Dear Annie: We have two children and a 13-year-old grandson. Two years ago, our 48-year-old unmarried son very reluctantly told us that he has been diagnosed with gender identity disorder and considers himself to be female. This came as a complete surprise, but we decided to support her wholeheartedly, and we find her to be much happier than before.
Here is the problem: Our other son and his wife don't want their teenage son to know because they are afraid it will have a negative effect on his development. This makes family gatherings impossible, as the boy's uncle now dresses and lives as a woman.
We love both of our children and our grandson, but we are getting older and don't know how long this impasse will last. How do we best explain transsexualism to a boy that age, and should we? — The Parents
Dear Parents: Children are amazingly adaptable, and a typical boy of 13 who watches TV and sees movies likely already has a grasp on gender identity issues. Having a relative who is transsexual is not going to make him change his gender. But we agree that these things should be explained sensitively, and the parents must be the ones to make that decision. Please contact PFLAG (pflag.org), which has a transgender network and can help you.
Dear Annie: My best friend, "Donna," has been happily married for 34 years. She and her husband eloped when she was 21, and they now have two grown sons and a 16-year-old daughter. Donna has mentioned more than once that she regrets not having had a wedding. So, when she announced that she was having a commitment ceremony for her 35th anniversary and asked me to participate, I was thrilled.
However, what she is planning is far different from what I had imagined. She plans to wear a long white dress with a full train and a waist-length veil, and she has invited 100 guests. She wants me to be her matron of honor.
I feel that this is something much more appropriate for a young first-time bride, not a 57-year-old adult who looks her age. I fear she is making a ridiculous spectacle of herself — and, yes, of me, too.
How do I tell her this? Or am I just being an old wet hen myself? — Renee
Dear Renee: As the matron of honor, you should offer to help Donna pick out her wedding dress. This will give you the opportunity to show your enthusiasm for something more appropriate. However, this is the wedding Donna dreamed of, and now she can afford it. If she is determined to go the whole nine yards (of material), we hope you will be a good sport. That's what best friends do for each other.
Dear Annie: As the representative of more than 10,000 florists, wholesalers and flower growers, the Society of American Florists would like to respond to "Friend of a Young Cancer Victim," who asked readers to list a charity or medical organization in lieu of flowers in death notices.
While donations to charitable organizations are a worthwhile cause, flowers also can be a great source of comfort to those grieving the loss of a loved one. They express sympathy in a heartfelt way, honor the deceased's life and add warmth to the memorial service. Research from Harvard and Rutgers shows that flowers increase feelings of compassion and happiness, and people feel less depressed, anxious and agitated in their presence.
Instead of requesting "in lieu of flowers," we hope the family will consider simply stating, "The family suggests memorial contributions be sent to Such-And-Such" or "Memorial contributions can be made to Such-And-Such." This provides a suggestion, without dictating to family and friends what they should do. — Jenny Scala, Director of Consumer Marketing, Staff Liaison of Professional Floral Communicators — International
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