...when love provides you safety
Life never truly prepares us for the responsibilities of maintaining a consistent stream of income, housing, relationships and, ultimately, our mental health. That’s why for college sweethearts, Giselle and Laci, growing together as a couple into adulthood was no easy feat. The transition from carefree college students to 9-5 working adults, sharing space, time, and finances came with a lot of work, understanding and sacrifice.
But Giselle and Laci did something that many couples fail to consider–they communicated. Through every life adjustment, major decision, and challenge that came their way; they talked through how each person felt and came to a final decision or compromise that worked for the both of them. And through that constant state of communication they were able to start building the life that they have been imagining for themselves, including a home, a new puppy and an impending wedding.
Watch parts of LBH’s conversation of love with Giselle and Laci above or read it in full below where they talk with LBH about maintaining communication, transitioning their love into adulthood and building generational wealth:
How did you all meet? And how long have you all been together?
Giselle: We were friends at school, we both went to University of Central Florida in Orlando. [And] we were both in executive leadership positions in student run organizations. I was the president of the UCF chapter of the Black Female Development Circle Incorporated.
Laci: [And] I was the president of the Black Student Union.
Giselle: So, we were in kind of in the same circle in terms of student organizations [and] planning events together.
Laci: Especially being at a PWI. There wasn't a lot of us, so we were definitely in the same circle. I would say we were good friends.
Giselle: Yeah, we hung out in school settings and things like that. And then after our leadership terms ended, we kind of kept interacting with each other on social media. Everybody was on Twitter. So, that was definitely helpful to developing our friendship. Talking to each other on social media [first], which then led to person-to-person hanging out.
Laci: She shot her shot at me.
Giselle: Yeah, I wanted to hang out with Laci because she was very much the adventurous type. Discovering Orlando, finding all the food spots, and all the cool places to go downtown. All that type of stuff. I was bored at home a lot of the time. She was going to really cool places and I was like, well, I want to go too.
Laci: And I thought it was friendly the whole time.
Giselle: It was, it genuinely was. I just wanted to hang out because I was bored. We hung out pretty much the entire summer of 2015. [And by the end of that summer] I told Laci that I had developed non-platonic feelings for her.
Laci: I was a shocked.
Giselle: It was my first time really having these feelings for a womxn. And I was just like, you know, I don't really know what to do from here. [But] now five years later, here we are, engaged, a dog, a house. But we were genuinely friends first. [And] I really think that that helped [us] lay a strong foundation.
What were the emotions that you [Giselle] felt realizing that you were falling for a womxn for the first time, but also with someone who had become your good friend?
Giselle: I was absolutely scared of my feelings for Laci. When I was younger, I had some slight feelings towards some of my female friends that I didn't really understand. It's like, these girls are my friends, but I kind of see some of them differently. I didn't really understand it back then. I was like, okay, I can't think like that, those are my friends. I can't think of them in that type of way. So, I basically would dismiss those feelings whenever they would come up throughout my childhood, preteen and teenage years.
When I started developing real feelings for Laci [I told myself] this isn’t the first time you've had [a] different type of feeling for a womxn before. But, this is so different, it's on another level. I was just nervous coming out and all of that, especially with my background. I'm Dominican, [and] I was nervous to kind of come to terms with it. I ended up telling her roommate at the time, like, “hey, I like Laci, [and] I don't know what to do.” It was hard to kind of just come out and say it. But I just [figured] I have to tell her because I feel so strongly. I [couldn’t] make it go away and I didn't want to make it go away.
Giselle, what was your experience like coming out (as bisexual) later in life?
