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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: After reading the letter from "Hurting in Houston," the gay man whose parents told him he and his partner were no longer welcome in their home, I felt the need to speak to him from my heart. Abby, I would be honored if you would print my message to him:

Dear Hurting: I am a lesbian. I want you to know that you are not alone. I sympathize with how you feel. My father is homophobic. Need I say more? What people like your parents and my father don't realize is that the gay community is much larger than they think. Chances are, most people in this country have some connection to someone who is gay.

Is there a PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) near your parents? That would be a good place for them to express their concerns among people from their side of the fence.

There is nothing "horrible" about being gay. God didn't "goof" when he made us. He wanted us this way, and no matter what other people might tell you, God loves us just the same as he loves anyone else. I don't know how you feel about God, but I know that I would not be alive today if he were not walking through life right beside me.

You wrote that you're having trouble sleeping at night. I've been there, too. My advice to you is to find somewhere you and your partner feel comfortable to worship God. There are gay and gay-friendly churches in this country. I know going has helped me. A month ago, I wasn't sleeping well, and I didn't feel like eating as much as I normally do. I was depressed, and I knew it; but I didn't know what to do about it. Then I heard about a gay church near where I live. I went one day. By experiencing God's unconditional love, I feel that life is better. I'm sleeping at night now, and my appetite has returned.

If God can give me peace, he can do the same for you. I'll be praying for you. -– HOPEFUL IN HESPERIA, CALIF.

DEAR HOPEFUL: I'm sure your words of encouragement will bolster the spirits of more hurting individuals than the young man who wrote. Not all families reject or fear their gay relatives. And your message that while some churches teach homophobic doctrine, others are gay-friendly is an important one. Some of them even have membership that is primarily gay and lesbian. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I are dismayed over "Hurting in Houston's" problem with his parents.

We have lots of love to give and would like "Hurting" to know that we would be happy to be his parents. Whether it be a legal adoption or a spiritual one, we would like to be his family.

He will get a mom and dad who will love him, worry about him, respect him and accept that he is gay. He will gain two brothers who have been taught to love and treat others with kindness. He and his partner can openly come to our home and all family functions. We will brag about him, call him often, and bore him with our stories. In short, we will make him and his partner feel very much a part of a REAL family.

We are serious, Abby. Please pass this letter on to him. -– FROM LONG BEACH, WITH LOVE

DEAR FROM LONG BEACH: If I hear from him, I will. And that's a promise.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

Abby shares her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "Abby's More Favorite Recipes." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $7.90 ($9 each in Canada) to: Dear Abby Cookbooklets, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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