Nick Gilyard, 25, and his boyfriend Dominic Spence, 27, have known each other since they were teenagers.
They were recently featured on thewaywemet Instagram account, which chronicles couples' (usually very adorable) love stories.
According to the caption, the couple's first date lasted for several hours until the bar closed down. They would endure seven years of long distance in several different cities before finally landing together. Spence proposed during a visit to London in 2015 — Gilyard said yes.
But both of them had doubts that they would ever find such a fairy-tale ending. Gilyard noted in the Instagram post that "falling in love with another black man was scary in ways neither of us could have ever imagined."
Dominic and I feel lucky to have found love at such a young age. However, falling in love with another black man was scary in ways neither of us could have ever imagined. It forced us to face the very real resistance from society for being not only homosexuals but black men as well. We had to confront the stereotypes of being largely defined as uneducated, disloyal, untrustworthy, and unreliable individuals. But together we chose to rise above those prejudices and rewrite our own story- one of inspiration. We want others to see that our union is marked by achievement, love, friendship, respect, and unconditional support. We hope to encourage other black and brown men and boys everywhere to be true to who they are. And when they find love in each other's eyes, to know that their love is just as strong and beautiful as anyone else's.
"It is easy to feel unwanted as a black man in America and the same can be said for being queer," Gilyard told BuzzFeed News. "When you exist at that kind of an intersection, it's easy to feel as if you'll never find someone to love you or even fully love yourself."
"We hope to encourage other black and brown men and boys everywhere to be true to who they are," he added. The post has been liked over 15,000 times and received a number of supportive comments — and a few negative comments as well.
The couple regularly receives messages of support or requests for relationship advice from their followers. The most moving message came from a mother in Alabama whose son had recently come out to her.
"She had come across a photo of Dominic and I together and wanted to know how she could best support her son," explained Gilyard. "Even though she knew little about the LGBT community and feared how he would be treated."
The couple hopes that anyone who comes across their story walks away feeling empowered to "love fiercely and unapologetically."
Their advice for other people currently in long-distance relationships? Communication.
Gilyard and Spence will be tying the knot next month surrounded by friends and family in Miami Beach, Florida. The officiant will be Gilyard's high school mentor, who was also a science teacher at Spence's high school.
You can continue following their love story here.
Sarah Karlan is the Deputy LGBT Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Sarah Karlan at email@example.com.
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