DEAR AMY: I am a 15-year-old boy. I am gay, but the only people who know are my mother, brother and great-aunt and uncle.
My grandparents are very conservative, and when I go to their house they are always going on about gays being "unnatural" and getting into very political talks with me. I do not like it and don't want to come out to them, but I want to tell them not to say those things. What should I do? — A Hurt Teen
DEAR HURT: I can imagine how uncomfortable this must be. You don't have to come out to anyone you don't want to tell about your sexuality.
Your grandparents may sense that you are gay, and this might be their (completely inappropriate) effort to change you.
If you have no way of avoiding your grandparents (or their opinions), then the most peaceful thing to do is to respond calmly by saying, "I don't agree and I wish you would not put people down like that. It's not right."
Your mother should offer you additional guidance.
DEAR AMY: My wonderful 21-year-old daughter has a habit of choosing men who are "damaged" in some way. This has been going on since she was 14. All her boyfriends have been nice enough. They don't abuse her or lie to her, but each of them has had some kind of psychic wound or emotional limitation that she seems to want to fix. I have heard this called the "broken wing" syndrome. Typically, she starts going out with a guy and she's on cloud nine for a while, but sooner or later she becomes frustrated by the guy's inability to respond emotionally. They break up, and my daughter is devastated.
She is basically a happy, healthy person. She has many close friends, both male and female, and she gets high praise from her teachers and employers. She is close to us and treats us with love and respect.
Both my husband and I lost parents at a young age. My daughter is an only child, and we have almost no extended family. Could this be a factor in the kinds of guys she's attracted to? We would like to help her understand herself better and make better choices. Are there any books you can recommend for her? Do you think she needs therapy? — Concerned Mother
DEAR MOTHER: The dynamic of your family would definitely influence your daughter's choices. But at some point, beyond the insight gained by exploring this, it's going to be up to your daughter to move beyond the dynamics of her childhood in order to make optimal choices for her adulthood.
She might be a tenderhearted "fixer" or she might be an intense solo flier who assumes she has, or should have, the power to make over men into the version she prefers. Imagine her disappointment when she realizes her limitations.
If she notices and wants to alter this pattern, one way to do this would be to look at the length of time she spends getting to know someone before falling headlong into an emotional wing-fixing.
If she wants to draw different types of people toward her, she will have to change her behavior. As much as you care, you cannot force her to change, just as she cannot force her boyfriends to change.
Therapy could be helpful, especially if she wants to understand herself better in order to change and grow.
A book she might find helpful is "Emotional Unavailability: Recognizing It, Understanding It, and Avoiding Its Trap," by Bryn Collins (1998, McGraw-Hill).
DEAR AMY: I want to commend your answer to "North Carolina Mom." This mother had a completely irrational fear of her 6-year-old son's effeminate behavior, which she said was exactly like her husband.
I felt so sorry for this child (and his dad). I wish this mother could drop her son off at my house. I'd happily raise him with love, acceptance and the belief that he is perfect just as he is. — Disgusted
DEAR DISGUSTED: My heart went out to this child. He is only 6 years old, and already his mother is very disappointed in something he can't (and needn't) change.
(Send questions via e-mail to askamytribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611. Amy Dickinson's memoir, "The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them" (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.)
By Amy Dickinson
Tribune Media Services