Dear Amy: I’m a high school teacher. I’m still in email contact with a transgender student (female to male), who graduated a couple of years ago.
This former student has cycled in and out of treatment centers (for eating disorders, suicidality, etc.)
I’m one of the few adults that this young man still keeps in contact with. The family is unsupportive.
If this young adult ends up homeless, which I fear might happen, what are my responsibilities and obligations?
I have a small house, where I live with my husband and 17-year-old son.
We could turn a storage room into a bedroom, if we had to.
Should my attempts to help this young adult be limited to giving the best advice I can, or should I “put my money where my mouth is,” so to speak, and offer up a room, even if I’m not really excited about the prospect?
My husband is easy-going, and my son is a wellspring of empathy, so I think they both would be OK with it.
I’d like to know what you think about this. I went into teaching to change lives. Does that end with graduation?
— Always a Teacher
Dear Teacher: I applaud your commitment and emotional support to this young man. Transgender youth are at an elevated risk for addiction, suicide and homelessness.
No, your connection does not need to end with graduation. Countless scholars and survivors of challenging home environments describe hero teachers, guidance counselors, coaches and school librarians who opened their hearts, wallets, and occasionally homes when these students had nowhere else to turn.
However, you leap from offering advice to (reluctantly) offering housing. There are so many ways in-between the two extremes where you can support and mentor this former student in order to try to keep him safe as he makes his way in the world.
You should connect him with a social worker locally who can help him to explore what services might be available to him. Make an appointment and attend the meeting with him.
Glaad.org has a growing list of resources for transgender people; the Trevor Project (thetrevorproject.org) offers impressive points of contact (including a 24-hour hotline and texting support) directed toward trans youth.
You should use your research skills as a teacher to learn everything you can about the transgender experience. Offer your ongoing friendship and support.
If you believe that offering him housing is the only way to keep him off the streets, then yes — discuss this with a social worker or counselor with expertise in trans issues, and hold a family meeting and discuss this with your husband and son. You should only do this with your family’s full support.
Dear Amy: We are experiencing serious problems with my husband’s mother and brother.
Mother has been diagnosed with dementia, and brother is a severe alcoholic. He’s on psych medicines, but we have no way to tell if he’s taking them.
They have called 14 times today, and it’s just barely 10 p.m.
My brother-in-law calls at 5 a.m. when I am asleep, and at 10:30 p.m. when my husband is asleep.
They also have a knack for calling every single day to interrupt our dinner.
Short of changing our phone number, or filing a restraining order, is there anything we can do?
This is starting to affect our marriage.
— Ringing in my Ear
Dear Ringing: A restraining order would not be useful in dealing with someone with dementia or other mental illness.
I’m assuming that you have a landline. One advantage of a cellphone is that you can turn the ringer off — and still see calls as they come in. With a landline, you can physically unplug the phone, but I assume that you are nervous about doing this, in case there is an emergency. You might also be able to mute the ringer on a landline phone (depending on the brand of phone you have).
You should look into getting a low-cost cellphone. You can have calls forwarded to the cellphone from the landline, and that way you can silence the phone but still know if a call has come in.
Dear Amy: Thank you for the response to “Cold Turkey in Maryland,” who chastised his relatives for starting their holiday dinner without them.
The person who is late bears the burden of their lateness, not the host of 20 other guests.
— Been There
Dear Been There: Yes, you don’t get to gripe if you are the one pulling in a half-hour late.