Dear Amy:

I am 17 and think I might be transsexual. I sort of discovered it about a year and a half ago.

I've done some research on it and I'm kind of sure. My latest depression has left me second-guessing myself.

I'm desperate to tell my mom, but I've had some bad experiences with coming out to her.

When I was 14 I realized I was attracted to girls and told her, looking for support, which I figured she'd give. But she brushed me off with a "don't label yourself," and she basically said that I was too young to decide things like that for myself.

I tried to tell her earlier this year that I think I'm transsexual, and she kept inquiring as to "why" I feel this way. It's kind of funny because my mom and I can discuss petty things, but with serious things we've got a severe rift.

Mom has always expressed her gratitude at my being a girl. She says she couldn't handle a son. This makes me feel guilty and confuses things.

I've written a letter to her (I figure that with a letter, she can't interrupt me). I'm finding it hard to muster the courage to give the letter to her because I've been shot down twice. I really would like a therapist or someone to help me sort things out but I know that we cannot afford it.

I'm feeling rather hopeless, and I would like to know what advice you might have for me.

Really, Really Confused

You're right. You should speak with a therapist.

And you're wrong too. You can talk to your mother. You have proven this by talking to her in the past. The fact that your relationship is strong enough that you have brought up your sexuality/gender issues twice and she has listened and talked to you means that the two of you are capable of working this through -- with help. You need to know that when she asks you "why" you feel you're a transsexual, this is an invitation for you to describe your feelings.

Low-cost counseling is available to your family. Your school counselor can help to set you up with a referral to a local agency. A counselor will help the two of you talk this through. It is completely understandable for you to feel depressed and confused. You really must get help.

A book I admire on this difficult subject is "She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders," by Jennifer Finney Boylan (2003, Broadway). Boylan's poignant memoir of her journey from man to woman is fascinating. She outlines her own confusion and depression, as well as the compassion of family and friends. You and your mother should both read it.

Dear Amy:

I was reading your answer to the daughter who borrowed Dad's computer and found that someone had used it to access a porn site. You encouraged her to discuss this with her father.

Both my wife and I howled at your response. To suggest that the daughter visit with her father regarding something he may or may not have done is simply wrong. Whatever happened to simply minding your own business?

Don't adults, such as this dad, have their own prerogatives? Why does he have to defend his actions to a nosy daughter? Doesn't she understand that he is, apart from being her father, a sexual being entitled to a little privacy?

Imagine how mortifying this conversation is going to be for Dad and how embarrassing for both of them; all because she wants to preserve a mental image of her father that may never have existed in the first place?

Stephen Taylor, Austin

I don't know if you and your wife have children, but the fact is that children don't understand that their parents are sexual beings. Discovering this by viewing porn sites on your father's laptop is hardly the best way to learn this fact.

In my answer, I suggested that there was some likelihood that this porn wasn't, in fact, her father's. I said that if she wanted to discuss it, she should bring it up to her father, therefore giving him an opportunity to express his feelings -- about privacy and about adult prerogatives.

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