DEAR AMY: I am 17 years old and a lesbian. I’m trying to figure out how to come out to my family, or at least to my dad. I know my family is nonsupportive of other LGBT members of the family. Sometimes they say awful things about them. They tell a lot of jokes, and sometimes it’s really hard on me.
I have a girlfriend. She’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. We have been together almost a whole year. Prom is coming up, and I’m getting sick of hiding the fact that I’m gay and have a girlfriend, but I’m honestly scared.
I don’t know what the reaction will be or how to be prepared for it, or how I will cope if the reaction is bad. Sometimes it makes life really hard, especially lately with my parents going through a divorce. The idea of revealing this about myself at this time seems wrong.
I know that I’m almost an adult, but the secret makes my life hard. I’m different in a lot of ways I feel they wouldn’t approve of.
I feel sometimes like I should be sorry I am the way I am. This is really important to me. I want them to accept it and to accept us. Please help me, I could use the guidance.
Lost in California
DEAR LOST: If you have other family members who are gay – and if you trust them to be honest and compassionate toward you, they are in the best position to offer you specific advice about what you should do in the short term. It is not always safe for gay teens to come out to their parents. Sometimes parents punish or kick their children out of the house. If your parents are stressed by their own marital troubles, they might react badly to your news.
In the short term, I hope you will plan on attending your prom with your girlfriend, but you might not be able to do so in front of your parents. I’m very sorry to recommend that you stay at least partially in the closet, but that might be best for you right now.
Please remember that you are perfect just the way you are. Teenagers often go through very rough patches of worrying and wondering about their identity, and this is especially true for LGBT teens. Your friends, peers and sympathetic adults will help.
I have a great resource to recommend – Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project: itgetsbetter.org. It is very important for you to know that you are not alone. Countless other teens have successfully walked this path, and they – and I – stand with you now.
DEAR AMY: I have a friend who cancels plans frequently. One time I was in my car waiting for her when she canceled. This has happened four times in less than six months.
She shows this behavior to other friends also, and they have tolerated it for years.
I sent her a note in her Christmas card that I would not tolerate this behavior because I believe you teach people how to treat you.
I suggested that I would be willing to go with her to a therapist and that it could be social anxiety, unresolved anger or passive-aggressive behavior.
She was not agreeable to my suggestion and continues to call. I do not return calls, but I would like your input on how to handle this situation in the future.
DEAR VEXED: Your choice to handle this by speculating and diagnosing your friend via a note enclosed in her Christmas card is less than kind.
You cannot know what is behind your friend’s behavior, but it is possible to remain friends without making plans to get together. You could start by accepting – or returning – her phone calls. If she is depressed or otherwise struggling, maintaining the connection could help. Don’t make plans she is unlikely to keep.
We not only teach others how to treat us, but we also inspire others through our own behavior. You should be honest about how this affects you, but behave with patience and compassion.
DEAR AMY: Thank you for your great answer to “Chairchick” – the wheelchair-using woman who resented when strangers offered to “pray” for her.
I have a disability and I already think I’m perfect as I am – just as you advised Chairchick. It is shocking to see how others perceive me, as someone in need of healing.
DEAR GRATEFUL: Thank you for offering your important perspective.
Email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com.