Dear Abby:

I have a medical condition known as gender identity disorder -- more commonly called transsexualism. I have prayed every night ever since I was a young boy that God would turn me into a girl. During my teens and into adulthood, I learned to live with the constant pain of pretending to be a man when, really, all I wanted was to live my life as a woman. However, earlier this year I began the gradual process to transition from male to female.

After years of therapy for depression, ingesting dozens of different medications for a variety of misdiagnosed ailments, hospitalization for post-traumatic stress disorder, and daily thoughts of suicide, I made the decision to reveal my lifelong secret to my siblings, some friends and professional colleagues. Generally, the reaction has been supportive.

It is now time to tell my adult children and parents that I intend to live the rest of my life as a woman. How to tell them, and what to tell them, is causing me great distress. Any advice you can offer would be appreciated.

"Lily" in the Valley

Tell them exactly what you have told me. Explain that this is not a whim, but the actualization of something you have felt since you were a child. Tell them that making this choice has been so difficult that it has cost you years of depression, ineffective medications, hospitalization and repeated thoughts of suicide.

Your parents and children are bound to be shocked, so be prepared for it. Answer their questions and concerns honestly. An excellent way to deal with this would be to have the discussion in the presence of your psychotherapist.

It would also be a good idea to have on hand some literature on the subject of transsexualism. One book that's recommended by the International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE) is "True Selves" by Mildred L. Brown and Chloe Ann Rounsley. It can be ordered from the IFGE by calling 781-899-2212. Or, visit the Web site at ifge.org. Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) has a support group for parents of transgendered people, aptly called "TransParents." The Web address for PFLAG is www.pflag.org.

Dear Abby:

I am a mother of two. I recently learned that my 16-year-old daughter, "Rene," is pregnant. When she told me who the father is, I discovered she had been having an affair with my live-in boyfriend, "Leo." It was devastating. I am engaged to marry Leo, and I still love him.

I made Rene move out. I know this seems harsh because she is pregnant, but I feel I can have a good relationship with Leo only if Rene is not around. I don't mean to choose him over her, but Rene is my daughter, and she should have known better.

What do you think I should do? I don't want to disown her. Also, I want to raise Rene's baby as my own, and this infuriates her. Who is wrong? Please give me your insight.

Confused in Canada

Please reorganize your priorities. Your duty is to protect your children. Leo is an adult. Your daughter is only 16. Leo has far more experience. Your fiance is a predator who may have pursued you in order to get close to your daughter. You say you have two children. Is the other child a daughter too?

It's time to show your fiance the door and call the police. Rene should stay with you until she's able to complete her education and care for herself and her baby. And Leo should help to financially support the child until it is an adult.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate