| AMY TANNENBAUM
Carolyn and Kaleisha’s story begins before they even met: Carolyn grew up across the street from Kaleisha’s uncle. But it would be many more years before their paths would cross, and before that would happen, they experienced very
Both grew up in Columbus, came from larger families, and knew they were gay at an early age. Kaleisha came out to her friends and family at 18, and lived openly all through college at Wittenberg University, and for the most part, experienced a relatively easy coming out experience. Her friends and family accepted her. “I pledged a sorority, it was no big deal, nobody cared,” explains Kaleisha. “It was a different experience than most people and I feel very fortunate to have had that experience.”
On the other hand, for Carolyn, who grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness, coming out was hard. “I had a lot of turmoil to deal with,” recounts Carolyn. “For as long as I could remember as a kid, I liked girls, but I always knew it was wrong. It was never something to consider because of my religion, but I knew what thoughts were going on in my head.” Before Carolyn even came to terms with being gay, she disfellowshipped and left the religion at 21. As a result, she lost contact with many, though her mother never stopped talking to her. She finally came out after spending a few years in Indianapolis. Carolyn’s parents passed before she would have gotten to the point in life where she would have been compelled to come out to them. To this day, she has close family members that refuse to communicate with her because of her sexuality and her shunning from the religion.
Carolyn and Kaleisha’s lives finally intersected when they found themselves working in the same department. While Kaleisha had just exited a bad relationship, Carolyn was truly coming to terms with herself since returning from Indianapolis. By the time they met, Kaleisha explains, “I think we were both ready for something different.” Though Carolyn would generally describe herself as the more outgoing one between the two of them, she didn’t seem to get all the hints Kaleisha was dropping: “Her friends had to convince her I was even hitting on her because she didn’t believe it,” says Kaleisha. “We would hang out and talk about music, and I made a mixed tape for her. She played it for friends and they’re like, ‘This girl isn’t hitting on you? Have you heard this song?!’” After an evening out with coworkers, they realized there was a connection and a few dates later, the sparks were too much to deny. On April 6, 2001, they decided to give their relationship a go.
“We wanted to do it as a way to just celebrate us, because technically we’re not legally married, but we also wanted to keep our dating anniversary as our wedding anniversary,” says Kaleisha. “Our end goal is still to get married. We want those protections. We’ll probably go somewhere one for the technicality of it all.”
Carolyn and Kaleisha’s wedding day was full of love and support from many family and friends who attended. While Kaleisha’s large and supportive family was present, many on Carolyn’s side were noticeably absent. Since many of her siblings have rejoined the religion, they have cut ties with Carolyn. “I don’t feel like I’ll ever go back to the religion ever,” she says. “I talk to myself a lot and I like to think God loves me anyway, cause he knows I’m a good person, regardless of who I love. I try to have faith in the fact that he knows my heart, knows that I would help anyone. My relationship with him personally is more important than what anyone in this religion thinks of me.”
Looking forward, Kaleisha and Carolyn are considering the possibility of having children, but they understand there could be a long and difficult road ahead of them. In the meantime, they just celebrated their one year anniversary with a photo shoot for this column!