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Keeping it in the family


Shoegirl talks delightful DNA

Aside from being a gay woman, I’m also a lucky member of a very special club: the club of those of us who come from families where more than one of us is off the hetero-spectrum.  This is a very special privilege for so many reasons.

My youngest sibling is a LOT younger than me, but I was still surprised 5 years ago when, during a drunken night in in faraway Sydney, one of my best friends picked up the phone, rang my sister and said “XXXXX, are you gay?”  I’d never thought to ask.  I just thought she liked short haircuts and sportswear because she was a good tennis player (2nd in Leinster at the age of 15! proud sis!) and liked rugby.  However it didn’t dawn on me that when she said she’d like to date a rugby player, she meant a member of the women’s team and not the men’s.


Sisters rock


Sistahs and sisters

Thing is, there are so many of us.  I met a girl via a group who used to chat online about 13 years ago who claimed to have no less than 5 gay siblings.  I even had a relationship with a girl who claimed (I never saw actual evidence) that her mother was dating one of her (female) exes.  On the subject of parents: I do actually know a few parent/child gay combinations.  It’s not at all uncommon.  You would wonder sometimes how gay parents feel when one of their children turns out to be gay: delight, relief?  Worry?  And if you were the gay kid of a same-sex relationship, would you feel Mom was so yesterday about everything?

I can’t answer those questions, but I can answer those about having a gay sister.

Here are the best points:

· You don’t have to go to the cinema on your own to see the latest gay arthouse number when you’re single
· You usually like the same kinds of sport: tennis, rugby, boxing, etc
· One of you is bound to remember to get Kylie/Madonna/P!nk tickets before they sell out
· Likewise, common CD collections and you can share or split on boxsets – or borrow/lend them
· Somebody to discuss the thornier stories of The L-Word with that’s not your girlfriend so it doesn’t descend into an emotionally-charged catfight: you can watch stuff together without feeling competitive and/or threatened
· There is at least one tiny level of “honour” present socially – your sister is far less likely to run off with that girl you fancy than some of your friends are
· You are less likely to react with horror if one of you decides to go to a formal occasion dressed in a tux, shaves your head or takes to wearing denim dungarees




The minuses:

· If your family are not 100% supportive it’s possible that whichever of you came out first could be “blamed” for influencing the other sibling.  This can lead to the closet sibling staying in the closet for longer than necessary because they are afraid of bringing problems on their out sibling.
· Just cause you’re both gay doesn’t actually mean you’ve anything in common.  Yes, we both like Xena, but I’m not pushed on the West Wing and she doesn’t think Prisoners of War is the best thing ever.  However, we’re in common ground over Battlestar Galactica.
· Bitchy, possessive girlfriends will target siblings just as much as friends.  Although this can be a good reason to avoid them in the first place.
· Family and friends often assume that the younger/more recently out one will tend to follow the same patterns.  In our experience, things couldn’t be more different.
· The scene is a very small place.  There is a minor risk that it’s assumed that you are one and the same, which can be difficult socially sometimes.  You really don’t want somebody on the scene not talking to your sister because you kissed their girlfriend (again).
· It’s a bit creepy when your ex tells you they find your sister cute – and your sister then shows an interest!

The big plus is the level of supportiveness and camaraderie you can really only get from a sibling: sometimes I find that while friends on the scene can be great, they haven’t the level of commitment that very strong, close friendships or family have.  It’s nice to roll this in with somebody you’ve known years, to somebody who really knows you, especially when things turn rough.

So how has it been like for you?  Do you know many gay family members?  Have you a gay parent/sibling/child?  What kinds of joys and problems do you experience?

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  • I have a gay uncle and cousin and a lesbian aunt I can’t say I’d be running off to the movies with any of them but it did make my life growing up and realizing I was gay so much easier as it was the ‘norm’ in our family to have gay and lesbian family members. I guess that’s why I have such a problem with people who don’t except people for who they are, as this way has always been so normal for me.

    Orla said:
  • Two of my three step-sister are also lesbians, meaning all four of my parents have one lesbian daughter and one lesbian step-daughter. It balances out well. It meant the world during my coming out. My younger sister has been out since we met, and my older sister came out to me around the time I was starting to get annoyed with being in the closet. I consider them both to be some of my closest friends.

    I do have a counterpoint to having a not too supportive family. It is safe to say my dad and step-mom were less than open-minded. My sister came out to them over a year before I did, so they had time to get the accidental hurtful ignorance* out of there systems. By the time I got around to telling them they were completely okay with it and supportive.

    *Diplomatic phrasing. They grew from the experience, I can at least be polite :)

    A said:
  • That sounds great. There seems to be so many of us. I realise of course that lots of siblings are mixed gender too. Its definitely nice to have somebody you really trust to talk to sometimes.

    shoegirl said:
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