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DEAR ABBY: I am a 43-year-old gay male who has always wanted to be a father. Last night I informed my parents about my decision to adopt a boy who is 7.

My parents reacted as if I'd walked in and told them that I had murdered someone. My mother said she was disgusted and became almost physically ill. My father was less dramatic but no less displeased.

I have no past history that would cause them to react this way, nor do I have any criminal past (or present) that would cause them to react so vehemently against adoption. I don't understand what their problem is.

I know they worry that the child will come with familial baggage and I'll be expected to support others -- or that any inheritance I receive will go "outside the family." However, my blood family ends with me, whether or not I adopt.

My parents are considerably older. Is there something I am not aware of from the World War II era that would cause my folks to be so opposed to adoption? I'd appreciate some advice as I navigate this difficult time. -- TAKEN ABACK IN GEORGIA

DEAR TAKEN ABACK: Your mother could still believe the homophobic and mistaken notion that a gay man adopting a boy means he will molest the child. That would explain her extreme negative reaction to your good news.

My advice is to talk frankly with both of your parents and make sure they understand that according to an article published by the American Academy of Pediatrics back in 1994, "Most child abuse appears to be committed by situational child abusers who present themselves as HETEROSEXUALS." (The italics are mine.) Also, "Children raised in gay or lesbian households do not show any greater incidence of homosexuality or gender identity issues than other children."

Further, according to the American Psychological Association, "there is no evidence to suggest that lesbians or gay men are unfit to be parents or that psychosocial development among children of gay men and lesbians is compromised in any respect relevant to that among offspring of heterosexual parents. ... Indeed, the evidence to date suggests that home environments provided by gay and lesbian parents are as likely as those provided by heterosexual parents to SUPPORT and ENABLE children's psychosocial growth." (Italics are mine.)

Not knowing your parents, I don't know the basis of their beliefs. However, it might be helpful if you were to contact P-FLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and get their literature to share with your parents. You can contact P-FLAG by going to www.pflag.org or writing to 1726 M Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036.

Please don't put it off. While it's not impossible to teach an old dog new tricks, it can take time to broaden the horizons of people whose minds have been closed for half a century or more. My advice is to start ASAP. I wish you luck.

DEAR ABBY: When my father and I are in his car and he's taking me somewhere, he tries to scare me by touching my knee and saying, "BOO!" I have told him I don't like it and asked him not to do it anymore, but he keeps on doing it. He thinks it's funny, but I don't. Am I overreacting? -- UNCOMFORTABLE IN MONMOUTH, ILL.

DEAR UNCOMFORTABLE: No, you are not. Your father's behavior is inappropriate and a little sadistic. He shouldn't be touching you in a way that you have asked him not to. Tell your mother that he's making you uncomfortable, and if that doesn't end it, tell a trusted teacher or counselor at school.

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