Coupled Up: Karl & Erry
It was love at first sight when we stumbled upon the Tik Tok for New York City couple Karl and Erry. We're still unsure of the link that led us to this amazing pair, but we're chalking it up to fate. It was a no-brainer that they would become the second couple to be featured in the relaunch of our popular Coupled Up series on the new Living Out Loud 2.0. 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. And what a story they both have to tell.
Living Out Loud 2.0 caught up with the emerging digital content creators, who in addition to having amassed over 50,000 followers on Tik Tok and nearly 700,000 likes on their videos, are also the hosts of So Karl & Erry, a YouTube show that gives viewers a peek inside their relationship.
No topic is off-limits as the fun couple shares their challenges and their triumphs. Get into all things Karl & Erry in our interview below.
How old are you both and where are you from originally?
Erry: Karl is 27 (Libra) and I'm 28 (Cancer).
Karl: I was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. At the age of 10, my family moved from Haiti to Florida when my mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Erry: I was born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica. I worked hard to obtain a visa and at the age of 23, I left my mother and siblings and moved to Harlem.
What brought each of you to New York City?
Karl: The big Apple is where dreams can come true! I think we both wanted a fresh start in life. Erry wanted a better life and to make something of himself, as did I.
Erry: I knew from a young age that I was "different." And Jamaica isn't too keen on difference. I was always headstrong and sure of myself. I came out as gay to my mother before leaving Jamaica. I ultimately had to leave for my safety.
Karl: And I grew up Mormon (LDS), which caused me to struggle with being "different." Even after coming out as gay to my father, I still wrestled with my individuality. When I got into Columbia University, I saw NYC as a ticket out of FL, and a second chance to truly live my life. It's funny how N.Y. for us felt like some sort of haven.
How did you two meet and how long have you been together?
Erry: We connected on Grindr. One night, Karl was in his dorm room and just happened to be taken by my default picture. It all started with a "Hey there." We spoke on the phone that first night, but it then turned into calls and messages every night.
Karl: Erry would always have a new poem to share with me. We met for the first time on a summer afternoon for tea at Riverside Park just before Karl's human rights class. We then became movie buddies and would take walks on the piers. We took turns walking each other home. Erry also took me to my first Pride parade which was pretty magical!
Erry: Since then we've been inseparable. We just understand each other so well, and that's because we were made for each other. We recently celebrated our second year anniversary! To this day, Karl jokes about how ironic it is that the love of his life is Jamaican. I guess you can say he got his groove back (laughter).
Reflecting on the first time you met, did you have any idea that this would be a long-term relationship?
Karl: We both at some point felt as though this was too good to be true. Things just felt so natural between us. Nothing was forced, and we were always eager to see each other day after day. You don't meet someone like this, and not make them yours!
How long did you two date before you knew it was serious? Did you proceed with caution or did you jump right in?
Erry: We dated for three months before we made it official. It took this long because we were in denial that we had fallen for each other. We didn't want to admit or say it out loud. I mean, it's crazy, right? We were so young, without a dollar to our name or our careers figured out quite yet. Karl lived in a college dorm, and I lived with my cousin and aunt. All the things that we're told to have secured before seriously getting involved with someone, we did not have. However, we also realized that having each other, and feeling what we felt for one another was far more rare and precious. And something as priceless as this, you don't run away from.
Karl: I remember visiting Erry's job and unconsciously mentioning the B-word! I told him that I'd always fantasized about visiting my boyfriend's job. I think we both pretended as if I hadn't said what I just said. That same night after Erry ended his shift, I asked him to be my boyfriend.
What was the reaction of family and friends when you decided to come out individually and as a couple?
Erry: I came out to my mother at the age of 18. She is a Christian. She told me that if I wanted to I could change. Following this, she took me to a priest to try an pray the gay away. Since then, I have been outed to several of my family members. My being gay is something they know about, but it's not a topic of discussion. My mother has also expressed fear of being attacked in Jamaica as a result of me living in my truth.
Karl: I came out to my father at the age of 17. He disapproves and prays that this "phase" will end. I often think about my father's disappointment with me. My family has met Erry in person over Christmas, and they know and support us the best way they know-how.
You both are very visible on social media, how do you decide what to share publicly and what you will keep private?
Karl & Erry: Great question. The decision to go public about our relationship came from a desire to showcase black and queer Caribbean love. It also came out of a desire to be seen and heard, because we are very much aware of the history of our countries. We are openly gay Black men who are Haitian and Jamaican. That's rare! Our content is very much so about us owning our existence, helping others to acknowledge our presence, and inspiring other LGBTQ+ Caribbeans to do the same. We're always having conversations about the things in our lives that we feel have to be public for the sake of raising cultural awareness and to counter ignorance, while also curating our content to keep us safe from popular opinions and harm. We share the kind of content we like to see. Our content is designed to make you comfortable and/or uncomfortable. We’re firm believers in being our true authentic selves, so our social media platforms have to be a true reflection of who we are.
Can you share how fans, friends, and relatives have reacted to your Tik Tok and YouTube?
Karl: The reactions have been positive for the most part. We get DMs from people thanking us for doing what we do. They often say that they wish they could do the same (because most of these people live in Jamaica and Haiti, and they cannot). Friends and family have been extremely supportive of our journey. There are days when we get negative comments, which makes it hard to want to go on.
Erry: It often feels as though you're someone's punching bag, and they're angry for being forced to confront, question and deal with their double standards, biases, ignorance, and hetero fragility. You're welcome! (laughter). However, the positive outweighs the negative. We try our hardest not to feed into the negativity by remembering why we do what we do. There are people who still love and appreciate our content and that’s what keeps us going. Along with the drive to tell our story and help to foster a community for Black queer Caribbeans.
There's a school of thought that public relationships are doomed for failure, and if couples desire longevity, especially Black gay couples, they should keep their relationship private. How do you respond to this idea?
Erry: Any relationship public or private is doomed for failure if the individuals in the relationship aren't nurturing the love that they have for one another. We refuse to buy into that narrative. The mind is a powerful weapon. There’s a Jamaican proverb that says “belief kills and belief cures." Which simply means—you believe in what you want to happen. We have just as much a right to freely express our love for each other as other public hetero couples do, doomed to fail or not. Because that's where we truly set up ourselves for failure, isn't it? By fearing the worst that could happen rather than living for now. We are confident in the love we share. There has to be a goal. Karl and I didn't have any at first, but once we knew that we wanted to be in each other's lives, we made plans and goals together for a successful and long relationship.
What are your thoughts on the representation or lack thereof of Black gay couples in media, and the pervasive myth that interracial relationships are the best option for Black gay men?
Karl & Erry: Gay love is a spectrum, and gayness is not a monolith. So we stan, and are fully supportive of interracial relationships, so long as it isn't founded on the myth that it is better, cuter, sexier, more profitable, more mainstream, trendy, or more acceptable. Because that contributes to the erasure of black love. So much of Black gay culture revolves around the black male gaze. You know, the more muscular and masculine apparent Black men that our young and mature alike obsess over. The lack of representation also has something to do with (for many) this inability to envision a successful, happy, and long-term relationship between Black gay men. It would seem impossible, but we assure you it is not!
Will there be wedding bells in the future?
Erry: Oh absolutely! Our saved collections on Instagram for ideas for the perfect gay Black wedding is aggressive. Karl and I have our disagreements about venues and themes, but that's just it about gay weddings, both grooms can be such bridezillas.
Any advice for folks looking to get coupled up?
Karl & Erry: Don't fear love when it comes knocking at your door. Just go for it and enjoy the ride!