Q. I have two wonderful kids. They are both in the military. One is active, and the other is a veteran on disability, who is also transgender.
When people ask, “How are your girls?” I usually say, “Well, one is now a male,” or I’ll start by saying, “One of my kids suffered his whole life as a female,” and then explain that he finally had surgery and is now very happy as a male transgender.
Amy, some people grasp the idea and show support. Others just stare and don’t say much. One woman was so disoriented that she kept repeating, “She is now a male. . .?!”
I was so taken aback by her reaction that I facetiously said, “And my other daughter was born a chimpanzee!” Then I walked away.
What is the best way to answer people that I haven’t seen for a while when they reasonably ask, “How are the girls?”
I won’t just say, “Oh, they are fine,” because that will be hiding the fact that one is now a male and I am very supportive of him.
I am very proud of both of them.
A. I can imagine how exhausting it might be to feel like you are always having to educate and reorient people.
But, “Oh, they’re fine” is not a cop-out; it is your right to respond this way if you don’t feel like explaining gender transitioning in the aisle of the grocery story. (And — it happens to be true; they are fine.)
Only offer up an explanation if you want to. And if you do, understand that every time you advocate for your son, you help a lot of other people who don’t have a supportive and loving parent in their corner. Our perceptions are changing, one conversation at a time.
Q. My husband and I never had children.
One of our closest nephews is marrying into a wonderful family with young boys whom we love.
We live on a lake and our nephew, his fiancee, and her sons have spent the last two summer vacations with us.
Last year after they left, we noticed a fishing net was missing. This year when my nephew and his family came back to the lake, we noticed that he had the net with him.
After they left this year, a fishing reel was missing. It was my husband’s father’s, so it was important to him.
I texted my nephew. He replied, “Oh, yeah. I have it. I guess I thought it was my cousin’s reel; I’ll send it back.”
I then mentioned the net, saying that now with the reel situation, we wondered what was going on. He said, “Oh, the net somehow got into our car while packing last year; someone didn’t know it wasn’t mine. I’ll send that back, too.”
We are very upset that my nephew felt he could just take things from us.
We feel he is lying to us, and not owning up to the fact that he stole these things.
We have decided with sadness that he is not welcome here anymore. We also feel it will be difficult to see him at family gatherings in the future.
Any thoughts on what we should do?
A. I have a completely different take on this than you do. But that’s probably because I have traveled and vacationed with young children, and I am aware that things get quite bananas when a family is trying to account for everyone’s possessions, and multiple people are packing the car. It is also possible that one of the kids nicked the equipment. But I don’t think your nephew is a thief.
His explanations make perfect sense to me, and his quick offer to return these items to you means that he cares about you and your possessions, and that he wants to respect the relationship. It would be unfortunate if you severed a close relationship for the wrong reason.
Q. Dear Amy: I was raised to hug family members when greeting or departing, as a sign of affection. If you didn’t hug, it was almost a snub. When I became engaged, I hugged my future mother-in-law, who told me that she wasn’t much for hugging. I was so hurt and humiliated, and never touched her again for any reason. I couldn’t warm up to her.
A. I assume there are other reasons you never warmed up to your mother-in-law, although it would have been gracious for her to accept a hug.Amy Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.