Dear Amy:

My daughter is gay, and she has gay friends who have children -- they are loving and devoted parents, and have a good supportive circle of friends. My concern is not for the loving home that the children have, but what it will be like for them when they go into the general school population.

Knowing how children can be horribly cruel to those who are, or have families who are, "different," I wonder how these children will manage. I know that even abundant love cannot equip children to withstand the hurts hurled at them by schoolmates.

I struggle every day with the issues that surround having a child who is gay. No support group or PFLAG or faith or inner strength can ever prepare you for the day a child tells you he or she is gay. There is so much hostility toward them, still, and society is largely biased against them, regardless of the significant strides that have been made in recent years.

We will soon be facing the prospect of our gay daughter having a child of her own -- a thought that brings tears to my eyes for many reasons.

Thank you for addressing this sensitive issue in your column. Only those families who have some in their numbers who are gay can appreciate the angst that comes along with it. I'm sure you receive a ton of hate mail for your supportive attitude. So many will not take a stand in support of what they refer to as the alternative lifestyle -- though in my heart, I believe it is genetic, not a "choice."

Just Her Mom

I appreciate your praise for my decision to address such issues in this column, but I have to correct you about something -- I don't get a ton of hate mail for my neutral treatment of gay issues.

I take the lack of anti-gay mail to be a sign that gays are swimming in the mainstream now.

Now, can you join us? Jump in -- the water's fine.

Despite your words of support toward your daughter, it is obvious that her sexuality makes you sad. Because you can't change the way she is, I hope you'll work hard to explore your own feelings of sadness or ambivalence. I'm sure that what you are feeling isn't that unusual, and I hate to throw this right back at you, but support groups such as Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) -- and faith and inner strength -- are all things you should rely upon. You need to talk to other parents who could help you by sharing their points of view.

You should know that there is now a segment of college-age people who have grown up in same-sex parent households, and as far as anyone can tell, these young people have suffered from the slings and arrows of their lives no more or less than other children.

Gay parents, it turns out, are about as skilled as straight parents. Children are probably no more or less cruel than they ever were, but it is no longer that remarkable for Heather to have two mommies. If those mommies are in a long-lasting, loving and stable relationship, and if they are fine and strong parents, then this will inoculate Heather against incidental schoolyard cruelty -- especially if she has a loving grandmother also standing in her corner.

Dear Amy:

You receive many complaints about clueless people who ask intrusive, inappropriate questions. The suggested responses always seem to focus on making the bumbler feel embarrassed.

I have a different tactic. Assume that these people really don't know the right thing to do, and show them with your grace and tact by saying, "I'm sorry but that's not a question you should be asking me or anyone. I'm sure you won't again." The key is to be courteous.

Ashland, Ore.

Your model would work, but my theory is that people don't talk like that in real life. In real life, people get tongue-tied and red-faced and only think of the perfect retort when they are alone in their cars.

That's why I like a simple, "Why do you ask?" when faced with an intrusive question -- though often this comes out as "huh?," which works too.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

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