So you’ve decided to come out. Or you’re already out. Or you’re about to come out. Perhaps you’re trans or gender queer and you’ve decided to live in your truth. For some of you, this is a most joyous day. For others, it’s one of the most horrific moments in your lives.

One thing is certain, you’re at a crossroads and you don’t know if you’re stepping out on faith or stepping off a cliff. Headlines are a daily reminder that the world is enemy terrain for LGBTQs. Some people claim that it gets better. I wish I could believe that but if you’re an LGBTQ, you need more than empty campaign slogans from celebrities.

You deserve better; especially with your mental health, possibly your life being on the line. The following are some harsh realities, wicked truths, experiences and resources that have served me well over the years and hopefully can serve you also.

Standard disclaimer on any advice I dispense with, take what you can utilize and disregard the rest.

1. No One Is Coming To Save You, Learn To Save Yourself

It Doesn't Get Better, It Gets Real: A young man searches for his place in the universe after coming out. it gets real - starry night main 300x194 - It Doesn’t Get Better, It Gets Real

It Doesn’t Get Better, It Gets Real: A young man searches for his place in the universe after coming out.

It pains me to tell you this but no one is coming to save you. Not because you aren’t worth saving because I’m willing to bet that you are. Yes, I realize we’ve never met but the fact that you’re reading this and giving it some serious thought means you’re someone who is genuinely trying to find their way and that makes you someone worth saving.

The reality is that the world didn’t become a bigoted and oppressive one by accident nor is it random happenstance that it is remaining that way. As an LGBTQ, you’re going to be a target. Sadly, many people are going to show their true colors. Bio relatives will prove that they are anything but family. But occasionally folks will surprise you and you’ll find support and love in the unlikeliest of places. Fight for your rights. Stand up for yourself. Learn to fight back, whether that’s speaking up, bearing arms or learning self-defense.

It’s you against the world and you’re all you’ve got.

2. You Owe No One A Coming Out Party

One of the biggest lies society spews is that you’re under obligation to out yourself. To do otherwise means you have secrets to hide and something to be ashamed of.

It’s not lying if the privileged majority only force you to accept their truth. And the truth is being out can and often does result in harassment, homelessness, discrimination and even violence.

Furthermore, your identity/orientation is no one’s business if you don’t wish it to be. I say all of this with one caveat. Your orientation is off limits as long as you aren’t attacking or harming LGBTQs and other minorities. Otherwise, you’re fair game.

3. You Are As Who God Made You To Be

It Doesn't Get Better, It Gets Real: Always remember that God is love and you are a reflection of that. it gets real - young 691106 640 300x194 - It Doesn’t Get Better, It Gets Real

It Doesn’t Get Better, It Gets Real: Always remember that God is love and you are a reflection of that.

If you’re like me, you’re very spiritual and reconciling your faith with your orientation may seem like mission impossible. What we often forget is that the same Bible white supremacists use to defend slavery and tyrannize blacks is the same one that Dr. King, Harriet Tubman, and other Civil Rights activists used to fight for equality.

Most religions teach the universal principles that God is love and we are a reflection of that. How can we reflect God if we don’t love ourselves.

Maybe Christianity isn’t for you and that’s okay. As far as religions go, it isn’t the only game in town. There are a multitude of religious and spiritual paths that not only accepts LGBTQs but also celebrate us for every aspect of who we are.

4. No Haven In The Gay Community

Fair warning. One of the most sobering things to learn is that contrary belief, the LGBTQ “community” is anything but. I’ve faced more racism from white queers than I have straights. And as someone who has grown up in the South, that’s saying a lot. Many of the friends and the family I’ve made on the LGBTQ front have been outside of the community. While I will personally continue for LGBTQ rights, don’t expect to see me (or a lot of people) at a Pride parade.

5. Embrace That Which Makes You Unique (Define Yourself)

It Doesn't Get Better, It Gets Real: Embrace what makes you unique, don't let anyone or anything define you. it gets real - sister 1169010 640 300x194 - It Doesn’t Get Better, It Gets Real

It Doesn’t Get Better, It Gets Real: Embrace what makes you unique, don’t let anyone or anything define you.

Being an LGBTQ means that people are all too quick to place you in myopic, stereotypical and homophobic boxes. They expect you to conform to that one-dimensional caricatures from Glee and Will & Grace so they can feel better about their mediocrity. If your defining characteristics are say a masculine jock who enjoys classical music, a trans comic book nerd who is also a world-class cook, a liberal lesbian musician, a pagan gaymer, whatever the case may be, define yourself. Don’t allow anyone or anything to define you.

6. Learn Your History

Knowledge is truly power and history is affirming. Learning about the extraordinary LGBTQs who have shaped the world helped me unpack a lot of internalized self-hate. Learning that Romans, Greeks, Spartans and samurais practiced same gender relationships redefined my view of masculinity. Learning about Alan Turing, George Takei, Perry Moore and Fallon Fox redefined my definition of hero. Learning that I share a birthday with fellow black gay author Langston Hughes redefined me as an artist and a man.

7. Be Resourceful

The specific challenges you may face are far too many to list. However, the following are links to articles, websites, and other resources should you find yourself in need.

http://www.thetrevorproject.org/pages/suicide-prevention-resources

http://www.pride.com/gay/2016/6/08/how-survive-being-gaybi-small-town

http://transgriot.blogspot.com/

http://www.lambdalegal.org/

8. Being Single And Alone Does Not Reflect Your Value As A Person

Gay or straight, black or white, cis or trans, being single is never easy. In the LGBTQ “community,” relationships are often seen as status symbols. To be single is a reflection of a defect of some sorts.

