Dear Amy: My daughter (22 years old) came out as a non-binary last year, and I fully supported them (we use them/their pronouns now). They’ve been a lot happier since coming out.
They prefer to use their middle name (let’s say “Max”) instead of their first name (“Suzy”).
The problem now is that my religious sister (who lives in another country) is coming into town for a visit.
I told my sister about “Max” a while back and she obviously is not very happy about it (not my problem). In our online chats, she keeps referring to Max using their previous name, “Suzy.”
Whenever she does that, I will reply in ways such as: “Oh yes, Max is very glad that…”
I don’t want her visit to be a disaster, nor do I want to listen to her quote from the Bible, etc.
Since my sister doesn’t live in this country, Max hasn’t seen her for a long time. I haven’t told Max about their aunt’s refusal to call them “Max.”
How should I handle this?
— Anxious Mom
Dear Anxious: Non-binary does not refer to sexuality, but to gender. I’m not aware that the Bible addresses this aspect of being human (but I assume that readers will correct me).
If you accept that gender occurs along a continuum marked by two genders on either end of the spectrum: Female/Male, then it makes sense that a percentage of humans would identify as neither completely male nor completely female – but as “non-binary.”
Again — this gender identification is separate from the issue of a person’s sexuality.
Let’s stipulate that even after you explain this, your sister might find it confusing.
But even the most confused or gender-denying person can understand it when someone changes their name.
Your sister would no doubt respect a name change if “Max” got married and took a spouse’s surname.
You should tell her: “Please refer to ‘Max’ as ‘Max.’ That’s their name.” If she forgets, remind her.
And yes, give Max a heads-up. Max can decide how little they wish to care about your sister’s views, and I suggest that you carry on, whistling past your sister’s nonsense until her visit ends. As you rightly point out, this is “not your problem.”
I recently watched an informative and compassionate TED talk primer on the topic of growing up non-binary. I highly recommend that you send a link to your sister: “Walking through the world non-binary,” by Jesse Lueck, which is available on YouTube.
Dear Amy: I am a married woman, and I’m 60 years old.
My husband and I have not had sex in over two years.
I keep hearing about people in their 60s having so much fun and sex.
My husband takes blood pressure medication and this has been hard on our sex life.
Here is the thing: A former friend of mine has been communicating with me via Facebook.
He and I have been flirting with each other, but we live in different cities.
He has told me that he wishes I was not married because he would come to town and sweep me off my feet.
He is so funny and caring and we talk via FB Messenger a lot.
I think about having sex with him all the time, and he says the same thing.
Is that wrong? What am I to do?
— Anxiously Awaiting
Dear Awaiting: I’m sorry you are experiencing this challenge in your marriage. Is your constant communication with this other person and the sharing of thoughts and fantasies wrong?
How would you feel if you were impaired or ill, and your husband did what you are doing?
Fantasy can be wonderful and life-affirming. You should not deny yourself that! You might even be able to take some of this energy back to your marriage. But this relationship presents a fairly slippery slope for you, and has started to interfere with your emotional connection with your husband.
Dear Amy: “Childless NOT by Choice” was a young woman who had changed her mind about having children.
When I was 42 I started dating a 29-year-old man. I told him upfront, very early in our relationship, that I didn’t want children. He decided that he was OK with it.
Several years later, he changed his mind and ended our relationship.
I remember thinking: “What was I thinking, asking a 29-year-old man to make that kind of decision?”
I should’ve known better!
— Childless by Choice
Dear Childless: This is a very understanding response.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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