Today we are thrilled to introduce you all to Kim and Conor. We’ve known these two for many years now, and to say they are hilarious is an understatement. These two have their own personalities, stories and histories as an interracial, gay common-law couple and no one tells it better than they do.
They opened up about coming out, being in a long term gay relationship, pressures around interracial relationships and more.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the REALationship of Kim and Conor. (Get your abs ready for some laughs and your minds ready from some real truths!)
KIM AND CONOR
K: Kim Nguyen
Occupation: I’m a registered massage therapist.
C: Conor Graham
Age: I’m 30 almost 31
Occupation: I’m a senior accountant for a design firm.
Length of time you’ve known each other:
C: Really, it’s almost the same length as our relationship.
C: We started dating pretty much right after we met.
K: For like 6 years?
C: Yeah, about 6 years. So that’s like 42 in gay years. [laughs]
Have there been any breakups?
K: Common law technically.
K: Uh…. Want, like, the truth?
C: I’ll tell you what we tell people first. We’re like “Oh! You know, we met through friends at a party!”
K: That’s what you tell them?
C: That’s what I tell them.
K: We need to get that story straight.
C: The truth? We met online, for what was pretty much a hook-up, and then we just decided that we really liked each other on top of that initial connection.
C: Which, I have to admit, looking at how apps negatively distort so much these days, I can’t say I would recommend that route. I mean, the percentage of it happening is small. We just got extremely lucky.
RP: That’s awesome.
C: We’ve picked May 15th as our anniversary, but we don’t actually remember what specific date it was.
K: We just organically kind of grew together, but I think by sheer circumstances it worked out. I was moving out of my apartment and I didn’t want to move back into my parent’s house…
C: Oh, convenience, was it?
K: Oh yeah! [laughs] You were in your old house and wanted to move out as well so we started looking for a place together.
C: It did actually work really well. The relationship at first grew very organically, Kim had started attending school right after we had started dating, and I had also just started a new job, so that was kind pulling us in different directions.
K: It was near a year before we decided that we want to move in together just for the sake of spending more time together. And convenience. [laughs]
C: “Will you do me the honour of saving 50% on rent?”
K: That was pretty much it, common law for the win!
RP: [laughing] Alright, let’s get to it! What is the best thing about your relationship?
C: I would say how effortless it seems.
C: I’m careful not to say how effortless it is but how effortless it feels.
K: Are you saying I’m easy?
K: Yeah, I would definitely agree. I like how weird we can be together, too.
RP: Awesome. What would you say is your greatest relationship challenge?
K: I think we’re not fantastically good emotional communicators. We are very different with how we communicate our emotions.
K: Whether that be something about how we grew up familially as well as socially. I mean he used to ask me, “why don’t you hug your parents?”
K: Or say “I love you” to your parents? It just doesn’t happen in my family, it’s just one of those things where it’s just like…It just doesn’t really happen.
C: Whereas, my family, is the mushiest most physical love-communicative family ever.
K: My family just shoves food in our faces. Asian families. This is how your parents love you. It’s with food and if you’re not fat enough, that means you’re not loved enough.
RP: [laughing] So different! So what would you say is your go-to response during a conflict?
K: My go-to response? Does silence count?
RP: Yes, yes it does. [laughs]
K: Oh! How about avoidance?
K: We don’t have a lot of what I would classify as “conflict” but we disagree about stuff for sure. But we’re pretty good about figuring it out painlessly. Yeah, jokes aside, we talk about it but pretty much instantaneously. Very, very rarely do we ever let it sit because if it festers, it gets really nasty. We try to talk about it immediately even before the silence sets in.
C: Even if we haven’t yet formed an opinion about it or we’re still trying like work through it personally, we actually go through that process vocally with each other. That way we can both see the whole process.
RP: That’s awesome, we love that. How would you say the difference in racial/cultural/ethnic backgrounds has had an effect on your relationship if it has at all?
K: Well, growing up in an Asian family and being the first male in my family, I don’t really speak to my family about my relationship with Conor. Relationships are just not really talked about. Again, it’s the whole emotional thing. We don’t really talk about our feelings in my family. It’s just one of those just stone-walling things.
C: Whereas my mother will ask about Kim’s bowel movements.
K: Pretty much, yeah!
K: It’s very, very different. I mean I’m actually quite comfortable either way. I think just because I have that in my family, that I grew up in a society where hugging and telling people you love them isn’t so normal, I am comfortable there. But now I am so affectionate with Conor, that I can flip back and forth it doesn’t bother me either way.
