Dear Amy: Every year my extended family meets for a summer reunion.
Two of us are gay. Starting when he was quite young, we assumed that my nephew was also gay. No one talked about it, it was just assumed he’d figure it out and it wouldn’t be a big deal.
Two years ago, when he was 16, he started growing and dyeing his hair and wearing nail polish but still referred to himself as “he.” We assumed he was either doing the teenager thing or was about to tell us he was gay.
Well, we were wrong. He’s not heterosexual (no shock) but has decided he’s trans and now goes by the gender-neutral name “Ash.”
Now Ash is making baby steps into the world as a trans person.
To say my family is less than supportive is an understatement. This includes Ash’s parents. Gay they’re OK with, but I guess trans is a bridge too far.
Our annual get-together is coming up, and my plan is to wait and see how Ash refers to themself and take it from there. I’m petrified about how my relatives are going to handle the change.
I’ve already told my sister to back off and follow Ash’s lead.
But I can see this going badly for Ash.
Any advice on how to be supportive without stirring the pot?
Good Gay Uncle
Dear Uncle: I’m unsure of why you are “petrified” by these relatives, but I assume that you are at the very least concerned for Ash regarding the reactions of extended relatives who haven’t been in personal contact for a while.
The way to be supportive is to greet Ash with enthusiasm and treat them with an attitude of friendship and respect at this gathering.
Speaking as an involved aunt, I believe that one advantage of this position in the family is that you have known the younger person’s parents (at least one of them) since childhood. You can convey just enough familiarity to decode some family traits, and just enough distance to offer perspective and non-judgmental friendship.
Tell Ash, “I faced some of my own challenges coming out as a young person. I’m here for you.” Ask if Ash feels safe at home (listen carefully to the answer) and make sure to exchange contact information.
If being kind, friendly and compassionate toward a young family member is “stirring the pot” in your family, then Ash might be experiencing abuse – at home or elsewhere.
I take it that Ash is 18, or close to it. Leaving the household might be the best course, and you should step up and do what you can to assure this young person’s safety and well-being.
I hope you will make sure that Ash knows about the Trevor Project (thetrevorproject.org); they offer 24/7 support through a chat function (text 678-678).
Dear Amy: I have a question regarding guest stays.
I recently bought a modest second home that has two bedrooms and two bathrooms.
My problem is that if more than one person or couple visits at the same time I have only a couch or an air mattress to offer.
In a few weeks I have a male couple coming for a visit, and they’re bringing a female friend. Should I offer my bedroom to the female guest? We’re all in our late 50s/early 60s, so it’s not like we’re used to crashing on the couch.
What should I do?
Harry the Host
Dear Harry: If it had been you who invited the third guest (if she were your friend or family member and you issued the invitation), it would be upon you to offer up your room and bunk on the couch. (One advantage of surrendering your own room is that the guest and their luggage are confined into that space, versus the awkwardness of having a suitcase in the living room.)
In this case, the third guest was invited not by you but by your guests.
Perhaps you should share this dilemma with them: “I only have two bedrooms, plus a couch and an air mattress. How do you think we should handle the sleeping arrangements?”
Dear Amy: Your answer to “Loves to Travel” was mean. Suggesting that this wife tell her husband of 52 years, “your attitude toward me makes it easier to leave” is just plain mean and unnecessary.
It’s what you say when you walk out the door for the last time – not when you’re going to Cape Cod with some girlfriends.
Jack in NY
Dear Jack: I accept your wisdom, and thank you.
You can email Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.
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