It wasn't until after high school that Jaime Jenett realized she liked women. Until then, the only females she'd encountered were the "blond, skinny rich girls" who filled the halls of her 90210-esque Palo Alto prep school. And although she remembers feeling some sense of "otherness" growing up, Jenett said the fact that she might be a lesbian hadn't occurred to her. But when she met a butch woman just a few days into college, her affinity for females hit her "like a ton of bricks."
When Jenett met Laura Fitch, a "hot Jewish butch," on New Year's Eve 2001, her attraction was instantaneous. Jenett wasn't looking for a relationship, but within a month she felt a persistent urge she couldn't suppress. "I'd been convinced for most of my life that I wasn't going to get married or have kids, and that I was going to have this freewheeling life," Jenett recalled. "All of a sudden I had this very clear feeling that we were going to get married, and we were going to have children — and I was going to like it."
Jenett's unanticipated clairvoyance turned out to be pretty spot-on. More than a decade later, she and Fitch are married, have a four-year-old son, and live together quite happily in Oakland's Grand Lake neighborhood. But, as with any relationship, there have been challenges — even aside from any social challenges related to being a butch-femme couple (Fitch, for example, conceived Simon, yet people regularly assume that the long-haired, lipstick-wearing Jenett is the birth mother). At just shy of four months old, Simon was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy — a chronic heart condition that kept him in the ICU at Oakland Children's Hospital for four months, followed by months of weekly outpatient appointments that have dwindled to a few visits a year.
But Simon's health is gradually improving, and last September his heart function crossed into the bottom end of the normal range. And neither Fitch nor Jenett takes for granted the fact that it's taken dogged dedication to get them through the tumult. That kind of devotion is precisely what New York-based independent filmmaker Antony Osso has been chronicling through The Devotion Project, a six-part documentary film series highlighting LGBTQ couples and their families, Fitch and Jenett's included.
Osso said the project was born from his frustration over the dearth of positive or at least realistic representations of LGBTQ couples in film. "From the time that I was a teenager and realized I was gay myself, I always wanted to see them," he said. "I don't think I need to tell you that there are very few. I can't even think of any examples of a couple I would want to emulate or could imagine being like." But Osso is trying to change that through his short films (he's raising funds to produce the final two), which include couples like William Campbell and John Hilton, whose love began in a New York City bathhouse in 1957 and survived Hilton's conscription to Europe during WWII.
The films, including the premiere of My Person, about an Oakland trans couple, screen at Michaan's Theater (2751 Todd St., Alameda) on Saturday, May 19, followed by a Q&A with Osso, a raffle, and more. The event raises funds for a new Palliative Care program at Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland. 4-6 p.m., $20. 415-516-4844 or TheDevotionProject.org