DEAR ABBY: My husband and I relocated to Florida a little over a year ago and were quickly welcomed into our new neighbors' social whirl. Two couples in the neighborhood are gay -- one male, one female. While they are nice enough, my husband and I did not include them when it was our turn to host because we do not approve of their lifestyle choices. Since then, we have been excluded from neighborhood gatherings, and someone even suggested that we are bigots!
Abby, we moved here from a conservative community where people were pretty much the same. If people were "different," they apparently kept it to themselves. While I understand the phrase "when in Rome," I don't feel we should have to compromise our values just to win the approval of our neighbors. But really, who is the true bigot here? Would you like to weigh in? -- UNHAPPY IN TAMPA
DEAR UNHAPPY: I sure would. The first thing I'd like to say is that regardless of what you were told in your previous community, a person's sexual orientation isn't a "lifestyle choice." Gay people don't choose to be gay; they are born that way. They can't change being gay any more than you can change being heterosexual.
I find it interesting that you are unwilling to reciprocate the hospitality of people who welcomed you and opened their homes to you, and yet you complain because you are receiving similar treatment.
From where I sit, you may have chosen the wrong place to live because it appears you would be happier in a less integrated neighborhood surrounded by people who think the way you do. But if you interact only with people like yourselves, you will have missed a chance for growth, which is what you have been offered here. Please don't blow it.
DEAR ABBY: I'm 14 and in high school. My father died in a car accident when I was 8. A man who attends my church took me under his wing and has been like a father to me ever since. He is very supportive most of the time. However, he spanks me with a belt when he feels I misbehave.
My mom doesn't know about it because she works long hours to support the family. I like the nurturing and encouragement this man gives me, but I can't take another beating. What should I do? -- BLUE IN THE SOUTHWEST
DEAR BLUE: What you are describing is a form of child abuse. This "nurturing" man has no right to hit you. You shouldn't have to tolerate being beaten in order to feel supported.
Tell your mother what has been going on, or a teacher or a counselor at your school. You appear to be an intelligent young man. Your silence is what enables those beatings to continue, so please do not remain silent about this any longer.
DEAR ABBY: If you are divorced from your wife, do her parents remain your in-laws? This is to settle a disagreement. -- SHARON IN TEXAS
DEAR SHARON: Legally, no. But relationships are not always based on legality. Sometimes divorced couples remain extended family members, particularly if there are children involved.
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, CA 90069.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)
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