Jaakko can still recall the exact date when he met Charlese.
“We met in Metro Manila (in Quezon City) on the 25th of August, 2012,” Jaakko said. “We were introduced by our mutual friend, Gianna, a transpinay who lives in Finland and is married to a Finnish man. I flew to the Philippines to shoot some preliminary material for my TV series on transwomen’s lives around the world. (She) offered to assist me with contacts and information.”
“He needed someone to coordinate with contacts and schedule the interviews,” Charlese recalled. “After finding out his vision about the series (which is to humanize the stories and bring positive images of transwomen’s lives around the world), I agreed to help him out.”
Charlese said that “at the onset, people around us were telling us that there is already something going on there.”
Jaakko agreed. “Our special connection became obvious already after the first day together … growing deeper during the weeks of our first meeting.”
In fact, when “we interviewed Fr. Richard Mickley, he assumed that Jaakko and I were together, and he briefed us about marriage and wedding. He even kindly gave us a blessing to try and make passionate sex!” Charles said, laughing.
In truth, “I just started going out with another guy when I first met Jaakko. After a week or so, I broke it up with the other guy because I thought it wasn’t working. In hindsight, I think it was mainly because the connection I have with Jaakko was stronger. My closest friends were already teasing me then that I was falling in love. I kept brushing it off, but I guess it was pretty obvious that I was.”
And so, when Jaakko went back to the Philippines two months after their first meeting, “I knew the feeling was mutual,” Charlese said.
“I flew back to the Philippines two months after and then it was obvious our lives and hearts are entangled for the rest of our lives in a way or another. I missed her so much I felt my heart will break. Yet it was wise to take one step at a time to see how our life together would work out,” Jaako said.
For Jaakko, “even though people have so far been really happy and supportive for us, there is always the fear of facing abrupt resentment or rejection. The LTGB world is also still new for me – as a fella who has grown in “gender conformed” relationships. I´m preparing myself to face them (when the time comes) with trying to understand people´s ignorance and learning to “ground” the possible negativity … rather than being worried about it in advance.”
But for Charlese, “I do not really see any challenge about our relationship with me being transpinay and him being a cisgender, straight man. Well, maybe aside from the fact that we would never be legally recognized as spouses in the Philippines even if and when we decide to register our union in Finland,” she said.
Instead, the biggest challenges in our relationship are: distance, and cultural differences.
“It is tough being in a long distance relationship, but it can be worked out. We make great use of technology to bridge the physical distance between us. Also, he made it a point for us to meet as often as possible. In a span of almost two years, we were able to be together for seven times already,” Charlese said.
As for the cultural difference, “being an inter-racial couple also poses an added challenge as the context on how we view and understand some things are different. Sometimes, we hurt each other’s feeling even without meaning to. So we just need to be open and communicate how we feel. We patiently explain to each other the context of what we said or what we did and so we learn about each other and about each other’s culture,” Charlese added.
The couple are in the process of doing their documentary series about transwomen around the world. “We are done with one part from the Philippines and another from Indonesia. Hopefully soon, we would get funded to continue and finish the series so we could finally show it all over the world,” Charlese said.
But already, “I´m looking forward to marry Char and get her to live in Finland,” Jaakko said.
Charlese said that best thing for her in this relationship “is that we complement each other and we learn from each other. It is great that we have a common goal… but we each also have our own passion. I feel very secure and safe with him. I also love that we consciously make time for each other. We make sure that we talk to each other at least once a day. In fact, I think there never was a day when we haven’t sent each other SMS or called each other on Facetime.”
“I feel so deeply connected to Char I can´t even compare our relationship to anything else. Our love life is also most satisfactory and full of colours and imagination I never experienced before. I´m looking forward to grow also spiritually to new levels with my future wife,” Jaakko said.
Right now, they are working on building a life together. “We just got engaged last May and we are talking about marriage/civil union soon,” Charlese said.
“At last I have a beautiful, intelligent and loving woman in my life, who is on the same mission (as I am): saving the world,” Jaakko ended.
Follow the journey of Jaakko and Charlese at http://charandjack.com.