18 August, 2021 LGBTQ+ COUPLES DEEP ELLUM
I love photographing my friends. Seeing them so happy and comfortable together brings me great joy. After all of the isolating in 2020, it’s been rewarding to come through that stage of the pandemic and spend a lot less time being on the go and more time and energy working on being present with the LGBTQ+ community here in Dallas and Deep Ellum. I am sure travel will pick up soon, but in the meantime I have cherished the connections made while staying local. On that note…
MEET EM [THEY/THEM IG: @MUDDLEDMILK] ON THE LEFT AND HEATHER [THEY/THEM IG: @THEGOODCHILD] ON THE RIGHT. LET’S GET TO KNOW A LITTLE ABOUT THEIR STORY…
HEATHER: We met just over two years ago and I hope we stay together many, many more. I’m a Dallas local, designer, and photo/videographer who has been in Austin for 5 years. I never embedded myself in the queer community outside of attending protests – including Queerbomb, my favorite over Pride. Though I used to be heavily involved in groups and small community efforts, these days I spend more of my time one-on-one with locals. One of the things I most enjoy is chatting with a stranger – anyone from a bartender while I eat lunch, or a person without housing. I am one of those “small talk is important” people. I live by that.
EM: We’ve been together a little over two years now. I’m a nervous chihuahua of a human who values authenticity, deep connections with a select few, and putting in work (for myself and for others). Basically, I’m a Capricorn. I enjoy cooking new things, moving my body (HIIT and yoga keep my anxiety in check), unlearning things, and finding delight where I can. Professionally, I’m a Project Manager for a creative design team. I’m also currently in the process of applying to grad school to eventually become a therapist (the dream)!
HOW’D YOU MEET AND WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU REMEMBER ABOUT THE OTHER?
H: We met on Tinder, but our first in-person meet and date was a couple of weeks later. Our first date is something we both think a lot about. We’ve also gone back and read those first Tinder messages. It’s funny how cool we both tried to be for one another. But at the same time, very honest. And immediately, Em was non-judgmental about everything I said. I was really surprised someone could be so … kind. And so the first time we met, I remember Em laughing a lot, being flirty. I could also feel how nervous they were. I was, too, though. On the way to our date, I texted a friend and said, “I’m going to vomit.” I’ve never been so nervous meeting someone.
E: Heather super-liked me on Tinder but claims it was an accident (verdict still out). I was so nervous about our first date that I got there super early to avoid the whole walk-in-and-look-around-aimlessly thing. Aside from how vulnerable and intentional we were with each other from the very start, the first thing I remember about Heather is hearing their voice — it’s low, steady, and extremely hot. But by the end of the night (several hours and 2 locations later) it was their easy, generous laugh that stuck in my head. If you’ve met Heather you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
WHAT WAS ONE OF THE MOST CHALLENGING THINGS YOU FACED AS A COUPLE? WHAT BROUGHT YOU CLOSER TOGETHER DURING THESE TIMES AND WHAT MADE YOU FEEL FURTHER APART?
H: 100% the global pandemic has been the most challenging thing we’ve faced as a couple. We had 9 months together before the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic hit our region. We also moved in together later that year. As a couple who didn’t even have to pride themselves in individuality – we just lived it so naturally – it became increasingly difficult navigating a small apartment and a quarantine together. From the beginning of our relationship, our communication has saved us. I cannot stress that enough. Talk to your partner – talk to everyone important in your life with humility and transparency.
E: Um, what Heather said. We went from being super independent and only seeing each other a few times a week to quarantining together in a matter of months. I’d been really intentional about maintaining a delineated sense of self while dating as an adult (thanks, therapy) but all my strategies (like spending time with friends or going out and doing my own thing) were suddenly unavailable. I had to learn how to carve out a space for myself with Heather (and our pets) in the same room. Not to mention, we both had pandemic depression! It was a really difficult time but it forced me to practice asking for what I need and that’s made our relationship stronger.
H: I like that Em is being so honest about anxiety and depression. It’s been a big part of my life in general, and the pandemic blew things out of the water. I am lucky to be going through this with someone who loves me endlessly.
WHAT IS A BIT OF ADVICE YOU’D GIVE TO OTHER LGBTQ+ COUPLES OUT THERE WHO ARE STRUGGLING BECAUSE OF THE PANDEMIC.
H: Get your together time and get your alone time. In the start of the pandemic, I used to drive around and listen to music just to get outside somehow. And there was a point in the pandemic where I realized: “Oh! I … I can go outside!” I had been so used to patronizing brick & mortars that I forgot I could just step outside and not. We did some canoe / kayak rentals together. We went to the hill country and grabbed a cabin with an amazing view. We now have a coffee date every Saturday morning to slow things down, step away from our home offices, and really face one another.
E: Be intentional about your time together and your time apart. Check in with each other often. Ask for space. Ask for intimacy. Ask for time alone to lounge around mindlessly in your underwear. Ask, “what do you need tonight?”
H: Damn, Em. That was beautiful. This is the kind of stuff we say to each other, too.
3 THINGS YOU THINK THAT MAKE A RELATIONSHIP LAST:
H: Communication. Communication. Communication.
E: Building a culture of appreciation. Accepting your partner as they are. Being honest about your needs and feelings.
WHY’D YOU CHOOSE STEPH TO DOCUMENT THESE MEMORIES FOR YOU?
H: I’ve known Steph for a long time. I have shot with her, too. What I noticed when she shot couples was she made them feel like family. Best friends. Loved ones. She made them laugh at anything – themselves, each other – which put them at ease when facing the lens. That’s exactly how I felt being shot, too. I felt super awkward because I’m normally the one taking photos, but somehow Steph found those angles and kept me from sweating.
E: I’ve heard so much about Steph from Heather over the last 2 years but this shoot was the first time I got to meet her in person. She did not disappoint! I’m typically very shy and uncomfortable in front of the camera, but she had a way of putting us completely at ease and was able to capture some really sweet and authentic moments. She’s also a fantastic hype man.