Finding love isn’t always easy. Whether searching for lasting romance on a dating app, online, through mutual friends or randomly in-person, it can be daunting. For some, finding true love can take nearly a lifetime.
But for Boston University law students Jonathan Allen, 27, and Derrick Young, 24, love was instant, spontaneous and unexpected. Their love story begins back in 2012 inside an auditorium after a student government presidential debate at Grambling State University in Louisiana.
“Neither one of us were looking for anybody. We met. We flirted. And we’ve been in each other’s lives since that day,” said Allen, who was running for student body president when they first met nearly six years ago.
“It was a connection that I never experienced with anyone else,” said Young. “We were able to make that bond instantly.”
Their relationship, built on transparency, honesty and trust, still remained a secret throughout their time in undergrad, and later became long distance as the two entered separate graduate schools. At Grambling, classmates saw them as good friends, serving side-by-side in student leadership. But secretly, their relationship continued to blossom.
“It was survival to a certain extent,” Allen said, reflecting on the torment he felt as he loved in private. Further, love between two men contradicted his faith. He’d become an ordained minister at 11, sharing the good news throughout his home state of Texas. While young had already come out to his family in Missouri, Allen knew he’d have to first confront his thoughts of self-hate, suicide and the stigma of homosexuality that had been ingrained in him by his family and the faith-based community he served.
Allen: “There were times that I uttered to Derrick that we are never going to be together because I’m not going to hell.”
Young: “I was used to being in down-low relationships and was open in college. So, in meeting Jonathan, I did feel like I was putting myself back in the closet.”
Allen: “I had to go through an entire transition and evolution in my thinking, my understanding and my loving to get to where we are, and what we share today. Now, we’re about to get married.”
After five years of secrecy, on Oct. 14 last year, Allen proposed in a surprising act that friends caught on video. Young said yes, of course. Their “magical moment” became an instant social media viral sensation garnering nearly 15 million views.
Young: “To come out and be open. It was amazing to be liberated. I think we were so ready. We have been celebrating ever since. It’s been a happy and exciting experience.”
Jonathan: “It feels great to be able to say this is who I love. This is who I am and no longer be chained to people’s opinions.”
Since then, the couple has received both positive and negative messages from around the world. Support has come from faraway places like London, Nigeria Ghana, and South Africa from other closeted gay men who share similar fears but thank the couple for their courage.
Allen, who remains committed to his calling, says parents who have seen the video of the couple’s proposal have said it’s helped them to be more accepting and open to their children who have embraced a same-gender future.
We’re grateful to have that kind of impact on people’s lives,” he said.
The couple’s long-term vision after marriage and law school is to build a legal practice that fights civil and social injustices, they say but for now they’re content with sharing their love story as a means to inspire others.
On Valentine’s Day, Allen and Young launched their YouTube series “The Bedroom” – a forum where they discuss life, love, relationship and sex. Viewers can submit questions or topics for the couple to address including one that both believe will come up frequently: “Living your truth out loud.”
Young: “Society has imprisoned a lot of people mentally so coming out should be viewed as a process – your process. Just love yourself through the whole thing.
Allen: “You can’t be the best person for someone else until you’re the best you for you. Much of what makes us uncomfortable come from human constructs that people made up and told us or put on us. Much of your fear is unwarranted. It comes from people with no authority over who you are, what you can be, or who you will be. Your authenticity is your greatest asset.”