This letter is addressed to those who are struggling with their sexual or gender identities.
As a lesbian who struggled with self-acceptance for many years, I can confidently and wholeheartedly tell you everything will be okay.
I've been in your shoes. I've felt the heaviness that is in your heart. I've experienced the fear of not knowing and then knowing, but fearing what I know. Like a faucet, my hazel eyes have cried many tears, just like you may have.
I know what it's like to be angry, to feel as though God has made a mistake.
I know what it's like to hope and pray it will all go away, only to be disappointed when things remain exactly the same.
I know what it's like to have your thoughts torment you. You can't choose to whom you're attracted, and that's a hard pill to swallow. And, when you can't swallow it, the torment continues.
I know what it's like to loathe yourself so much that you want to die.
You start to think about your own funeral, the news crews and how you would just be another body to add to the somber LGBTQIA youth statistics.
I know what it's like to be at a crossroads where you know you need help and should get help, but delay doing so because you want to make one more attempt.
In a sick person's mind, the only peace that is found is in death.
I'm here to tell you that is not true. It's a lie from the pit of hell. It does get better, and it will get better.
"The strongest people are those who ask for help." This is one of many take-home pieces of advice I received the night I finally reached out for help.
To all who are reading, I beg of you: Please let these words sink into every aspect of your being.
Feel every single syllable as it makes its way into your heart, mind, body, soul and spirit.
Because whether you're exploring your sexual or gender identity for the first time, coming out as LGBTQIA or feeling suicidal, this piece of advice is one of the best I have ever received and can give.
Getting help was the best thing I ever did, and it is the best thing you can do for yourself.
Find and faithfully attend an LGBTQIA support group. Talk to a family member or friend who you know you can trust.
Make some phone calls, and get yourself a therapist.
Whatever you do, don't lock away your thoughts and feelings in a cobwebbed corner of your mind.
After all, struggles pertaining to sexual and gender identity are way too complex to be sorted out solely within yourself.
You need people who can walk alongside you and help you sort, process and eventually resolve those conflicts that eat away at your mind.
You don't need to have everything figured out in a matter of weeks or months. You just need to make baby steps.
Expect setbacks and times of great triumph. Expect confusion one day and clarity the next.
When you catch yourself thinking negatively, challenge yourself to think positively. When you fall, pick yourself back up.
Life is like the cha-cha. There are steps forward, and there are steps back. The key to a happy life and peaceful mind is making sure you move forward more than you move backward.
You control your destiny, and you will figure things out. I promise.
Finally, in ending this letter, I feel it's imperative to extend a few words of caution.
Be very careful about whom you trust, as not everyone is supportive of LGBTQIA people.
Be on guard for red flags. If someone you reach out to makes an erroneous claim that being LGBTQIA is a choice, stay away.
If someone you reach out to invokes God as a license to judge or condemn, stay away.
If someone you reach out to responds with a confused expression when you explain you think (or are) asexual or transgender, stay away.
They are not the best people to speak to about LGBTQIA issues.
There are many misconceptions and a lot of prejudices out there. Some have been bred into the fabric of people's minds by religion, and others have been instilled by their upbringings.
It could even be a combination of both.
Whatever it is, at this time, when you're figuring out or coming out about your sexuality or gender identity, your job is not to change others.
You job is to seek out the best support system available to you.
I wish you, my dear reader, the best of luck.
May you find peace in living authentically all the days of your life.