Giselle: Like I mentioned earlier, I'm Dominican, so, as far as the culture, it's a Caribbean culture of homosexuality not being very accepted. And not that I saw that really within my parents, but I just kind of [just] knew. Especially with my grandparents and other family members, I knew that it was not going to be okay. So, I definitely was very scared to come out. I came out in March of 2016 and we had [already] been officially dating. I pulled the trigger because I knew that Laci did not want to be kept a secret. And I was so happy, and I wanted to share my happiness. I wanted to be able to post it on Facebook and on Twitter and all that stuff without feeling like, oh, I need to hide this from my parents. It was hard [but] Laci was very understanding. She was like “if you're not ready, it's okay, I understand, [and] I know you're not keeping me a secret. I know this is a big deal. Take your time.” She did not pressure me into doing it, I was pressuring myself into doing it. It was rough, it was very rough. I had a lot of guilt in our relationship because I felt bad for Lace. I was like, you know, this isn't fair that my parents don't really like care to get to know you. Also, because her parents were so accepting of me and so loving, and I just felt like, wow, I can't provide that for Laci. So, it was a rough start, [and] I will say that it's still not a 100% there. It has gotten better, but we are still on a road to full acceptance.
"She has a provider personality, not that I was looking for that, but it's nice to know that she would do whatever she could to provide for me if I was in a place where I couldn't provide for myself. She would be there for me."
Laci, in our pre-interview conversation, you mentioned that after graduation you both moved up North for your job. Giselle, how did you feel making such a big decision? Did you feel like it was a sacrifice to be moving for Laci's career?
Giselle: No, I didn't, because prior to the pandemic, I have always been working from home. I am a graphic and web designer. So, I really had no problem leaving. I was in Orlando just to be in Orlando because that's where I graduated from, and I didn't feel like moving back home. I was kind of just there just to be there, and then obviously, Laci and I were together. It wasn't a sacrifice, but it was definitely a big decision because it was like the next level of our relationship. At that point, we had only been together a year and a half, right? (Looks over to Laci)
Laci: I'm going to say two and a half.
Giselle: Which I feel like is a good amount of time. And the way that we were living before in our separate apartments, we were still spending a lot of time with each other. We basically lived together because I was always over there. [But], not to say that things didn't change when we actually moved in together, it did. It was a big decision. Especially leaving your college town and your family. It was kind of hard in that sense, but I really had no problem. I really didn't second guess it to be honest.
Laci: And we didn't want to do long distance.
Do you all feel like dating as college students is different than dating as two working adults? Were there any changes in your relationship or in one another as individuals?
Laci: I would say that we definitely stepped into “adulating” together, we dove right into that. It was different to start discussing our bills and all of those different things [together], because we never really had [those] financial conversations before. And then when you start living together, you are both at the house together all of the time.
Giselle: You're [both] always there! [And] you don't have the option to leave because then if you leave, that's a problem, because…
Laci: Where you sleeping at?!
Giselle: Right! Versus, [saying] I have my own apartment that I can go too.
Laci: And then there was little stuff that we just didn't know about each other. You had a thing about my socks.
Giselle: Oh, girl, you knew that before we moved in together. She leaves her socks everywhere.
Laci: Yeah, just little stuff like that has definitely caused us to have way more communication. We had to start communicating more as adults. When we were in college, we were just having fun, go out for drinks, and just be out there, especially in Orlando. So, going into our adulthood, we really had to start focusing on our careers and those [types of] conversations. What does our family look like? What are we going to do about the future? Adulting was a huge wake up call, but I think we're doing all right.
We recently did a piece about financial literacy in the queer masc community, Laci, have you ever felt pressure to provide for Giselle considering you come off as masc presenting? And how do you all handle that conversation around finances as a couple?
Laci: Absolutely, 100% there was a pressure being mas presenting for me. My dad always took me aside as a little girl and always told me about the type of man that I should be with. Don't be with no broke dude, don't be with a guy who can't provide. [He] instilled that in me. [And] I took that and tried to put it on myself. I looked at him, and was like, I need to be able to provide like my dad is providing for my mom and my family. So, I definitely had that pressure. I feel like even when we started dating, I used to tell you, “girl I'm going to take care of you.”
Giselle: She would definitely whisper sweet nothings, talking me up [and] telling me things like, “Ooh, my career's going to take us places. I'm going to take care of you. I got us.” I mean, she was talking it up!
Laci: I was talking it up, and then after a while I was like damn, this shit is expensive.
