Key West is known as one of the most prolific vacation destinations for the LGBT community, but it’s rare that you get to hear from some of the local couples who make their home there. Raymond Vazquez & Matthew Nooner dove into their relationship close to a decade ago, and settled in Key West as their home. Balancing business, friends, and their community can sometimes be hectic, but these two have managed to find the right recipe for a successful relationship, capping it off with a sunset wedding on Shark Key. I sat down with Raymond & Matt as part of the ongoing #PrideSeries and they filled me in on what it’s like to be married and living where many in the community choose to vacation, how their love story first started, and how they have found their own pride together.
Michael Cook: So tell me, how did the love story between you both originally take shape?
Raymond Vazquez/Matthew Nooner: We met about eight or nine years ago here in Key West, Florida. It was my birthday weekend and we were actually both in different, long term relationships at the time. A mutual friend of ours had introduced us at a local bar. We ended up running into each other every now and then, but never really spent much time together. About two years later, my relationship with my former boyfriend at the time was coming to a screeching halt and it ended up being right about the same time Matt’s relationship was coming to an end with his boyfriend as well. Initially, I was the one that reached out to Matt. He came over one evening and we sat on the front porch of a little cottage I was renting at the time until about five am, just talking about our relationships that had just ended and about life in general. Ever since that night we’ve pretty much been inseparable. I think in the four years we’ve been together, we’ve only spent two of those nights apart. It makes it a lot easier when your best friends with the one you love and care about the most.
MC: What was your whole wedding like, with a stunning backdrop like Key West?
RV/MN: Our wedding was amazing! One of the best days of our lives. I can’t believe its already been a year this past April, it flew by fast! We were originally having some difficulty finding a venue that was available for when we wanted to have it. Key West is a big destination for weddings, everything was booked out way in advance. We got lucky though, a local here on the island offered to let us have our wedding at his stunning property on the water in Shark Key, which is an island just north of Key West. The word I would use to best describe it would be magical. The sun was setting just behind us as we were finishing our vows on the beach. We kept it relatively small and invited just our family and closest friends.
MC: How do you both give back to your community and express your own individual advocacy?
RV/MN: We try and give back to our community by being involved as much as possible and by truly “giving back”. Its not always easy though, due to our busy schedules. There are a lot of community events constantly going on here. Whether it be a fundraiser, gallery opening or a show at our local theater. we both try and take advantage of the opportunities Key West as a community has to offer. I think we express our own individual advocacy by simply being together as husband and husband. Exchanging our vows witnessed by all of our friends and family that day last April was also another way of expressing our advocacy. I am really big into social media and I used to be nervous about photos I would post of Matt and I together, mainly because I was afraid of how some people would take it, but I quickly decided to stop caring. So if there is a cute moment of Matt and I that I think deserves a photo and a social media post, I do it!
MC: Matthew, you’re opening your own business soon, tell me about that. You both are operating your own businesses; how do you carve out time for each other?
MN: Excited and at the same time, I would say stressed about opening up my own business. There’s a lot that goes into something like that. I’m actually opening up a boutique butcher shop here on the island called The Local, Butcher Shop & Market. It’s currently going through the whole build out phase, so it’s managing construction during the day at the same time as organizing the vendors. Its pretty cool idea and something different, Key West doesn’t have a real butcher shop so it’ll be the only one.
RV: I am currently a Realtor for Truman & Company, I’ve been a Realtor for about fifteen years now. I’m a huge advocate for making sure we both spend time together, even though Matt’s in the process of opening up this new business and I’m at times having to work on the weekends to show property. The good thing is my job allows me to work from home and also have a more flexible schedule. We try to always set time during each day to slow down or relax, whether it be for a morning walk before our day gets going or a drink at happy hour after a long day of work. We also set aside one day of the week for date night where we’ll take our bikes and go have a nice dinner down by the water or something and then catch a movie.
MC: What was it like to make Key West your home, a place where so many consider it a vacation destination? What do you both love about it?
RV/MN: It is hard not to love Key West. I think the first thing we love about it is the weather! The average temperature here is eighty degrees, it rarely gets below sixty. I’m originally from Key West, so fortunately it was relatively easy making Key West our home. I went away to college then came back after four years. Matt came here from Chicago after deciding he had enough of the snow and cold weather! He’s been here for nine years now. We couldn’t imagine living anywhere else at this point. In fact, every time we do leave the island after about three or four days, we’re both ready to get back. We love so many things about this place. One thing we love to do is spend time out on the water, we have some really spectacular beaches and sandbars that most tourists never even see because they’re only accessible by boat. We also have some of the best restaurants here in Key West as well! You can pretty much find it all. The community of locals here are like none other in my opinion which also makes it special. The majority of us have this One Human Family mentality where we watch out and take care of each other which is really great!
What is next for you both? Any plans for expand your business or family perhaps?
RV/MN: What’s next right now is to get Matt’s new business off the ground and running! We recently also just purchased our third home together and we are going through some renovations there and that is always a challenge. As far as my business goes, hopefully it’ll continue going as well as it has been. I’ve been very fortunate and lucky enough to work with a real estate team that I love. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do some traveling this fall. We just came back from St. John in the USVI for the first time and it was such an incredible trip. The scenery down there is beautiful. I don’t foresee us expanding our family any time soon. We both agreed early in our relationship that we weren’t really wanting to have kids, we have three dogs we already call our children. I wouldn’t say never, just because you never know, but Matt and I both have quite a few nieces and nephews that we get to spend time with when we see them. We have a lot of moving pieces going on that would make it difficult to have any of our own.
MC: What advice do you have for the younger generation behind us that is looking for their own love story?
I would say, never give up! Relationships are work and aren’t always easy and sometimes require compromise, but it is all worth it knowing that you are going to share your life with someone you love and care so much about and in turn loves you just the same for who you are as a person. You have to really make yourself available and also be completely honest with each other, which isn’t always easy. Marriage has always been really important to me. I would never have thought in a million years growing up that I would be able to be out, proud and even married. We have come such a long way in our community and it’s all very exciting to watch and see.
MC: What gives you both Pride?
Key West is a very accepting community, so we’re very prideful that we get to live somewhere where the gay community is welcomed. I think we get Pride in a lot of different ways, whether it be walking down the street and being able to hold Matt’s hand or just by simply being able to introduce Matt as my husband and partner in life. We both came from very different backgrounds and really didn’t have much when we started our relationship together and I know that it wasn’t very easy for either of us coming out. I think we also get a lot of Pride in seeing where we both are as a gay couple now in life. We have our days like anyone does, but we love each other so much and I feel like in life love is all you need, with it you can get through just about anything.
(All Art Courtesy of Raymond Vazquez)
If you or you know anyone who you think would be a fantastic addition to the #PrideSeries, tell me why. Email me at email@example.com