Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: My daughter is dealing with depression issues and recently told me she is gay. Her grandparents are outspoken political and social conservatives. Grandpa often makes anti-gay remarks and forwards anti-gay email messages and jokes. I know it isn't necessarily because he is that closed-minded and trying to be hurtful, but simply because of his generation and upbringing. For fear of upsetting him, the rest of the family blushes at his attitude and changes the subject. My daughter isn't ready to come out to everyone. She worries that her grandparents will hate her when she does. They used to be very close. My daughter is getting treatment for her depression. Grandpa is in his 80s and has medical concerns, so no one wants to aggravate him. But meantime, I have a sensitive, smart and cherished young adult daughter who is avoiding him because she thinks he hates gays. Making gay jokes is not OK at any age, in my opinion. Do you have any suggestions for us?
-- Mother Bear
DEAR MOTHER: I'm going to assume that no one wanted to aggravate Grandpa even before he had age and medical issues to hide his attitude behind. A little well-placed aggravation many years ago might have made things easier now. Your assumption that his attitude is because of his generation is part of the problem. He was probably a young bigot. Now he's an old bigot. You can understand him, but don't make excuses for him.
You could convey to your daughter that these family members are deeply flawed but it is not her job to worry about or change them; her only job is to be herself. They will simply have to deal with it.
You should inspire her to be bigger than the lowest common denominator of the haters in your family. Embrace the totality of who she is. Get involved in a PFLAG.org chapter. Your activism might offset some of the family ugliness and inspire your daughter so that she feels it is safe to come out.
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