When Commitment is Freedom
When Commitment is Freedom | Foto: When Commitment is Freedom

PRIDE Month: When Commitment is Freedom for OUTRÉ Magazine

Por: Edward Rueda

14, June, 2022 en Follow Me

When Commitment is Freedom

Bailey Latronica, Professional Writer

Malibu Pier has a sort of buzzy, higher-end charm to it. Restaurant servers call out names from reservation lists, tourists and locals alike sip on signature cocktails, and there’s always a myriad of fishermen sitting in complete stillness among the liveliness. And all happening above the beauty of the pacific ocean, it’s the perfect place for a beach photoshoot and interview.

The stars of the evening, married LGBTQ+ couple Toni and Jaffa Castañeda Carrera, arrive on time and look as excited as I feel. A lipsticked smile is wide across Toni’s face and her arms are billowing with clothes for outfit changes– she’s brought jewelry and at least three pairs of shoes too. Jaffa is a few paces behind her and carrying a collection of crisp, short sleeved button ups. While Toni’s wardrobe is cocktail ready, Jaffa’s clothes are classy but err on the more casual side. He has a preference for masculine florals that emit a soft spoken yet self assured vibe, sort of like Jaffa himself.

Even though it’s bustling at this hour everyone is stepping aside as we trek to the end of the pier– almost as though they can sense something important is happening. It feels like we’re walking down a catwalk.

While Toni and I stride at the same pace she gushes about her recent art show in Los Angeles. Calling herself an “artist” still feels new to her, but lately she’s feeling more comfortable with the identity. She smiles to herself and then looks over at me. She tells me her art show wouldn’t have been possible without Jaffa.

An all white picnic table awaits us at the end of the pier. Ocean views and the aroma of sea salt are everywhere, of course, but the attention is completely on Toni and Jaffa. We all get comfortable beneath the warmth of the sun and the interview finally begins.

When Commitment is Freedom
When Commitment is Freedom

When this couple first met in 2013 the Defense Against Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevented same-sex couples from federal marriage, was still intact and the word “Queer” carried a heavy derogatory weight.

But the social world was changing overall. Sentiment about LGBTQ+ people was more positive than it had been when DOMA was first voted in (History, 2017). And love finally won in 2014 when the last parts of DOMA became enforceable.

“Federal gay marriage had just passed right before we decided to get married.” emphasized Jaffa in our interview. “It was voted in and it was suddenly an option. So when we talked about it, it just seemed to make sense… I feel like it was something we always wanted and when it was possible it felt good to just do it. Like going to the courthouse and getting all the documents and stuff, still in the midst of them changing the language on the documents.”

For Toni, the experience of getting married was one of freedom.

“For me being a gay couple getting married, it felt like freedom at the time,” she said as the wind tousled her hair. “Even though there was a lot of decolonizing to do, it felt like freedom because I was more myself. I was finally out [of the closet] and finally found someone my family loved. And it felt like something of what I thought life would be like growing up, it felt like it was possible again.”

Toni and Jaffa have been together for eight years, though marriage isn’t the only way they express commitment to each other.

“Marriage is beautiful and romantic,” said Toni “but it’s also being intentionally poured together. Our commitment is very much to each other and under the commitment that you have to fill your cup and I have to fill my cup so we’re bringing our best selves into the relationship.”

Jaffa nodded in agreement. “It’s very true… It’s kind of a constant work on yourself to work on the marriage. I have to figure out how to fill my cup and know what I need and Toni does too, and use that together.”

Toni dove even deeper yet. “I thought marriage was going to be this pretty figurine you could keep in the cabinet. I thought the first three years were going to be getting to know this wonderful person I married, and that’s when you’d go on the most romantic dates and explore the sex. And a lot of that’s been true. But for the first years the commitment was seeing yourself in a relationship and how your actions affect the other person. You have a constant mirror in front of yourself.”

Your own moods, behaviors, and actions have the power to greatly affect the person you’re committed to. While that power may seem daunting, it can also allow for the freedom of true self expression.

“I don’t imagine myself being this free and open with anyone else. Being able to 100% be myself regardless of whatever is going on,” said Jaffa with his hand wrapped around Toni’s. “Toni sees me that way, like even at the worst. Even on my worst day Toni is still there. And being able to talk through and work through things with someone who wants to take that time with you means a lot.”

The couple looked at each other and their eyes communicated something only the two of them understood. “Even on the worst day, Jaffa is still the most wonderful person I know,” Toni expressed. “I always want joy with Jaffa. He’s fun to hang out with. He’s my best friend, and I keep figuring out what best friend means to me over and over. We’re on the same team.”

By now the sun hung lower in the sky and the photographer was ready to begin the photoshoot.

Toni and Jaffa’s love for eachother came across flawlessly on camera. Their connection with each other was genuine and sentimental; they were comfortable together. No matter which pose they were asked to do, the photographer kept confidently calling out “That’s it. We got the shot.”



History.com Editors. “Gay Marriage.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 9 June 2017.