C: When I was growing up back East, my best friend was half Chinese, her mother was Chinese and her father was some kind of mixed white, and I remember when I was young being confused because whenever I went over to her house, it felt as if they were roommates who just happened to share a home. There was no show of emotion, no love that I could perceive, and it took me a while to process that was perfectly normal for them! They were still a very loving family but they just really did not ever show it in public.
RP: Interesting! What are your partner’s strengths and weaknesses?
C: Lay it on, baby!
K: Conor has actually been getting really good at this, but I gotta say he tends to justify his feelings and compartmentalize them into a way where it HAS to make sense. There always has to be a reason and there always has to be a cause and effect to how he feels and there always has to be an equation to it. And not only for himself but for other people.
C: It’s the best. [laughs]
K: For me, I don’t feel like your emotions to have to be justified or they have to have an equation. It just is what it is. That’s just the way they feel and that’s just the way they are. Why are you trying to fix something that isn’t necessarily broken?
C: Oh my god, I’m such a fixer.
C: He’s the first person I’ve dated where, and this is probably one of the reasons why the relationship has been so successful, where it wasn’t this emotionally damaged baby bird and “I can fix you, I can make you whole again!” No, no, no, that’s a fool’s game, you’re in for a disaster.
RP: You’re so right! What about for Kim?
C: It’s funny, when I was trying to think of your single solitary weakness it was that sometimes, if you’re ever in a bad mood, I will ask him what’s wrong and sometimes he’s not able to verbalize it because he doesn’t think of it as a black and white and as a logical thing. It’s not that he knows and isn’t telling me because he’s not a good communicator, it’s that he actually just isn’t breaking it down in the same kind of logical way that I do.
RP: Interesting! And what would you say each other’s strengths are?
K: I don’t know, Conor, you’re kinda weak.
K: Conor’s a good go-getter. He’s really good at knowing what he wants and knowing how to get it and the steps to get there. It’s all about steps with him, it’s all about checklists, it’s all about organization, I’m so not organized. [laughs] He has very good taste in art, in food, in wine, in all this sort of stuff where I don’t see it until he points it out.
K: It’s actually quite nice because I would be living on instant noodles and rice if I had any choice in the matter. [laughs] I’d be like, “Sure! Whatever, it’s cheap!” and I’m totally fine with that! It’s nice to have someone to inject colour into your life sometimes, you know?
RP: Nice! What about Kim’s strengths?
C: Kim is quite possibly, the most singularly likeable person who has ever existed.
C: I don’t think I ever met anyone that hasn’t loved him. He’s very easy to like and he’s just so agreeable and friendly and easy-going. Your natural state of being is very opposite to mine. I don’t know if it’s an east-coast/west-coast thing, but my process is very much systematic and his is so relaxed.
RP: You balance each other out.
C: Yeah, like I’ve done the type A, I’ve dated the type A, and it just turns into a pissing contest
C: Yeah, whereas Kim and I have such a broad area of interests and personalities, so there’s never any kind of competition, ever, on the professional level.
RP: Do you find that common in gay relationships? Competition?
C: Totally, It’s much more likely to turn into a contest, it’s just the bullshit testosterone! [laughs]
K: Oh yeah. That’s very true, you make a pretty solid point on that one.
RP: You guys are so different in the right ways, that might be why your relationship is so successful! You guys balance each other in completely different ways. [laughs] Okay, what is something you always bicker about?
C: Kim’s traveled when he was younger a lot more than I have, so he’s a lot more experienced in that way. He did spontaneous lengthy unplanned trips. But when you are working, time is very precious. I think that was a challenge that we had. It always comes up a little bit whenever we’re booking travel because my sense is always book the shortest flight, the most convenient thing, miss the fewest days of work. Whereas Kim will gravitate towards paying less if it’s a 40 hour flight. But I’m focused on billable hours.
K: You see how the equations work in his head right now?
K: I’m just like. ‘I don’t know what the numbers mean, but sure, okay!”
C: We’ve had to find a happy medium. Cause when we first started dating we had a couple trips where I couldn’t really get a sense if Kim was having a good time. But the last couple of trips we’ve been on, we’ve hit exactly what we both need in travel. So that’s the balance. I used to be all about itineraries.
K: Oh my god, the itineraries.
C: Now, I just need to know where I’m sleeping and how I’m getting to the next city. Anything other than that, I’m okay!
RP: So what has been a struggle that has nearly torn you apart? And if there has been one how did you get passed it?
K: I don’t think anything has come to a point where we would be torn apart.
C: I never felt that. I mean, in the past, because I was feeling more confident the strength in this relationship, I kind of felt myself getting more lazy in terms of putting energy into the relationship. But that is not a good habit to slip into. I would say we never experienced anything that I felt was going to tear us apart.
