DEAR ABBY: We have some great friends we have known for five years. Our families enjoy time together, and although the friendship started through our kids, I now get together with the other mom outside of kid-related activities. Her son, "Michael," and my daughter (ages 12) are best friends in middle school, and I truly care for him, as well as his family.
I have assumed for a long time that Michael is gay. Since late last year, he's been having a lot of trouble with a certain group of boys who call him gay -- among other names -- and bully him.
His mom knows he is different, but his dad is deep in denial, doing his best to force his son to associate with this group of kids because they are "jocks" and popular. Michael hangs out with and is most comfortable with girls. It has always been this way, in spite of his parents' attempts to find him a boy group to fit into.
The bullying is escalating and, while his dad remains in denial, his mom is telling Michael to ignore it and not draw attention to himself for fear it may get worse. She thinks "he tends to bring these things on himself by hanging out with girls and liking the things he likes."
I'm scared for the boy. He is the always-smiling, happy-go-lucky kid on the outside, but there's no way he can be feeling that way on the inside being on the receiving end of this kind of abuse every day. I have encouraged his mom to talk to school authorities, but she refuses. We have never spoken directly about the possibility that Michael may be gay because I can feel the fear and denial in what she isn't saying. What can I do? -- HIS B.F.F.'S MOM
DEAR MOM: It is tragic that Michael's parents can't accept their son for who he is, rather than who they would like him to be. That's why it is absolutely vital that you befriend that boy to the best of your ability.
Contact PFLAG (pflag.org) and request information about how to support a young person who is more than likely LGBT. Let the boy know you love him just the way he is and that being different isn't wrong. If you do, it could mean the difference between life and death -- and that's no exaggeration.