DEAR ABBY: I have never written to you before, but after reading the letter from "Confused in Georgia," the 23-year-old young man saying that he is gay, I felt compelled to respond. Your advice to him was great, but I would like to offer some of my own.
Like "Confused," I am also a homosexual in south Georgia. Because he is having a difficult time with the church in which he was raised, my advice would be to run -- don't walk -- from this "house of worship." If attending church is important to him, then I suggest he visit the Episcopal Church, where I found solace and a warm and comforting family.
I have found it most interesting that in the Deep South, many Protestant churches are inclusive only if one meets their criteria, which is something akin to an exclusive country club.
Also, he is not alone. Homosexuals of all races and religions are born every single day. I have found it somewhat amusing that if the truth be known, there are probably more homosexuals in our churches than at any gay venue. -- VALDOSTA, GA., READER
DEAR READER: After that letter was published, I was inundated with mail from readers -- gay and straight -- from all over the country encouraging the writer to stop being afraid of rejection and to come out already. Read on for a sample from Georgia alone:
DEAR ABBY: No one should have to live with the isolation and fear that "Confused" is experiencing due to his sexual orientation. I live in Atlanta, and while I am not homosexual, "Confused" should know that Atlanta is known for having a large, active gay community. There are many support and networking groups here, gay-friendly neighborhoods and planned communities, and a number of churches of different denominations that welcome gay and lesbian members with open hearts and minds. Georgia State, Emory and Georgia Tech are all based in Atlanta, as well as numerous community colleges.
"Confused" should come and visit. While parts of the South are extremely conservative, a whole new world of opportunity and happiness awaits him in his own home state. Atlanta has the resources, as well as an empathetic community, to help him find happiness within himself. -- JESSICA IN ATLANTA
DEAR ABBY: The theatrical world, which has a large community of gay men, is a place where "Confused" will find many open minds and similar stories. Getting involved in regional theater as a volunteer will help him find an emotionally "safe" activity with which to begin socializing again. We love our volunteers. All he has to do is hand folks a program, and no one will ask questions. It will also put him in contact with many others who may have lived through exactly what he's going through now and enable him to make friends who truly understand. Not everyone in this state is homophobic. -- SYMPATHETIC IN GEORGIA
DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Confused in Georgia" mirrors our grandson. If the only way we can communicate with him is through Dear Abby, then we will certainly try:
Grandson, we love you very much and have felt for some time that you might be gay. Does this change our love for you? No! If you decided to come out, you will always have our love and support. Please, make a decision so that you can move on with your life. -- YOUR LOVING GRANDPA AND GRANDMA IN ALBANY, GA.