DEAR HARRIETTE: I’m a 23-year-old man, and I have met someone who makes me so happy in a way that I’ve never felt before. This person is a he, and it’s my first time being in a relationship with a man.
I’ve always been attracted to men, but I kept my distance because my family would never approve, so I forced myself into relationships with women. I’ve never felt complete nor honest with who I am. I want this relationship to go further, but I know this means coming out to my parents and the chance that they’ll cut me out of their lives. I’m scared to lose my family for being who I am. How should I come out to them? -- Coming Out, Detroit
DEAR COMING OUT: Stepping into the fullness of who you are, especially when that means going against your parents’ values, is hard. Even in 2018, it can be difficult to claim your sexual identity and be accepted by your family and community. That does not mean that you should pretend that you are someone you are not. Instead, you should figure out your life and protect yourself in the process. That includes not sharing every detail of your intimate life with your parents right away.
Be responsible as you explore your sexuality. Be honest. Have the courage to express your feelings to the man you like, and see what happens. When you are ready to talk about your life, go to your parents and tell them your story. Ask for their unconditional love even if they are uncomfortable with your path. Tell them you are not living as a gay man to hurt them, but instead to fulfill your life’s journey. It may take them time to adjust. It is even possible that they may never accept that part of you, but you have to live your own life.
DEAR HARRIETTE: One of my best friends, "Sherri," just got in a relationship with this guy from her job. They’ve been dating for about two months, and she recently brought him to meet us. Her boyfriend added me on social media and has been messaging me a lot and commenting on my page, which is strange. I thought at first he was being nice, but now he’s getting too friendly. The other day he asked me to hang out, and I said I wouldn’t hang out with him without Sherri there. I’m not sure if I should tell Sherri; she’s happy with him, but I don’t want to keep this from her, either. What do you think I should do? -- In a Fix, Raleigh, North Carolina
DEAR IN A FIX: You should tell Sherri about this immediately, but don’t be an alarmist. Just meet up with your friend and tell her that her boyfriend has been reaching out to you on social media and recently asked you to hang out with him. Tell her you didn’t think that was a great idea -- without her, anyway -- and that you let him know. Don’t belabor the point. She may decide to stay in a relationship with him. At least you have let her know where you stand.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)