DEAR ABBY: I'm a 41-year-old gay man. Although I was raised in a conservative, religious family, I'm out of the closet and proud to be living as myself. For much of my adult life, I have attracted mostly women. I have always tried to handle these situations with as much tact as possible. However, some women won't be let down easily. On the occasions when I have been forced to out myself to them, I have lost female acquaintances I really enjoyed spending time with or the friendship begins to deteriorate. I have tried introducing them to straight male friends and deflecting flirtatious banter. Am I confused, or do some women genuinely believe they can change my orientation? I don't want to give up on female friendships. Am I doing something wrong by being myself? -- OUT & PROUD IN THE WEST
DEAR OUT & PROUD: The women who are pursuing you for romantic purposes may be interested in you for that reason and be less interested in a platonic friendship. Years ago, a gay friend was kind enough to tell me, "You can't 'change' a gay man," and it was a lesson I never forgot. "Out" gay men can make great friends. That your female acquaintances are not open to it is their loss. You are doing nothing wrong. When this happens, express to the person that you are disappointed they seem unable to accept you the way you are, and move on. Not all women are this unenlightened, and many will welcome what you have to offer.