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Annie's Mailbox

Ask Amy column

Q. I’m a 13-year-old boy, and I’m gay. I was wondering what advice you could give me on coming out to my parents. I don’t know how to do it. Lost

A. I shared your letter with Michael LaSala, who is a psychotherapist, professor at Rutgers University, and author of the book “Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child” (2010, Columbia University Press). LaSala is also gay and works with young people who are facing this challenge.

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We both want to offer you our warmest support. It is a triumph to really know who you are, and you deserve credit for wanting to be your authentic and true self and to share this with your parents and others.

Coming out is a process, however, and you should prepare yourself as well as you can. LaSala suggests pondering some important questions:

“What are you hoping for in coming out to your folks?”

“What is the most realistic or likely outcome, and are you prepared for it? If your parents are part of a gay-intolerant religious or cultural tradition, or if you’ve heard them talk negatively about gay people, that tells you that even though they love you, they will have a tough time with this.”

“Will they ask you to leave the house? You need to think about this possibility. Do you have a place to stay? Do you have a network of friends, family members, teachers, and other adults you can turn to for emotional support?”

This is an adjustment for everyone, and even if your parents accept and enfold you (as we hope they will), you (and they) should be equipped with resources.

Look up these websites, and do some research (you can then share them with your parents):

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays: pflag.org. Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network: glsen.org. The Trevor Project: trevorproject
.org. (The Trevor Project runs a hot line staffed with counselors. Keep this number on hand: 866-488-7386.)

You should start this conversation by choosing a good time, sitting down with your parents, and saying, “Mom and Dad, I have something important to talk about.”

Q. My son, who is 19, has been dating a girl for two years. He is very much in love, but this relationship has created problems in our family.

Her family is financially fortunate, whereas we struggle just to get by. Recently my husband lost his job, and this has made our lives even harder. The girlfriend and her family feel my son isn’t good enough for her.

He hasn’t the means to buy prom tickets, holiday gifts, etc., but he gives all he has.

It is breaking my heart seeing him feel “less than.” We’ve raised him to believe love is all that matters. Were we wrong?

Upset Mother

A. If “love is all that matters,” then the real lesson is for your son. He needs to learn what love really is.

It is not lovely to expect (or demand) gifts and prom tickets when there are no means to acquire them. It is oh so not lovely to be in a relationship in which you feel “less than.”

It is beautiful to be loved just as you are. Your son should be making his way in the world with someone who will cheer him on and inspire him to great heights, not deplete and depress him. If this relationship is perpetually holding him back, you should urge him to leave it.

Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.
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