Derrick Young (L), Jonathan Allen
Gay love story goes viral and inspires.
BY TIMOTHY RAY, @FREEMAN.JASPER
PHOTO BY@MARCUS.MEDLEY (ANDERSON)
Finding love is not 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, when cupid found them 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. On the surface at Grambling, classmates saw the two as just good friends, serving side-by-side in student leadership. But behind closed doors their relationship was blossoming. A budding flower no one was allowed to see.
On Valentine’s Day, Allen and Young will launch their YouTube series called “The Bedroom.” The show is a forum where they will discuss life, love, relationships, and sex.”
“It was survival to a certain extent.” That is how Allen describes the torment of loving Young in private. Allen’s newfound gay love contradicted his faith. At age 11, he became an ordained minister preaching the gospel of Christ throughout his home state of Texas. Allen says being in a same-sex relationship with Young, who had already come out to his immediate family in Missouri years prior, meant coming to terms with his own thoughts of self-hate, suicide, and the stigma of homosexuality—reinforced 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. I was comfortable with myself. I 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; because now, we are about to get married.”
After five years of loving in private, on October 14, 2017, at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, Allen took a knee for Young in a surprise marriage proposal captured on video by close friends. Young said yes of course. The proposal, which they call a magical moment, became an instant social media viral sensation. The couple says the video has received nearly 15 million views across their social media platforms.
Young: “To come out and be open. It was amazing to be liberated. I think we were so ready. We have been celebrating since. It’s been a happy and exciting experience.”
Allen: “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 going public with their unannounced wedding date, the couple has been receiving both positive and negative messages from around the world. They say support of their union is coming from faraway places like the U.K., Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa from closeted gay men. These men share their struggles and fears and thank the couple for their courage. Allen, who still ministers his faith, says he’s also heard from parents who felt the video proposal helped them to be more accepting and open to their child’s future as a gay person, by seeing Allen and Young’s love for each other. “To be having that kind of an impact on people’s lives, we are consistently grateful.”
Although the couple’s long-term vision after marriage and law school is to build a legal practice that fights civil and social injustices, their plan right now is to use their love story to inspire others.
On Valentine’s Day, Allen and Young will launch their YouTube series called “The Bedroom.” The show is a forum where they will discuss life, love, relationships, and sex. Viewers will be able to submit questions or topics for the couple to address candidly. One topic they expect will come up frequently is living your truth out loud.
Young: “I never want to be the person to say you need to be yourself and come out. Society has imprisoned a lot of people mentally. Coming out is a process and it’s your process. Just love yourself through the whole thing.
Allen: “You can’t be the best person for someone else until you are the best you for you. Much of what makes us uncomfortable come from human constructs. Stuff 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.”