“One night I was texting [Brad] that I was going through some things,” Justin tells OutSports“I sat on my bed having written a text that I was gay or bi and had the idea that I might like men. I stared at my phone, my finger hovering over the send button.”

He hit send. Moments later, Brad replied: “Oh, that’s cool,”

What Justin didn’t know was that Brad was going through a similar struggle. Having grown up in a small rural town where being gay was something people laughed at, he had been keeping his sexuality a secret for his entire life.

Justin’s text came to him as a relief. “Finally, I had someone I could relate to,” Brad recalls.

From there a deeper friendship blossomed.

“At first we were just friends, talking freely and getting to know each other,” Brad recalls, “but I started to care more and more for this man every day. He made it possible for me to be happy again. He gave me a reason to smile.”