Burdened by lonely transgender neighbor

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Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

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DEAR AMY: For close to 20 years, my family has lived across the street from "Frank," his wife and two kids. We have had a cordial relationship but not a friendship. Two years ago, just as Frank's youngest was heading to college, we started noticing him leaving the house wearing women's clothing. He told me he has always felt like a woman, and would now like to be referred to as "Frances." His wife moved out. We don't have a problem with the fact that Frank, now Frances, is transgender. We truly believe he is finally becoming who he was meant to be, although this continues to make us and our teenage children a little uncomfortable. Now, Frances is very lonely, and constantly wants to come across the street to talk about her transgender issues. If we had been good friends before the change, I could understand her desire to share everything with us and to hang out on our front porch, talking things over. We were never friends before, though, and we are not comfortable having to entertain her on our porch every time we sit outside. She has boundary issues, possibly because she is very lonely. This makes me sad for her, and my desire not to be her new best girlfriend makes me feel guilty. How can I let Frances know that, while we support her, we just want to continue having a neighborly relationship, nothing deeper?Ill-At-Ease Neighbor

DEAR ILL-AT-EASE: Before figuratively slamming the porch door on "Frances," it might be helpful (certainly to her) if you asked, "How are you doing -- you seem pretty lonely sometimes. Do you have close friends to talk to?"

After you initiate some communication -- and listen to her response -- you will have to be brave enough to add, "I feel guilty sometimes that we're not better friends, but I just don't feel able to give you what you seem to need. We love being your neighbors. We're all very much on your side. But I need to keep a boundary. Can you understand that?"