Couple Succeeds in Love and in Business

BY KATE OPALEWSKI

Towanna Jackson and LaShawn Peterson didn't have a traditional engagement proposal.

"I asked LaShawn a bunch of times and she told me 'no' a bunch of times," said Towanna. "She told me one day, 'We can get married,' and I accepted."

Nor did they have a traditional wedding.

After attending their cousin's wedding in Las Vegas last year on Feb. 13, the Peterson-Jackson couple changed clothes and had their own ceremony on Valentine's Day - Feb. 14, 2016 - around 1 a.m. inside the Plaza Royale Wedding Chapel.

"My sister was able to catch a flight and fill the role of best woman, maid of honor and DJ. My cousin and his wife happened to be on vacation and met us at the chapel. We had friends that woke up and watched the live stream," said Towanna, 42, who first spotted LaShawn, 47, online in an LGBTQ Facebook group they were both in.

"I watched her for months," Towanna laughed. They met for the first time in person during a meet and greet hosted by the group in 2012.

"I had never been married before and she had so she wanted no parts of a 'wedding.' She said she would give me whatever I wanted so there was never any pressure to not have a traditional ceremony. She would just take the stereotypical 'groom's' role of nonchalance," said Towanna about LaShawn.

But whether or not they keep with tradition doesn't really matter to them as long as they are together doing what they enjoy like traveling, camping, cooking, watching Netflix in "chill" mode, shopping, spending time with their grandchildren - Celine and Andre III - and selling real estate.

"It's all fun with LaShawn by my side," said Towanna, adding that they are both realtors with the Keller Williams West Bloomfield/Farmington Hills Market Center.

How does the Peterson-Jackson couple make that work?

"We enjoy what we do. We began to talk about our desire to start our own business early in our relationship," said Towanna. The couple knew they wanted a business where they could use their strengths and combine it with their passions - financial security, African American economic empowerment, civic and social responsibility, and women's empowerment.

While their way of getting things done is different, they said they work well as a team.

LaShawn is more methodical and organized. Towanna is more of a verbal communicator.

"Our compromise is we make a list of what needs to be done and LaShawn will call to tell me what is on the list," said Towanna.

This is important, she said, because, "For most people, buying a house will be the largest single economic transaction in their lifetime. I will make sure you find the house of your dreams and LaShawn will negotiate the best deal for you to obtain it."

Being partners in business is easy considering the challenges these women have faced as African American lesbians.

"It is hard," said LaShawn. "To some in the black community, being gay is the same as being a sexual deviant. I was compared to a child molester a week ago; to her I was no better than a child predator. I have had family members who feel they need to 'save my soul.' I have had unsolicited prayers. An offer of an exorcism. I've watched family and friends take to social media in tirades about how the homosexual agenda is being pushed on them. How it has destroyed America."

Despite that, LaShawn said her brothers, sisters and children are "very supportive" of their marriage. So much so that family members will call Towanna first because she likes to talk.

"I have a great group of friends that want the best for us also," said LaShawn.

Towanna agreed it is hard, especially with a Holy Bible-based family. Her father is a Christian pastor and her mother is one step away from Sainthood. Although they didn't put any pressure on her to change, they did quote Towanna a few bible verses in her early years.

"My parents support my marriage to LaShawn because she is an amazing person. They don't see us as a lesbian couple they see us as a family," said Towanna. "I have some Day 1's that no matter what have always shown support to my sister, brother and daughter. I am the best and no one can tell them any different."

The Peterson-Jackson's live in Southfield with their Shih Tzu's Li-Li and Ki-Ki. They are proud mother's of three adult children - Chanel, a graduate from the University of Michigan; Andre, a graduate from Indiana State; and Indi, a graduate from Notre Dame.

When asked if they have any marital advice for LGBTQ couples, they both agree, "Always be honest. Accept your lover for what they are and not who you think they should be. Learn how to lose an argument. You must be able to forgive and on the flip side you must be worth forgiving."

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