Photography by Chris Stanford
Chwanda: I always had attractions to females, but Kacey is my first relationship with a woman. I was on my way to being separated from my husband when I met her. He and I were together -- on and off -- for 17 years. We didn't get married until 2005, and I knew I shouldn't marry him, but I did. We had our four kids together.
After Kacey and I met, we talked on Facebook. Then we decided to go to the mall together. I said how I liked chocolate-covered strawberries and she bought one. She decided she wanted to feed me the strawberry. We bought it and went to the car, and she fed it to me, and I went, "Ooookaay..." And it went on from there: Boom! I love hard. I won't say I love quick, because I don't. But I love hard. I'm very romantic. I was missing that.
Also, we both had surgery early on in the relationship, which I will always remember. After she had surgery, I stayed with her, for a week. This was before she even really knew we were gonna be together. I think that was one of the things that really took us over the top: that we could care for each other in that sense.
It was Kacey's fault my kids found out. Kacey's a picture freak, and she was taking some of her friends, while I was in the bed watching TV, trying to hide from this picture she was taking. No one noticed until she put the picture up on Facebook and tagged me, and I started getting phone calls. Two of my stepchildren from my ex-husband, who were way older, found out. So I let everyone know: "You guys are grown, so I'm not really worried about how y'all react. I'm more concerned about the younger ones." I think my youngest son may have cried a little bit. I don't think he was disappointed, but I think it was finally real that I was not gonna be with their dad anymore. The one thing I remember is that they kept saying they wanted me to be happy. And they liked Kacey.
We decided to move and left for Georgia, but we came back in April 2011 after civil unions were made legal in Illinois. We had a big ceremony. We danced to Beyonce's "Love on Top" as our song. It was a nice turnout, a mixture of close friends and family. A lot more of her people than mine, I'd say.
The Frierson-Jackson family Thanksgiving, from left: Kimoni Frierson, Daviyon Nixon, Katherine Nixon, Louis Nixon, Chwanda Nixon, Kimron Frierson, Kacey Frierson, Edward Nixon, Kimari Frierson, Dontae Blaze (Kacey's nephew), Glenda Coburn (Kacey's mom). Opposite page: Chwanda, left, and Kacey.
Kacey: My first experience was with a woman, but then you're told "Men, that's the right thing to do: get a boyfriend." So that's what I did. I've always been single. Ain't no way in the hell I'm getting married! was my attitude on it. But of course I wanted children, and I had my three.
When Chwanda came along, I thought we would have a good time, play around a little bit, all right. Because that was still in my head: I was just dating; I wasn't seeing any one person exclusively. It didn't work out that way. We started sending each other songs over email. And then she texted me this long poem. Oh my God, that was it for me. That's what got me: her words. Then I went to Cancun with my mom and cousin soon after we first started out. There was this novelty store, and I saw this plaque with the word ailobiu. We were trying to figure out what the hell it said because it didn't look like Spanish, and the clerk explained: "I love you." But it's more phonetic. So I bought this little plaque for her. Then two years later, we got it tattooed on our ring fingers. And I always have that: Her love is on me, and my love is on her.
Everyone is pretty much cool with us. The only thing we get is that people think we resemble one another and say, "Is this your sister?" "No, this is my wife." I don't hesitate: It's normal for me. But since the ceremony in Illinois wasn't a real marriage, we thought we'd go to New York and do the legal one. But then I was like, "If we're going to New York, those other states are right there, and then we could go to Canada, too! If we drive and take this route, we could hit all these places in a week."
Chwanda was like, "We gonna get married all them times?" And I'm like, "Yeah!" Once I started, I couldn't stop: If I'm gonna do something, I'm gonna do it big!
The hardest thing, of course, is trying to take care of six people with one income, since Chwanda is still looking for a job. That has really been our only challenge. I'm so determined; I don't care what I have to go through. Even though we're struggling, even though it's hard, we still have each other, we still have the kids. And after the "I Do" Marathon, my kids can say they did something that no one else has done. This will be a trip they will never forget.