Giselle: And to go into your second question, when we moved in [together], we were making basically around the same. And we kind of came into it like, okay, we'll just split things 50/50, in terms of rent, groceries, and all of those types of things. But I will say that Laci does take on more financial obligations in our relationship, as far as like, when we eat out, go to concerts, and you know, lounges or whatever; Laci is usually the one taking care of the bill. I do try to chime in every now and then, I can also pay for things. But that is definitely something that her father instilled in her. Most recently with her new job, finances have changed [and] she is making more than me now. We had to readjust things, and have that conversation again. 50/50 is not really fair at this point, so let's do a different percentage.
"Giselle makes me feel like I'm safe to be vulnerable. I'm safe to have feelings."
Laci: It was a lot of communication.
Giselle: It was a lot of communication, but I'm not going to sit here and be like, “Oh, you guys just need to talk it out,” because it is weird sometimes. Especially depending on the different financial backgrounds, you come from.
Laci: We came from completely different backgrounds financially, as well as, financial literacy. So, we definitely had to come together and have the conversation of what do we want. Not what our families had or where you come from, [but] what are we going to do? And what is it going to look like for us? And not be pressured by society's asking where the bag at.
Giselle: And then also just individually, like for me, this [past] year I had a whole financial coach to help me with my self and get my things together so then I can come better equipped [financially] into my relationship.
Laci: We are still working it out for sure. We have the foundation down, but it's still a conversation.
In our pre-interview conversation, you all shared how exciting this year has been even through the pandemic. A marriage proposal, a new puppy and even a new house! Did you all talk about getting married ahead of the actual proposal?
Laci: Oh, no, I was like, do you want to get married? That was a conversation we had that over and over.
Giselle: Yeah. We we've always talked about our future and [taking] our relationship to the next level. It was always a conversation that was had. The proposal came as a surprise, but not the fact that she was proposing.
Laci: We had been ring shopping as well.
Giselle: Honestly, looking back, I want to kick myself for not realizing that it was coming as fast as it did. But [we] absolutely planned for it, [and] talked about it a lot: do we want to really want to be each other for the rest of our lives? And I think it's important that every couple have that conversation, marriage isn't for everybody. [So], whether it's a marriage or just a lifetime commitment, it’s definitely a conversation that needs to be had.
Laci: Yeah, you shouldn't surprise people with rings. [But] I know when I was going to marry you. I don't know if you knew that?
Giselle: I think you told me.
Laci: Yeah, my dad was diagnosed with colon stage four in 2018. [And] that same year we were in Houston for surgery [and] for Christmas. Giselle came with me, and was with my family the whole time. Just her being there with me and my parents and being so supportive. You were really my dad's rock that whole time.
Giselle: That's my guy.
Laci: Taking him on walks and helping him around the hospital. I would see them off in the distance walking, and I was like I'm going to marry that girl. That's when I knew, and that's when I was like, all right, let me get my ducks in a row to get this started.
"I knew that Laci did not want to be kept a secret. And I was so happy, and I wanted to share my happiness."
In what ways do you all think marriage will be different in comparison to how your relationship is now?
Laci: I feel like the mindset changes. It's going to be a mind thing for me. I come from the old-school idea [that] you [are] still single until you [are] married. Not that I'm living that way at all, but when I'm writing stuff down on paper, I'm still single.
Giselle: No, I understand, you check the box: single.
Laci: I feel like there's going to be a mindset shift more so than anything physical.
Giselle: Yeah, it's absolutely a mindset [thing] because at the end of the day, when we come back from Mexico (where they plan to get married), everything's going to be the same.
Let’s talk about your new house! How was the buying and building process been as a black queer couple? Did you all face any discrimination?
Laci: When we go look at places, sometimes the owner or someone may feel like you can't afford it, or they're questioning if you would fit into this neighborhood. It's like, [are] you even supposed to be here?
Giselle: Yeah, I felt more discrimination because we're young. I would say maybe every now and then, [there was] definitely discrimination towards [us being] a black and brown femxle couple. But definitely because we are not the typical buyer that you see. So, our process with our builder, it was kind of rocky. It wasn't the most ideal first time home buying process, unfortunately.
Laci: I think that if I could go back, I would definitely have a realtor.
