2008-02-06 / LifeStyles

ANNIE'S MAILBOX

He's still in the closet to friends and family
Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar

Dear Annie: I am a male in my early 40s. My mother died a few years ago, and my grandmother shortly after, so life has been difficult lately.

Here is my problem: I'm gay and still in the closet to friends and family. At my age, single and never having dated, people have pretty much put two and two together, but I was raised to think this is not an acceptable lifestyle. If I were to come out publicly, I believe I would be made an outcast by my family and church.

The church I attend (which I love attending) does not accept gays. The official outlook is "hate the sin but love the sinner," which means I'd have to stop being gay to be accepted. It makes me feel I'm losing my connection to God and that breaks my heart. Annie, I didn't wake up one morning, decide I was tired of being heterosexual and switch over. This is all I've ever known. To make matters worse, I was recently diagnosed as HIV-positive. I have found a man I would like to spend my life with and he has been extremely accepting of my positive diagnosis. His family has accepted his sexual orientation, but he doesn't attend church.

I know counseling would help, but I can't afford it. Who can I talk to confidentially about being a closeted, HIVpositive gay man who doesn't want to lose his faith or family?

- Lost and Confused

Dear Lost: You didn't specify your church's denomination, so we recommend Dignity (dignityusa.org) at 1- 800-877-8797 for Catholics; the Gay Christian Network (gaychristian.net), P.O. Box 17504, Raleigh, NC 27619; Integrity (integrityusa.org) at 1-800- 462-9498 for Episcopalians; Seventh Day Adventist Kinship (sdakinship. org), P.O. Box 69, Tillamook, OR 97141-0069; Metropolitan Community Churches (mccchurch.org), P.O. Box 1374, Abilene, TX 79604; and of course, PFLAG (pflag.org), 1726 M Street, NW, Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20036. Good luck.

Fear is perfectly natural

Dear Annie: I am going to fashion school in New York and I absolutely love it here. The problem is, I never feel safe because of what happened on 9/11. Every time a plane flies overhead, I freak out. A lot of my friends make fun of me for it, even though they say they are scared, too. Any suggestions?

- Nicole in N.Y.

Dear Nicole: It's perfectly natural to be afraid and it can take a long time for that fear to dissipate. What you need to be concerned about is whether or not the fear affects your ability to attend school, socialize with friends and generally get on with your life. If you are having difficulty functioning, counseling can help. However, you sound perfectly functional to us, so the next time a plane flies overhead, we suggest you simply acknowledge the fear and just keep on going.

Shoe also fits on other foot

Dear Annie: I have frequently heard the lament of single mothers who are unable to attract suitors because men are scared off by the prospect of taking on the responsibility of their children. I have found that the shoe fits equally well on the other foot.

I am a 52-year-old single dad with a 17-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old son who is autistic and bipolar. Most of the women I've dated have grown children, and once they become aware of my responsibilities and time constraints, they quickly lose interest in exploring a relationship with me. I haven't necessarily consigned myself to a solitary life, but I am now aware that wanting a relationship unfettered by child responsibilities is not exclusively a male trait.

- Wilmington, N.C.

Dear N.C.: Of course you are right. But you must be realistic about your particular situation. It will take a special woman to accept the challenge of helping raise a teenage boy who is autistic and bipolar. We hope you find her.

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