LGBT community continues to express love in wake of Orlando: A young couple’s path to engagement

“Yeah, it’s been over two years! We can say that now,” Tyler Brown exclaimed while grinning at his new fiancé, Ryan De Tomi. Despite De Tomi’s wayfarers and Brown’s aviators, the loving gaze they exchanged was crystal clear.

Brown, 20, and De Tomi, 18, announced their engagement on their two year anniversary, just two days after the grisly Orlando night club shooting. “I almost felt guilty, actually, announcing it after the Orlando massacre,” Brown admitted. “I almost felt guilty for being so happy.” Despite the sickening fear the couple felt in the wake of the shooting, they, like others, continued to be themselves. Refusing to let hate win, people flocked to Twitter with #LoveisLove and #TwoMenKissing, sharing images of gay couples expressing love. De Tomi and Brown’s Facebook announcement of their 2020 nuptials was just another celebration of love.

It seems fitting that the couple shared the news via Facebook, since that is where their relationship began. “It was so awkward,” Brown confessed, adjusting his blond bangs. De Tomi laughed and explained, “pretty much he stalked my Facebook.” “It wasn’t technically stalking,” Brown interjected playfully. One friend request and two weeks of messages later De Tomi brought Brown to his house where they chatted and watched Disney’s “Hercules.” There must have been some magic in the air; just days later they made the relationship “official” with a Disney movie marathon.

The couple’s favorite pastimes also include traveling, eating out, and walking their two shih tzus and black lab/German shepherd mix.  “It doesn’t matter where we are or what we’re doing, as long as we’re together,” De Tomi declared. Brown added, “We’re gonna go play tennis later in the week—well, attempt to play tennis,” he clarified, laughing.

While the relationship is centered around fun and laughs, it has weathered hardships. Brown’s mother passed away nearly two years ago at only 39. They had not spoken in six months—since Brown was kicked out for being gay. With no chance for reconciliation Brown said he fell into a deep depression, but De Tomi was his rock. “He was the reason I got up every day.”

The couple attributes their relationship’s strength to good communication. Brown gazed at his fiancé, reading his mind before explaining, “We’re able to talk and figure things out without the little things—” “getting to us,” De Tomi and Brown finished simultaneously. What they love most about each other? “His ability to always make me smile,” De Tomi answered, a smile cracking on his freckled face. Brown cited, “Ryan’s singing…it’s almost therapeutic,” then added, “He’s always willing to be himself.”

De Tomi’s 48-year-old parents, John and Maggie De Tomi, “couldn’t be more proud of them.” The De Tomis opened their home to Brown, who was living alone when he and De Tomi met, and are now excited to make him officially part of the family. “We couldn’t ask for a better man for our son!” they exclaimed.

Living together has given the couple a sense of what to expect from marriage, De Tomi said. Brown expects to do “the cooking and the cleaning and the gardening and pretty much everything else,” he laughed, then jabbed at De Tomi, “he can barely cook a pop tart in the microwave.”

Ten years from now the couple imagines having a family, some kids of their own and some adopted. Where? Maybe Long Island or Connecticut, De Tomi stated. Brown gagged. “Long Island?” he questioned with a dramatic eye-roll. “Connecticut, maybe,” he conceded with a shrug. De Tomi, a graphic design student, dreams of designing poster art for Broadway shows. For Brown, something in the education field. “I’m supposed to be helping individuals grow, somehow,” Brown noted.

While it might seem the couple is rushing into their future, they see it as quite the opposite. As De Tomi put it, the rings are a commitment. Now they have four whole years to graduate, work and plan together. Four years of playful banter, proud smiles, and loving gazes. De Tomi divulged, “I look into his eyes and I see a future.”


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