What’s most intriguing about the Redmonds is, talking to JaChel is just like talking to Micaela. And it’s not a same gender thing. Maybe they’re complementary archetypes or astrologically aligned. Interviewing them separately, they answer questions almost identically—pausing thoughtfully, laughing freely… and both women are pillars of optimism.
Living in Spain, Micaela “met” JaChel online. “I was kind of homesick and wanted to talk to someone from my hometown.” Both from Memphis, Tennessee, they were friends for only two and half years before recognizing one another as potential mates. Micaela never thought of JaChel romantically and vice versa. Well, until they did. “JaChel is just this incredible person. It’s like one day, she was everything,” she says.
Micaela first realized while a student at the University of Memphis that she could easily could date a man or a woman. JaChel (who attended the University of Houston) felt the same. She says, “In my 20s I thought I could actually marry a woman. It just so happens that my soulmate came in a woman’s suit.”
Micaela’s family understands the woman she is. “I never hid who I was from them,” she says. “Dating a guy or dating a girl, I’m the kind of person who doesn’t give anyone room to not be cool with my choices. I’m a firm believer that if you expect the worst, you get the worst. I just told them. My mom did give me a little bit of a hard time at first. Now JaChel is a part of the family.”
Last year the couple was legally married in Washington, D.C., followed by a ceremony in Bucerías, Mexico. Well attended by friends and Micaela’s family, JaChel’s family is still coping with the idea of their marriage. While Micaela’s mother walked her down the aisle, JaChel’s attending relatives included her sister and two of her closest cousins.
“I always saw myself married but not to a woman,” JaChel says. “It still shocks me sometimes. I’m like, wow, I’m married to her. She is the exact other half of me.”
Previously married, JaChel’s ex-husband threatened custody of their daughter, Taylor, but at the end of the day, it never came to pass. “Taylor’s father and I are friends,” she says. “He knows Taylor is well adjusted and well taken care of.”
Micaela adds, “Taylor’s dad is very active in her life. So I had to figure out where I fit in. Now we got it down. Taylor is brilliant and sweet. She got the award [for] being the best all-around girl in the whole school! She’s a really good kid.”
Taylor, 11, had no problem receiving Micaela. For Taylor, it was more about dealing with the fact that her mother and her father weren’t going to be together. When Taylor asked questions about her mother being in a relationship with a woman, “I told her what I believe: souls have no gender,” JaChel says. “When a person leaves here, the spirit leaves the body. So if I find my soulmate and their earth suit happens to be a woman or man, it doesn’t matter which it is for me. I love the soul of that person. I love what that person has to offer internally.”
The most challenging aspect to their relationship is not being considered a married couple where they now reside (Dallas, Texas). Micaela, project manager for a Fortune 500 company says, “Let’s get down to dollars and cents. It’s frustrating because it’s so expensive! The thousands of dollars we don’t receive back from the government are astronomical. If something happens to me, JaChel would have to pay taxes on our house, even though it’s paid for. They are so many things you don’t think about in a same-sex marriage when your state doesn’t recognize the union.”
While Texas hasn’t progressed with the times as well as most of the United States, the people they meet in their walking life embrace them. Neither JaChel nor Micaela feel any particular discrimination as a couple. Maybe their constant state of positive, assured energy attracts only great people. Or: “We don’t give you an option not to recognize us,” says Micaela. “People always ask if we’re sisters… trying to figure out the connection, I think. But we don’t pass as friends [or] as sisters. We’re married, and we put ourselves out there.”
“After the wedding, I had a revelation. I am now responsible for two people,” Micaela continues. “I take that very seriously. I have to make sure JaChel and Taylor have what they need. It’s not all about me anymore. Jachel and I love to travel, we’re going to New Orleans today! But I have to consider Taylor, our schedules, before making decisions.”
JaChel presides over the public relations company they co-own, the JM.Red Group. Although busy with their careers, the Redmonds plan on expanding their family. Each of them will give birth. “I want to have one and JaChel wants to have another one. So I will likely go first. We’ll use a donor; Jachel will have to adopt that child. And she’ll have to adopt the one I have. In the next couple of years, we’ll probably see two babies.”
“Communication is everything in a family,” JaChel says. “Everyone should have an opportunity to say what they feel and respect what the other has to say, including the kids.” Micaela says, “A successful family is committed to the growth of its members. We are really in this for the long haul. If family is about love, we got that. And… we represent.”
The Coolest Black Family in America is an EBONY.com original series: an ongoing look at the intricacies, layers and compelling beauty of African-American family life. Of course, The Coolest Black Family is not one family but many. In fact, we’ve found that there are as many Coolest Black Families as there are versions of cool. Also consider: family doesn’t always mean mother + father + kids. What defines family is connected hearts and supported souls. Ride with us weekly as we crisscross the country in search of kinfolk whose cool is so palpable and real, it comes second only to their love. Think your cool fam qualifies? Email us at digitalpi[email protected] (with Coolest Black Family in the subject line)!
Joicelyn Dingle travels to find the Coolest Black Family in America exclusively for EBONY.com. She splits her time between Savannah and Brooklyn. She is currently completing a documentary on the making of Honey magazine and the 1990s urban publishing era. Friend her on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter @editorialgenius.