I had been an openly gay man for six years when I fell in love with a woman I'd known since I was 13. Growing up on the Isle of Wight, we bonded over adolescent heartbreak, which happened to me more than once as I got to know the boys in our year. She was straight, but seemed to understand more than anyone about unrequited love. I wondered why it was that I spoke to her more than my boyfriends, but left my confusion to simmer for years as I drifted through school. When it finally dawned on me that, yes, this was love, I was well into my first year at university.
Slowly but surely we got back in touch, and arranged to meet back home. We spent the day together, talking, playing video games. But before long, she was waiting for a bus back home. We looked at each other for a long time before sharing our first kiss in the rain, lit only by Christmas lights; it was right out of a movie.
What had seemed like a gradual build-up of feeling to me was a sudden revelation to her, but it didn't take long for her to reveal that she had fallen in love with me not long after we met. I had put her through my coming out, my relationships, and the apparent certainty that we would never be together. She said “I love you”, and without hesitating, I said it back. It's been nearly four years since that moment; we spent our first two years together at separate universities, yearning for graduation, then moved to the southwest together.
Throughout all of this, should I have been thinking, "don't do this, you're gay"? I don't think so. Overcoming self-inflicted heartbreak is a lot harder than admitting that there's an exception to the rule.