Don Mueller, an openly gay police officer in Los Angeles (Lieutenant with Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department), conducts LGBT diversity training for police departments all over the US; and Oriel Briguela, an accounting officer for an electronics company in Quezon City and active LoveYourself volunteer and LGBT advocate, originally met online through Facebook.
Oriel and Don are both members of Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) – an inclusive, progressive Christian church serving the LGBT community. Oriel is an active member at MCC Quezon City, while Don is on the board of directors at Founders MCC in Los Angeles.
Oriel and Don have a number of mutual friends and began seeing each other’s posts on Facebook. Last October, they became Facebook “friends” and began to chat. They quickly realized that their interests and passions were the same. Their Facebook chats soon turned into Skype video chats, and before long, they were talking every single day.
“After almost four months of talking every day – several times a day! – we both began to develop serious feelings for each other. But we also knew that ‘online’ relationships do not always end up the same when you meet in person. We needed to find out if this could actually be the real thing,” Don recalled.
And so “last February, I flew to Manila so that we could finally spend real, quality time together. It was absolutely amazing! We are both so perfectly in sync with our dreams, our goals, and what we both want out of life. I never anticipated that when I would finally meet the man of my dreams, he would be living half way around the world!” laughed Don.
“I cannot say exactly when I started loving Don. From the time we started exchanging messages, I never expected that my feelings for him would be validated until he came here last February. At first, I was in doubt if we would ever be in a relationship that will work, but every day we are so much in love. I think from the time I saw Don at the airport, my heart beat so fast,” said Oriel.
The biggest challenge for Oriel and Don is that Don currently lives in Los Angeles and Oriel lives in Quezon City. Although they are so far apart at the moment, they talk and Skype every day.
“Several years ago, developing our relationship while 7,000 miles apart would have been impossible. But today, with the help of Skype, Viber, and Facebook, we talk and see each other multiple times a day. We both believe that being so far apart has actually helped us build the quality of our relationship even better. So often as gay men, we tend to focus on our ‘physical’ relationship (i.e. sex), and we neglect actually getting to know each other. Yhel and I spend hours and hours talking and listening to each other. We have become incredible ‘friends’, which helps make us even more incredible partners to each other. We laugh together, we cry together, and we share our joys and our fears. We are not only boyfriends. We are also best friends,” said Don.
One of the best things in their relationship is that Don says he has finally found an equal.
“Yhel amazes me each and every day. He is so passionate and caring about other people. He is confident and brave. He speaks out everywhere for LGBT equality and for the rights and needs of people living with HIV. He truly loves God and helps others understand that God created them and loves them just as they are. He is making a difference in the world, and by doing so, he challenges me to be an even better man, too. I cannot imagine a more incredible man to share the rest of my life with,” said Don.
For Oriel, it is their mutual trust that he finds best in their relationship.
“It’s simple. I feel secure, equal, accepted wholeheartedly, and most of all contented. Even though we are far apart, we never feel insecure and jealous about the people surrounding both of us. We have built trust that secures us while we are far apart from each other. We manage to stay connected no matter what. We talk about everything we are doing. We are strong and we have great faith in God as a center of our love,” said Oriel.
For future plans, Oriel and Don admit that they cannot survive so far apart forever.
“Thanks to US President Barack Obama, same-sex couples are now treated the same as heterosexual couples when applying for US visas. We are currently in the process of acquiring a fiancé visa for Oriel so that he can join me here in the US and we can be legally married. We are hoping that this will happen by November or December this year. Until then, I am taking lots of trips to be with him there in the Philippines as often as I can,” Don ended.