Dear Harlan,

I am a 17-year-old girl who has accepted the fact that I am a lesbian. However, I am afraid of coming out — not for fear of what my peers will think, but for fear of my family. I come from a very strict Christian household, and both of my parents are pastors of a church. They are constantly demeaning and bad-mouthing the gay community. They claim that God didn’t make anyone that way, but rather it was Satan that did this. I choose to believe otherwise. The biggest problem is that I want to go to a college that is accepting of gays, so that I would at least be able to go to my college and be open. But I am afraid that if I came out, my parents would cut off all funding of my education and would want nothing to do with me. What would be the best solution for my problem?

Desperate and Confused

Dear Desperate,

What’s the rush? You’ll be a lesbian for a very long time, and your parents will be Christians for a very long time. If your parents are going to freak out, wait until you’re at a place and time in life where you can be supported and loved regardless of your parents’ reaction. Look for a school with strong academics and a strong GLBT community. Find lesbian and gay friends who have come out and ask them for advice. Talk to a spiritual leader on or near campus who has counseled students and families during the coming out process. Find a therapist to support you. Check out PFLAG ( and reach out to other parents for advice. Establish a support system first and then figure out the best approach and time to come out. Really, there’s no rush.

Dear Harlan,

I’ve been in a relationship with a girl for about four months. I am fully willing to say that we are both in love with each other. I know she is the one. The way she makes me feel is indescribable. But there is a problem. I don’t drink and don’t plan on it. She drinks, not a lot, but occasionally. The thing is, drinking really really bugs me. It really gets to me when she drinks. I get annoyed. I’ve tried to be OK with it, but I can’t. I don’t want to be the guy who makes his girlfriend not drink, but is that what I have to do? I have had relatives with bad drinking experiences, and my parents have a strong religious background, and that is one of the reasons I am opposed to drinking. I don’t know what to do, Harlan, but I know I can’t keep pretending I am OK with it and having it destroy me every time she drinks.

Sober Boyfriend

Dear Sober,

I’m not so sure she’s the one. If being sober and having a sober partner is a fundamental part of your faith, character and future, explain this to her. If you have such strong negative associations with alcohol because of the pain it’s caused your family, express this to her. If being around alcohol is not compatible with your lifestyle, say it. You’re four months into a relationship. Now’s the time to talk.

The sobering reality is that she might not want to change. And if she won’t change and you won’t compromise, she’s definitely not the one.

Harlan is the author of “The Happiest Kid On Campus: A Parent’s Guide to the Very Best College Experience (for You and Your Child)” (Sourcebooks). Write Harlan at [email protected] or visit online: All letters submitted become property of the author. Send paper to Help Me, Harlan! 2506 N. Clark St., Ste. 223, Chicago, IL 60614.