However, the reality is that there are plenty of people who are single because they are not settling for foolishness and toxicity all of the sake of not being alone.

If and when the right one comes along, they’ll be worth it and you’ll know it. And if that doesn’t happen, that’s okay too. You’re all you got and ultimately you’re all you need.

9. Be Selective About The Media You Consume

As a speculative fiction author and a queer person of color, I’m constantly frustrated not only with the lack of diversity, but the nonstop misogyny, racism, and queerphobia that continues to be the status quo in media.

More than that, as someone who suffers from depression, high anxiety and ptsd, I found the subliminal bigotry taking a toll on my mental health.

This led to my Media Litmus Test.

I thought searching for media the reflected my values would be a chore. Instead. I have found an impressive backlog of movies, books, and comic books.

It’s amazing how much my mood, outlook, spirit, and health improves dramatically when I’m not bombarded with nonstop negative subliminal reinforcements that tell me that I am evil and inferior for being who I am. What’s even more amazing is when the media I consume celebrates who I am, I feel empowered to do the impossible in my day-to-day. My media and my art are once more cathartic and invaluable tools for self-care.

If you’re looking for excellent LGBTQ media, here are a few recommendations:

Television: Queer As Folk, Torchwood, In Between Men, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, House of Cards, Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, The Catch, Teen Wolf

Movies: Judas Kiss, Fixing Frank, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, The Sensei.

Books: Hero by Perry Moore, Huntress by Malinda Lo, West of Sunset by Dennis R. Upkins (yes, yours truly), Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey

Comic Books: Batwoman, Midnighter, Runaways, Young Avengers, Kevin Keller

10. Heteronormative Is Not The Standard

Being out also means contending with sex shaming and respectability politics. Many have this ludicrous notion that all gays should emulate the cis straight white nuclear family: suburbs, white picket fences, 2.3 adopted kids.

There’s nothing wrong with that lifestyle if that’s what you genuinely want. But it’s not for everyone, even straight people. Often especially straight people.

Too many individuals get married and start families out of sense of obligation and conforming to societal norms. All the while, they know deep down that path isn’t what they want. When years are wasted, divorces rack up and folks are estranged from their kids (assuming there is a relationship), then they’re wondering what happened and why.

And for consenting adults who are sexually liberated and practice alternative lifestyles, they’re still entitled to the same rights, decency and respect as anyone else. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.

11. Do Not Apologize For Your Body

It Doesn't Get Better, It Gets Real: You are beautiful, never apologize for your body. it gets real - young girl 1401657 640 300x194 - It Doesn’t Get Better, It Gets Real

It Doesn’t Get Better, It Gets Real: You are beautiful, never apologize for your body.

Whenever I dated guys and we were on the cusp of getting intimate, many would apologize for their bodies. Needless to say, they were strikingly hot and I felt like I hit the jackpot but they only saw the flaws and that self-hate manifested in their view of their body image. And in a culture where looks and designer labels are exalted, it doesn’t exactly do bode well for one’s mental health.

Seeing it enough times made me finally stop apologizing for my body. Why? Because it’s my body. Beauty comes in all shades, shapes, and sizes. Nevertheless, it’s my body and everyone can take it or leave it, if I allow it. If they don’t appreciate what I have to offer, it’s best I dodge that bullet ahead of time and count my blessings.

I know my value and I won’t allow for any misappraisals.

12. Establish Boundaries & High Standards

As a marginalized person, you’ll find yourself a frequent target of attacks. Often those attacks are microaggressions and dog whistle politics and the enemies come in the guise of “allies.” Often it’s whites who “don’t understand” why the n-word and other slurs are dehumanizing and inappropriate. Or cis straight white women who believe queer males are fashion accessories and our sexuality is something to exploited and fetishized.

The hubris of privileged “allies” makes them believe that minorities are so desperate for straight white acceptance that we’ll suffer indignities and dehumanization.

Establishing boundaries, calling out bigotry and privilege places potential predators on notice that you won’t suffer fools or bigots.

13. No Excuses, No Apologies, No Regrets

You’re going to make some choices in life that will be unconventional. Some might consider decisions ill-advised. Others will consider them absolutely insane. Just because your choices wouldn’t work for most people doesn’t mean they won’t work for you.

You are the navigator of your journey and you know what’s best for you. Use wisdom, take accountability, take calculated risks, step out on faith and live your life. You’re the only one who can do so.

14. Always Strive To Be A Better You

Love yourself, take care of yourself and try your best to level up and be the best version of you that you can possibly be.

My friend Nabila Farhat summed it up eloquently when she stated this:

“Self-love doesn’t come easy. It requires dedication, patience & thought. Self-analysis & self-criticism. To push ourselves outside of our comfort zone. It requires us to show up each day and do so authentically. But most of all, it requires us to be forgiving of ourselves & to have compassion for our short-comings. And on a day that’s based on showing love, I hope that we all get a little closer to that, so that we’re a little closer to receiving the same acceptance & kindness from others.”

Does it ever get better? It’s not out of the realm of possibilities. For many it’s a trial by fire and weathering one storm after another. But I guess what they say is true about things worth having are often worth fighting for.

You are worth fighting for. It may get real, damn real (to quote Kurt Angle). But one thing is for certain, you’ll be stronger and better for finding your way. Take care of you. You’re all you’ve got. But fortunately, you’re all you’ll ever need.