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I know that one day I will marry a woman, but the picture of that future has always been a little fuzzy.
I'm currently making a documentary, Calling All Lesbians, with three of my friends, to discover how community for lesbian and queer women is fostered, to address the general lack of community spaces for lesbian and queer women, and to bolster visibility and diversity of queer women in the media.
This project is what brought me into the home of Kim Mangarin and Kato Schasiepen, a couple from Oakland, Calif., in their early 30s, who became recent parents to the cutest 32-day-old twin girls.
As soon as I entered their home, I could feel the warm, loving presence that the couple fosters for each other and their children.
Kim and Kato met through mutual friends who wanted to introduce them, but the two were hesitant to talk to each other in the beginning. At an end-of-the-year party for their friends' soccer league team, Kato's friends were pushing her to talk to Kim, which she did, but the women never exchanged numbers.
Clearly the universe wanted them to be together, because they ran into each other by chance at a bar in the Castro the next day. When they started dating, it wasn't an immediate happily-ever-after type of love story. They had their ups and downs, but something always brought them back together.
As a 24-year-old who has gone through a string of relationships, I found it inspiring to meet a couple who was focused on supporting each other through their struggles. It made me think that one day I could be in a similar position with a deep love like theirs.
I was very overwhelmed with emotion while talking with Kim and Kato because I was finally seeing what I've always dreamed of. The love between the two of them was apparent. The way Kato looked at Kim and the way Kim looked at Kato was as if they had just fallen in love. I haven't seen many models of that level of deep love between parents. Coming from a divorced family, that is something that I long for.
An experience that another queer couple who we've met along the way expressed to me was the feeling of being accepted as human when marriage equality was passed. The feeling of normalcy and recognition as a valid human was overwhelming for them. I had a similar sense of acceptance when seeing what I want for my future as normal, possible, and beautiful. They explained their process of choosing a known donor, trying to get pregnant, and preparing for the birth of their daughters.
They gave me a beautiful picture of a queer family and the intention they had in creating that family. It helped me see that my future queer family is something really special in part because of the amount of intention and love that goes into having children. It made me want to work on myself and on building a strong community so that I can one day create this kind of family with the right woman.
At one point, I asked Kim and Kato what they admire in each other. They looked each other in the eyes and smiled describing the things they see, admire, and are inspired by in one another. They did it without hesitation or much thought. Kim comes from a big family, while Kato is an only child. Kim described the way Kato valued family as something that she's always wanted in a partner. Kato spoke in love about her admiration of Kim's work ethic.
One day I want to be able to look at my spouse, to look at my soul mate, and tell them without skipping a beat why I love them. I asked this question because I've had similar conversations in past relationships. I've never admired and been admired in the way that I saw them do for each other. I think this is because I have a lot of work to do on myself internally and in community. Kim and Kato had clearly done this work and were able to articulate it in a way that made me feel hopeful.
I'm left with a message to my potential soul mate out there. Find your community, work on yourself, value your friendships, and one day we'll bring together the work we've each done to build a village for our children. Calling all soul mates!
CHANEL SHUFFLER is the producer of Calling All Lesbians, a documentary. She's an educator and filmmaker based in Los Angeles.
Calling All Lesbians is currently taking donations to cover costs on its Indiegogo page.