RP: What is something your partner or the relationship has taught you?
C: Oh, so much! I always view relationships as an opportunity to be a better person. So you can learn from them and they can learn from you, and together you just end up being better. Even if you ended up breaking up, you’d be better people from when you started the relationship. I’ve learned so much not just culturally with our differences, but he’s helped increase my ability to communicate my emotions, I’m far more willing to compromise on almost everything than I ever was before. I mean Kim is definitely a very easy going person but I use to be a fucking hard ass more often than I am now! [laughs] I think if Kim where to get, God forbid, hit by a bus tomorrow I’ll be a much better person to date as a result of our relationship.
C: Oh! And food is a huge part of our relationship. My dad use to be a chef, and I cook all the time, but Kim opened my eyes to a ton of different food. Not just different types of Chinese and Vietnamese food but a huge amount of stuff that never would have eaten otherwise. Food is the key to our hearts.
K: It’s usually the key to our emotional states as well. When we’re hungry it’s a no-go to anything.
K: I feel like I’ve become much more assertive. I’m much more decisive than I use to be. Like now, when Conor asks me, “What do you wanna eat? Where do you wanna go?” I’ll give suggestions. Which he’ll shoot down every single time. [laughs] I’m just kidding. But yeah, I would say he’s taught me to be more decisive and assertive.
C: I do love that you’re more assertive.
K: I feel like I am!
C: It’s great!
RP: Awww! Okay, are there any specific challenges you faced as a gay couple in North America?
C: I’d say living in Van is probably the most, if not like top 2 or 3, gay-friendly places to live in the entire world. I’m very fortunate that I’ve experienced minimal criticism or negative attitudes about homosexuality from my family, from my friends, even on the street. I’ve never actually been gay bashed before. [laughs] But seriously, I’m very lucky.
K: My friends are outrageously supportive. I think, for me, coming out to my family was not great. I don’t know if it was like a self-conscious strategy of mine to just drop the bomb and then leave to Australia for a year [laughs] but that’s essentially what I did. I officially still have not come out to my father.
RP: Oh, wow.
K: I mean. Conor and I have been living together for like 4 or 5 years now, we only have one bedroom, so…It’s implied I think. [laughs]
K: But I did come out to my mother and that was a conversation that was very emotionally driven. It wasn’t good. So I kinda just dropped that and left to Australia for a year and did my own thing out that way. Just kinda let that sink in for a year before I came back. With that being said Vancouver is very safe, especially for the LGBTQ community. But when we travel, I know I can be quite hyper aware about my PDA, especially when we are in countries that I’m just not sure of.
C: There’s a lot of surprise homophobia around the world, even in places where it is socially acceptable, there are legal challenges in way more countries than there should be.
K: I know I won’t hold his hand in public if I’m in a country where I’m not sure. I find that part be a bit frustrating just because I can’t just let my mind go there.
RP: Mmmm, that’s so interesting. Did you want to dive into more of this experience from a gay perspective
C: Yeah, I’m going to put a little asterisk here in this section because even though we’ve never had any problems from strangers or friends in that kind of support way, there’s a lot of documented history in the gay community of internal negativity and non-allies. There are a couple really good books about it, Velvet Rage is one.
K: It’s an incredible book, even as people who have probably a lot of gay friends, it’s a good book to get on the inside of what it’s like to be gay in this time and age vs back then.
C: Because all of the culture coming at you as a child is heterosexual. Everything from Disney princes and princesses, to typical family households. When you first start getting an inkling that you might be gay as a kid, there’s a lot of internalized shame in being different. There are stages of coming to terms with it. In addition to that in terms of gay relationships, you know how we were joking about how 6 years is like, 42 gay years? In a lot of ways, it’s not really actually an exaggeration. There’s a lot of toxicity in gay relationships as a standard, of course, there’s great examples and I can’t speak for lesbians, but there are still issues for gay relationships like high functioning alcoholism or unprepared open relationships. I’m in no way opposed to open relationships on a theoretical level, I think for some people that works really well, but I think a lot of people they jump into them without being emotionally prepared or actually assessing the consequences and then it’s pretty toxic.
RP: Mmm very interesting perspective. Okay, are there any specific challenges you faced as an interracial couple?
C: I think his grandmother does not like me. We went to a mother’s day dinner a couple of years ago, she was there and she was looking at me and speaking. She speaks no English and so I asked Kim what she was saying and she was saying, “Who’s that white boy?”. [laughs]
K: [laughing] Essentially, that was exactly what she asked.
