love, but we also kick it."

Every Tuesday KICK members and the public are invited to take part in a Live & Learn discussion, which cover a variety of topics. To find out more about KICK and the Live & Learn series at http://e-kick.org/.

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