Dear Abby: Grandma struggles with girl’s decision to live as a boy

Though reader is having trouble adjusting to having a grandson and keeps stumbling over the new name, she wants to be supportive.

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DEAR ABBY: My granddaughter just informed me she has decided she would be happier living as a boy, and she has gone so far as to legally change her name. I want to be supportive, but I admit I’m having a lot of trouble accepting it, or at least figuring out how to deal with it.

She’s my only grandchild and most likely the only one I’ll ever have. I loved my granddaughter with all my heart, and I don’t know how to shift gears to a grandson. I keep stumbling when I try to use the new name. I would welcome any suggestions you could make, including information about support groups you might know of. — GRANDMA IN PAIN

DEAR GRANDMA: Gender reassignment is not something that someone does on a lark. There are many steps involved, and the journey, while liberating, can be challenging both physically and emotionally. I am sure this is something your grandchild has given much thought to.

Yes, coming to terms with it can be as much of a journey for family as it is for the transgender person, and it can take time and understanding on all sides. A group called PFLAG can help you through this. It has been mentioned in my column for decades. It has helped countless families to build bridges of understanding between themselves and their lesbian, gay and transgender loved ones. You will find PFLAG at pflag.org, and the group’s phone number is (202) 467-8180.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 50-year-old man. My whole life, my relationship with my father has been strained. When I was in my teens and 20s, when he bought presents for my two siblings and not for me, he would say things to me like, “I forgot I had you.”

In spite of this, I became very successful in life. I had a great career and am now retired. My father recently announced to me that he had made only two mistakes in his life — marrying my mother, who has put up with him for more than 60 years, and having children.

My dilemma is, he is now 90 with many health problems. He is in the hospital now for a heart problem. I know he won’t last much longer. I feel nothing for him, and I am not sad. When he dies, I know I won’t care. Is this normal? I feel guilty for feeling this way. — DON’T CARE IN TENNESSEE

DEAR DON’T CARE: Please don’t feel guilty for feeling no regret at the prospect of “losing” a cruel and withholding parent who made it his business to make those around him feel “less than.” Do not be surprised if, rather than feel a sense of loss, you feel at peace, as though a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. You should not feel guilty for that, either. Comfort and emotionally support your mother as best you can when he dies, but don’t be shocked if she, too, feels some relief. Their union could not have been the happiest.

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

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order “How to Be Popular.” Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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