Giselle: It's funny because my mom's a realtor, so she was pretty upset when we signed papers without any representation. Not that she could be our representation because she's in another state, but just any representation because, I don't want to get into logistics, but you know, having somebody who knows the industry and being able to advocate for you. So, yeah, I definitely felt that we were looked at a certain way because of our age, demographic and sexuality to a certain extent.
What about being new homeowners is the most exciting?
Laci: I'll say two things. One, it's like coming in and it's a blank canvas for us to create, and I am really excited to create something beautiful. We have so much blank space to work with and just so much we can do. And then the second thing I'm excited about is just having something in our name, that's building equity. I feel like that's just such a huge accomplishment. We're still, I would say we're fairly young, so, I mean, it's such a blessing to have that.
Giselle: To be in this position.
Laci: Sometimes I'll wake up, [and] I'm just looking like, wow, this is mine, like, it is mine.
Giselle: I think for me, [it’s that] I finally have an office. Like I said, I have worked from home for the past three and a half years, but I have never had a separate space for work. It's always been in my bedroom or in the living room. So now I have an office that I can go in, close the door and I can leave work [in there]. This pandemic has been a lot, obviously for everybody. But for us, I was working from home and Laci was going to work every day, so we wouldn't be with each other all day. So, when she started working from home, we were just in the living room together every day. Now we have so much space, [and] I love it. [I also ] hate it to a certain extent because I [got] use to having her with me all the time and now we're so far apart [in the house]. But I do like that we can both do our own thing and still be in the same place while not bothering one another.
Looking into 2021, what are some goals you all have established to achieve as a couple?
Laci: I think a big thing we [need] to keep talking about [is] finances. We definitely want to continue having more communication about finances, especially since we bought this house. I definitely want us to come together and create a financial plan. That's going to be good for both of us, and for our kid in the future and their kid in the future. Building that generational wealth and really start having that conversation. I’m interested in therapy as well; I am big on mental health. I saw Giselle started going to therapy this year and I'm always supported therapy, but I never really went. So, I'm definitely looking to do that for myself and then us going to couples counseling together before we get married, because I feel like that's a really important big thing. Not that we have issues, but you know.
Giselle: I would also add, just being more mindful of one another, one another's needs and one another's love language. What the other person is seeking out of a relationship. Those are ongoing goals that, to me, I feel like we'll never really stop in a relationship. It's those types of things that help the foundation last. t's always something that [can be] improved on. Just be mindful of one another and spend time with each other.
"She shot her shot at me. "
Last question, how does it feel to be loved by her?
Laci: How does it feel to be loved by Giselle? Man, that is a deep question. I would say if I could pick a word out the sky, I would say safe, vulnerable. I wasn't very vulnerable before I met Giselle and I'm still learning, but being loved by Giselle makes me feel like I'm safe to be vulnerable. I'm safe to have feelings. I have a military background, my dad was in the military, and it wasn't always a place where you're supposed to have feelings for the most part. Not that I wasn't able to, but like, they'd call me a punk. So, I definitely see how as an adult how that has worked [it’s way] into my relationship. And since I've met Giselle, she's definitely made me someone who is more in check with myself, more in tune with who I am and what I'm feeling, and be more empathetic to how she's feeling. Being loved by Giselle makes me feel safe to be vulnerable and I love that.
Giselle: How it feels to be loved by the Laci? I feel secure. I feel like no matter what, Laci's always going to love me. We all have our shortcomings and I feel like Laci is very understanding with mine. And, like she mentioned, I started therapy this year and I have become very much more self-aware of myself. I'm a work in progress. And I love that she is so supportive of that, it makes me love [her] even more. I just feel very secure that she's always going to be there for me no matter what, in an emotional sense, and also in actual, like, physical type of sense. She has a provider personality, not that I was looking for that, but it's nice to know that she would do whatever she could to provide for me if I was in a place where I couldn't provide for myself. She would be there for me.
Interview by: Kee Simone, LBH Editor-in-Chief (@thebaddiegalore)
Images featured are by photographer Eli Holmes (seasmtns.co)