K: And she still technically asks me why I don’t have a girlfriend.
RP: So it might be a racial and orientation type thing?
C: Oh, yeah.
K: She’s totally there.
C: My grandmother can’t remember Kim’s name but she is so supportive. She has advanced Alzheimer’s so that’s really in a different category. But my loving grandmother tried to set me up with her neighbour’s grandson at 16, so she’s always been on team gay.
RP: So your experience of coming out is way different than Kim’s?
C: I would say so. I mostly did it for shock value. I came out at my grandmother’s dinner table.
K: Drama queen anybody!?
C: I just dropped the bomb and I got the full half-frozen-mouth-full-of-peas reaction.
RP: Oh dang!
C: They were surprised but there was not judgment. They were very supportive from the very beginning. My brother, who’s also gay, came out of the closet at 21 and he’s younger than me. They just couldn’t get a break I guess.
RP: Are there any pressures to get married as a long-term gay relationship?
K: If we were to get married, my mother would kill me and then herself. [laughs] But that’s more her issue than it is ours. [laughs] You know, I don’t really feel pressure for marriage.
C: No, me neither.
K: Yeah, I think both Conor and I may be much more…
K: I was going to say logical, but yeah, practical and logical about it.
C: Yeah. The problem that I find with marriage these days, it’s not about being married so much as it’s about getting married. It’s not that they want to be married to someone, it’s about the party and the show and the balloons. I grew up singing in church choir and I was also an organist in high school and a pianist so I’ve played at like 200 weddings.
K: I think in the last 2.5 years, we’ve attended 16 weddings.
C: So I’m definitely like a cynic when it comes to weddings. It’s just not really important to us. I would love to be married to Kim, but it would be very tricky to coordinate a way to which we can make that happen without spending a lot of money and without making some people really pissed off. I know if we eloped, my mother would actually shrivel up and die on the spot.
RP: Are there any stereotypes that you feel are implied on you as either an interracial couple or as a gay couple?
C: I can’t think of any stereotypes of interracial couples except that they make the prettiest babies because they do.
K: I don’t know, do people call you, Conor, the rice queen?
C: [laughing] Actually they do, just last night they called me the rice queen. It’s a thing apparently, that means I prefer Asian men. Kim is the first, or maybe second, Asian guy I’ve dated, but it comes up all the time. Just because we’re in a long-term relationship, people just assume that’s the way it is, and it’s not offensive, but it is stupid. [laughs]
RP: Do you find it’s more the gay community that gives you those stereotypes?
K: Oh yeah. It’s only gay friends that say that. Our straight friends would never do that because it’s so offensive.
RP: Wow, interesting! So, what is something people would be shocked to know about your relationship?
K: The amount we talk about poop and farts is astronomical. It is absolutely disturbing.
C: We text each other about poop.
K: I think anyone who would read our texts would be like, “What Is wrong with you!”
K: We’ve never sent pictures of poop to each other, that is over the line though.
C: A slightly more serious thing that people would be surprised about, this relationship is both Kim and my first, proper, long term relationship.
RP: That’s really sweet. So, what is something you want more of in your relationship?
K: Money? [laughs]
C: [laughing] We’re comfortable, we’re perfectly happy.
K: Yeah, I would say so.
C: We have a good work life balance, we have nice things, we tend to see politically and socially through the same mindset, we eat what we want, we travel where we want, we save enough. We’re just very fortunate.
K: Yeah, we’re both very healthy.
C: But we’d both like to travel more, mostly because traveling means eating.
K: Again, food is the key to our hearts.
C: You know what? I want permanence. I want it to stay like this for a long time.
C: Longevity. ‘Cause you know, Kim will look like this till he’s 65, then he’ll turn into a raisin one night.
K: I want that, too. That would be my goal. More time.
RP: [laughing] Okay, what would be something you are trying to eliminate from your relationship?
RP: Oh my god, we haven’t heard that answer before! [laughs]
K: Not that mice have any part to play in our relationship. We just have a mouse problem in the building.
C: Honestly? The only things I can think of are things that I would change are stupid things like the mice, or looking for a new cleaning lady. [laughs]
K: We don’t have a cleaning lady. Yet?
C: When it comes to our interaction, I’m very happy with pretty much everything. We work hard, we’re crazy about each other, it’s really great. I have to remind myself how lucky we are.
RP: What is the best relationship advice you’ve ever gotten?
C: I honestly can’t remember a single piece of relationship advice. I tend to be the advice giver, not the advice getter.
K: I might fall under that line as well.
