Coupled Up: Brandon & Blair Dottin-Haley
Since inception, Living Out Loud 2.0 has made it our mission to elevate the lives and stories of Black same gender loving men, especially those of us in committed relationships. That's why we're thrilled to relaunch our popular "Coupled Up" series on our new platform. Make no mistake about it, representation matters. The best tool we have towards dismantling stereotypes and combating homophobia, both internally and externally, is by owning our power and telling our own stories.
Maryland residents, Brandon, 34, and Blair Dottin-Haley, 41, are our first featured couple. The co-founders of Blairisms, an online apparel company celebrating Black culture—the pair are partners in both love and business.
Living Out Loud 2.0 caught up with the married couple to find out more about their love story and how it's evolved over the years. Get into all things Dottin-Haley in our interview below.
How are you two dealing with being quarantined? Is there anything you're doing to remain centered and healthy during this time?
Brandon & Blair: We’re well and doing our best to keep each other entertained, healthy and sane. This crisis has taken a toll on us all, and we’re making sure that we take time to relax when we need to, stay connected with friends and family, and most importantly take care of each other.
How did you two meet and how long have you been together?
Brandon & Blair: We met online (shout out to BGClive.com) in February of 2009, but didn’t end up meeting in person until late October of that year. We’re celebrating our 9 year wedding anniversary this coming June 11th.
Reflecting back on the first time you met, did you have any idea that this would be a long-term relationship?
Brandon & Blair: Not even an inkling. Neither of us were looking for anything serious.
How long did you two date before you knew it was serious? Did you proceed with caution or did you jump right in?
Brandon: Blair started to realize something was happening about a month and half after we met.
Blair: Two months later, Brandon proposed. So I guess we jumped right in.
What memory from your wedding day sticks out the most? Did you ever think you'd be married and that your union would be recognized in all 50 states?
Brandon: It was the door opening and me seeing Blair standing in the middle of the aisle waiting for me.
Blair: It was surprising him with a serenade of Donny Hathaway’s “A Song For You" at the altar. We imagined that it would possibly happen, we had no idea it would happen so soon. After we were married, we were blessed to meet Edie Windsor, the plaintiff from the case that granted marriage equality before she passed.
What was the reaction of family and friends when you decided to come out individually and as a couple?
Brandon: When I told everybody, they were all like, 'Yeah, we know.'
Blair: I was outed by an older guy when I was 16. It was a tough road to understanding and acceptance by some of my family and friends, but we definitely crossed that bridge and came out with even stronger bonds. When we announced our engagement, because it was relatively sudden and so soon after we met, we had a mixture of people who were both extremely supportive, supportive and uncertain, and completely unsupportive. Our families, once we each met them, were completely supportive and they were all that really mattered to us, but we certainly both lost what we thought were friends in the process.
What are your thoughts on the representation or lack thereof of Black gay couples in media, and the pervasive myth that interracial relationships is the best option for Black gay men?
Brandon & Blair: We’re encouraged by some of the more recent examples in the media, Council of Dads, Moonlight, David Makes Man, and Pose come to mind. There’s always room and need for more. We’ve been in the shadows for so long, we deserve to have light shining on the love in our community. About interracial relationships as the best option, that’s a troubling myth. It illustrates the social mandate of white supremacy that deems proximity to whiteness as the goal or measure of success. We should all reject that myth as we learn to love our own and each others’ Blackness more.
As a gay couple that is visible in the community, do you feel any pressure to be #couplegoals? How do you guys decide what to share publicly on social media and what you will keep private?
Brandon & Blair: We actually don’t have much conversation about what to post or share or not. We use social media to stay connected to family, friends, and community and chronicle our lives. To that extent, our “content” isn’t really curated. As far as pressure to be #couplegoals, we really don’t feel any. We hope that our journey might help somebody else in theirs, but also know that everybody’s journey is their own. Every couple has to carve out their own path, and the people in that relationship have to do that together. That’s what this is all about. If folks get that from us, then our sharing has not been in vain.
How do you keep the flame burning after being together for so long?
Brandon & Blair: We've kept the flame burning by continuing to do what started the fire. You have to continue to connect and build on that which set you both ablaze to start. As you grow and change together, continue to communicate about what your needs are, and ask your partner theirs. Also, learn and engage each others’ love language. It’s essential to keeping the fire going. Stringy underwear doesn't hurt either.
Any advice for folks looking to get coupled up?
Brandon & Blair: Be sure, first and foremost, that you’re in a relationship with the right person. That is the real key to doing this thing for a lifetime. We are really blessed to have found each other because we help to make each other better. We push each other, we encourage each other, sometimes we hurt each other, because we’re human and imperfect, but we always do the work to be better to and for each other.