(Diriye Osman is photographed by Bahareh Hosseini)
I received an email a few months ago from one of my readers, a Somali teenager who was exploring her sexuality and was determined to come out to her parents and claim her space in the world.
This reader wasn't seeking counsel. She had already decided on her path, psychic compass at the ready and was simply looking for someone to confide in -- someone, not dissimilar to a therapist, who would allow her to state her truth and encourage her to tap to her own tune.
I sensed this and so I kept my responses as open-ended as possible. There were so many pieces of wisdom I wish I could have shared with this young girl, but I knew that what she wanted was not offerings of wisdom but to expel her fears by sharing them, by articulating them and then moving on to eat the world.
I didn't mind this because I know the world is often a harsh, unforgiving place for LGBT youth. Still, when I didn't hear from the girl again I wondered how she was. I wondered if she had ever come out to her parents or if she had headed down a different path. I wondered if she was safe. I wondered if she was hurt or healing. I wondered if her heart was broken by the realization that her parents, who were, she said, strict Muslims, might not forgive her for what they perceived as a presumably inexcusable transgression.
I sent a couple of cheery messages to the young girl enquiring about her health and wellbeing. She never wrote back.
To this day, I don't know what became of her but if she's reading this, I would say:
Wait. You may feel like your future is slipping from your grasp, that if you don't rush now to greet your dreams you might lose out on them, but please wait. If you are coming from an unsupportive environment with regards to your sexual orientation, the best thing to do is to establish your independence. Make sure you have a support network of loving and loyal friends. Make sure you have somewhere to live. Make sure you have an income to sustain you. Place a premium on your life. Always, always place a premium on your life.
When all these elements have been configured and your psychic compass is at the ready, go forth in the knowledge that you've created a self-preserving future for yourself. Go forth in the knowledge that you have a safe space to call home. Go forth in the knowledge that not only are you kicking ass but you are kicking ass on a major scale. Go forth in the knowledge that not only are you winning at life but you have already won.
Diriye Osman is the Polari Prize-winning author of "Fairytales For Lost Children" (Team Angelica Press), a collection of critically-acclaimed short stories about the LGBT Somali experience. You can purchase the book here and you can connect with Osman via Tumblr.