C: To be honest, I’ve always been a huge believer in figuring your own shit out. I’ve never been big on self help because people are so unique. There is no structure that will work for everybody and as soon as something is working for someone, people assume it works for everybody.
K: I would say, learn to not only accept the differences between you but learn to pick your battles. That’s been helpful for me.
RP: If you were to tell someone struggling in their relationship only one thing, what would it be?
C: Don’t fight the big stuff because it will make the decision for you, worry about the little stuff. If you’re having a real incompatibility issue with one of the primary parts of your personality, it’s possible you could theoretically change, but is that really worth it for you? Do you really care about this person enough to change on a fundamental level? You need to find someone that checks those boxes for you and you check the boxes for them, but it’s the little stuff that you need to worry about. That you can change, that can help sway the relationship one way or another. The big stuff, that you can’t change, there’s no use worrying about it.
K: I think as much as I would love to have a better example, I think communication is absolutely key to any relationship. Having to understand what page you’re both on can make or break your relationship. If you don’t know what they’re feeling, if you don’t know where they’re at, then the consequences it could have back and forth are just detrimental. If they’re not willing to tell you anything, and you don’t know any better, it’s just not going to work.
C: You have to be as objective as you can about deciding if it’s really worth it or not. I mean I’m sure you’ve realized this during the course of the interview, but something both Kim and I have in common, we are die hard pragmatists. If it turned out in a couple of days, through whatever tragic thing, that this relationship was not working, we could deal with that. It would suck, but we are capable of handling it. The reason why we’re together is not that we’ve been together for a long time, or because of any pressure, it’s because this is perfect for us right now.
K: And we both want to be here, it’s not a necessity. His independence and my independence is awesome. We both have our own interests, we’re both our own people, we just want to be together.
RP: Okay, our last question, is there anything else you wanna add from your perspective?
C: This is going to sound super cliché, which I’m sure you also hear a lot, but if you’re going into a relationship with someone, you cannot learn to love them unless you are in the right mental space first. You must make that active choice and the motivation behind that cannot just be because you’re sad or lonely. In the gay community, I see a lot of relationships built on loneliness and that’s not going to work. I mean that sucks, but you have to be there for yourself before you can help someone else get there.
K: Yeah, I feel like, within the gay community, there’s a lot of still “figuring themselves out”. Coming to an understanding of what they like, or what they don’t like, or who they are, or…
C: More importantly, what they need.
K: Yes! Then on top of that, wanting to get into a serious relationship. It’s a storm of physical hormones but it’s also about you learning and becoming who you are and liking yourself. You need time for that to actually flourish before you can present that to someone else, you know? If you don’t even know who you are as a person yet, what can you give to someone as a potential mate? It’s something that you need to do for yourself. If all you’re thinking about is, “Well, when am I gonna meet the one? When am I going to have this companionship?” You’re going to miss what it’s really about. Are you happy with being who you are? Are you ok with being gay? Are you okay with being weird? Are you ok with talking about farts and poops?
C: And of course you don’t have to have everything figured out before, part of it is growing together but you have to at least know where you are, what you want and what you need. I feel like gay relationships are much harder just because there’s a much higher potential for jealousy or narcissism. It’s fully possible that my type of guy, if I had a specific guy, could be one that actually looks a lot like me. Could be a tall, brown haired guy for example. At that point you need to be very careful, be able to distinguish your feelings about whether you want to be with that person or whether you want to be like that person. When you’re both the same gender, that comes into play.
C: Yeah, I mean, are you with this person because you think they’re attractive or are you with them because you would like to be as attractive as they are? Where does that division sit?
K: I guess I never thought of it that way, in heterosexual relationships you look like yourself and you like the way you look right? But when you’re with someone of the same sex you may need to ask yourself, “Do I like that guy, or want to be that guy?”. So true.
RP: Such awesome points. Thank you for sharing them! Well, that’s the end of our questions, thank you for sharing your perspectives with us and all the laughs!
K: Thank you!
C: Thank you, this was great!
There you have it! Our Feature Friday showcasing Kim and Conor. We don’t know about you friends, but we had a blast chatting with these two! So many laughs and really great lessons for us all. Here’s our major take-aways:
It’s important to know who you are, what you want, and where you want to go before committing to a relationship.
Be open to being yourself, no matter how weird, in your relationship.
Pave your own path, don’t let society or pressures tell you where you need to be. You know the answers to that.
Thank you, Kim and Conor, for spending your valuable time with us and sharing your perspective on REALationships! (Our abs still hurt from laughing so much with you!)
Tell us, friends, what are you taking away from this interview? We love hearing from you!