2024 Love List
Andrew Carlson & Riku Nozaki, Madison, 7 years
Andrea & Genia Stevens, Beloit, 15 years
Melanie Jones (she/her) & Christen Lester-Jones (she/her), Madison, 11.5 years
Nick & Reegan Jensen-Shafer, La Crosse, 17 years
Lynn Mayer & Gigi Vail, Madison, 5.5 years
We met at the lowest part of both of our lives. Trying to come back from heartbreak, we both went to the internet to try to find human connection to heal our hearts. What we expected was a one night stand. What we got was a loving and solid relationship that offered us both stability and healing. Despite not knowing each other well, Christen allowed Melanie, who was couch surfing and homeless in Oakland, CA, to move into a vacant room in her house, and to go back to school for photography. Giving Melanie that stability and hope saved her life; there is no other way to say it.
Facing burnout and the extreme stress of living in one of the most expensive places in the country had both of us looking for something different. So we left California—and all of our friends—and moved to a small town in south central Montana, where we struggled but also healed and really solidified our relationship with each other. A tight housing market and a layoff meant that we left after only one-and-a-half years. Some friends of Melanie’s from Burning Man, who were scientists in Madison, offered to get Christen (who works in science) an interview at a pharmaceutical company. Eight years later, we are settled on the northside of Madison with our six animals and have no plans to leave.
Earlier in 2023, Christen, who was assigned male at birth and had been living and presenting as a man prior to 2023, came out as a trans woman. This change, while big and scary, has unlocked a happiness and comfort in her body previously unseen, and has allowed us to be even closer. Our move to Madison from the mountain west has allowed both of us to really grow into the people we were meant to be.