Question: "I'm a 22-year-old, gay, Afro-Caribbean man living in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and I'm at my wits' end in trying to find friendship and companionship. No visible community exists here, and I doubt an underground community exists either. Online attempts to find 'friends' have been disappointing. I'm at a point where I've realized that what I need most now is emotional and physical intimacy, but I'm at a place where this is most unlikely to be found. I'd love to move to a city with thriving communities like D.C. or NYC, but I lack the resources to do this. How do I cope with this loneliness?"
* Get out of dodge. Even if it's a challenge and seems difficult, it will give you a goal to aim for. You should be around people of your own sensibilities and interests. A large percentage of the Caribbean can be very anti-nurturing for gay people and you probably have very little support there.
* Do not give up hope that you will find what you need. There are social sites for LGBT people like you (and me). That is what kept me going, and I was finally able to meet someone on Facebook. I know it must be hard for you. I live in Small Town USA, and it was hard for me, too. I sought comfort on the Internet and found there are many of us out there who have gone through the same. Do not give up hope!
* That really sucks, but you have to keep your head up and your heart open. The only way I have found to cope with loneliness is to get to know myself better. I have few people I consider real friends, like literally four or five. Take this time to get to know yourself. Do something you like and get better at it. Pick up a new hobby or skill. Remember, not everyone who is alone is lonely. And don't ever give up on your dreams.
* Give yourself some time to find the kinds of relationships you are seeking. You have a long life ahead of you, and so much will happen that you cannot even imagine now. That said, I think that it is important that a lot of LGBT people experience very meaningful friendships and emotional intimacy (even limited physical intimacy) with straight folk. Don't put all of your eggs in the "he's the one and only for me" basket. Live your life to its fullest.
* Whatever interests, activities, and hobbies you have should be the foundation for your daily life. They will sustain you. They will make you more interesting and attractive to your potential partner, and it may be that through those activities you find that person. For example, if you are an athlete, train for the Gay Games. If you love to travel, travel to places with large, out gay populations.
* Use online sites cautiously. You probably won't find love on sex sites or "dating" sites where guys really go for sex. But some sites like Gay.com have groups and chat rooms based on interests, for example. Trevor Space at the Trevor Project might be another good avenue. Anyways, it probably seems real distressing now, but keep the faith and stay true to yourself. Best of luck!
* Downelink.com is an online LGBT community that allows users to interact with one another through social networks and resources. Both the site and app are free.
* Facebook, the uber social networking site, has tons of groups (many of them local) that can be a great way to meet friends with either similar interests or nearby. MySpaceis a good second alternative.
* Gay.com, owned by The Advocate's parent company HereMedia, operates both a site and app that can be used to find friends (or dates). Both free and premium memberships are available.
* EmptyClosets.com bills itself as "a place where you can figure out who you are, surrounded by other people just like you." If you're 13 or older, you can use the service to find friends, start your own groups, and chat about the issues that matter to you. For those LGBT, plus "curious" and "unsure."
STEVEN PETROW is The Advocate's manners columnist and author of Steven Petrow's Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners and can be found online at www.gaymanners.com. or contact him on Facebook and Twitter. Got a question? Email Steven at email@example.com.