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SIBLINGS
 

When My Brother Came Out

Coming Out: How Siblings Factor In 

Celebrities with Gay Siblings

Video: Coming Out to My Sister

Things You Learn About Life From Your LGBTQ Sibling

Having an LGBT Sibling Makes You a Better Person


Coming Out to Siblings

 

Fans are entertained and inspired by the characters of Mitch and Claire on the ABC TV sitcom, Modern Family. The dynamics between the gay brother and his sister give viewers some insight into the close and supportive relationship that can exist in such situations.

 

 

Discussions about coming out typically deal with telling the parents. That makes sense, especially for young people still living at home. However, siblings play a role in the process as well. They can help ease the way or contribute to the conflict. They may have issues of their own stemming from a sibling’s coming out. No matter the situation, these issues should be acknowledged.

 

There are many factors that may determine how siblings react to your coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer: their age, their relationship with you, maturity level, parental influence, religious views, and so on. In general, if you were close before, you will probably remain close. Your sibling may even have guessed already, or maybe you told him or her first. The sibling may take your side if your parents give you a hard time. Even if the sibling is much younger than you, his or her support may be very meaningful.

 

On the other hand, if the relationship was not good to begin with, siblings can make the experience all that much harder. Old jealousies or resentments may have new fuel. There is a new vulnerability that the sibling can choose to take advantage of. In cases where parents are accepting of who you are, such a sibling may be even more enraged and do everything he or she can to make your life miserable.

 

 

When you come out, your life changes, hopefully for the better, but in some challenging ways, too. The life of a sibling can also change as a result of having a LGBTQ brother or sister. Sometimes siblings are pressured to take sides. In some families, they may be forced to play peacekeeper. They bear witness to anger, disappointment, fears, and criticisms that may fly back and forth. If they are of school age, they may be the butt of jokes, bullying, or even hatred. Parents and the LGBTQ child may be so wrapped up in their own problems that the sibling issues aren’t addressed.

 

Many of these issues may occur even when you and your siblings are adults when you come out. The relationship issues you had as kids may never have been resolved. Old rivalries may be stirred up, and the chance to be the “good” child may be too strong to resist. In addition, adult siblings may have to deal with the feelings and reactions of a romantic partner and/or children. If the partner’s feelings differ from the sibling’s, it could cause conflict in the relationship. The adult sibling may feel protective of older parents, sympathy or empathy for his or her brother or sister, sadness over the rift between the parents and the newly out sibling, and so on. These feelings may be subconscious, making them even harder to work with.

 

 

Naturally, there are families in which both the parents and the siblings are loving and accepting of their LGBTQ family member. That is, of course, the best-case scenario, an ideal outcome of coming out. When this is not your situation, however, here are some things to remember:

 

--Acknowledge any support you get from siblings in coming out. Share your gratitude.

--Regardless of what your relationship is like, know that your siblings may be affected by your decision.

--Be aware of how your relationship may affect a sibling’s attitude. If the relationship is poor, you may think you don’t care what the sibling thinks. But he or she can abuse this new knowledge to “out” you to the rest of the family, friends, or school when you aren’t ready.

--Don’t use your sibling as the middle person between you and your parents. Let your sibling act (or not act) on his or her own.

--Give your sibling a chance to share his or her experiences. Try to be sympathetic and offer support, regardless of his or her level of support for you.

--Remember that if a sibling is young, he or she might have questions or be confused. Talk about it. Be as open as is age-appropriate. And, hard as it may be, try not to bad-mouth your parents. Your sibling needs them.

 

No matter what your relationship with your siblings is like, your decision to come out is likely to affect then, and, more than likely, your relationships with them. Being aware of this, and being prepared to handle it, can help your coming-out process go as smoothly as possible.

 

[Source: Susan J. Leviton, LMFT, Good Therapy, 2015]

 

Brothers and Sisters of Lesbians and Gays

Celebrities Who Love Their Gay Brothers

My Brother Just Came Out as Gay

Video: Coming Out to My 5 Year Old Brother

Me and My Really Cool LGBTQ Sister

Celebrity Musicians with LGBTQ Family Members

 

Celebrities with LGBTQ Family Members

 

Mandy Moore – Her mother and her two gay brothers

Colin Ferrell – His brother Eamon

Cardi B – Her sister Hennessy

Adam Levine – His younger brother Michael

Laura Ingraham – Her brother Curtis

Kevin Smith – His brother Donald

Jennifer Lopez – Her aunt Myrza and her sister Leslie’s second child Brendan

Demi Lovato – Her grandfather

Chance the Rapper – His younger brother Taylor Bennett

Newt Gingrich – His Sister Candace

Cher – Her transgender son Chaz Bono

Garth Brooks – His half-sister Betsy Smittle

Ariana Grande – Her older half-brother Frankie

Max Carver – His twin brother Charlie

Jake Miller – His cousin Michael

Catherine Zeta Jones – Her brother David

Chris Evans – His older brother Scott

Anne Hathaway – Her older brother Michael

Marlee Matlin – Her brother Marc

Roseanne Barr – Her sister Geraldine and her brother Ben

Tom Arnold – His brother Chris

Madonna – Her brother Christopher Ciccone

50 Cent – His mother Sabrina

Jeremy Jordan – His cousin Sarah

Jay Z – His mother Gloria Carter

Ana Matronic – Her father

Jackie Evancho – Older transgender sister Juliet

Cyndi Lauper – Her older sister Ellen

Richard Gere – His brother David

Jordan Knight – His brother Jonathan

 

 

When My Brother Came Out

Coming Out: How Siblings Factor In 

Video: Coming Out to My Sister

Things You Learn About Life From Your LGBTQ Sibling

Having an LGBT Sibling Makes You a Better Person

Brothers and Sisters of Lesbians and Gays

My Brother Just Came Out as Gay

Me and My Really Cool LGBTQ Sister

 

Having a Gay or Lesbian Sibling

 

What is it like to have a sibling who is gay or lesbian? Based on the little bit of information available, it seems that siblings may share in the stigma of their gay brothers and lesbian sisters whereby they may have to cope with taunts from peers, which include accusations that they too are gay.

 

The book, Side by Side: On Having a Gay or Lesbian Sibling by Andrew Gottlieb, is a sensitive, insightful anthology consisting of essays written by siblings of lesbians and gays who discuss how they too become objects of abuse and intolerance, sharing in the stigma of their gay siblings. However, like some fortunate parents, people who learn their siblings are lesbian or gay can find ways to grow and gain new perspectives. Several of the contributors to this volume discussed how they formed especially close bonds with their gay brothers and sisters and, developed new, more tolerant worldviews that enriched their lives. The paucity of available information about siblings of gay and lesbian youth does not mean their issues are small or unimportant.

 

 

Sisters and brothers might need help coping with feelings of shame that they have someone gay in the family. They may also need help dealing with peer condemnation and harassment once it is found out that they have a gay or lesbian sibling. Furthermore, they may be anxiously questioning their own sexuality-even if they have no same-sex attractions. A lack of such feelings does not necessarily preclude a sibling from wondering "Could this happen to me too?"

 

In addition, some parents with good intentions have isolated their gay children's younger siblings, keeping the gay child's sexual orientation a secret and therefore excluding brothers and sisters from family discussions of this topic. Sometimes parents do this because they want to protect their younger children from information they believe they cannot handle. At other times this is done inadvertently when, after the gay child comes out, parents and gay kids emotionally withdraw from the family, leaving siblings to deal with their reactions alone. If the siblings are not aware why the family is in turmoil, they can even feel more confused, isolated, and distressed. In either scenario there is no one left to help the sibling(s) deal with their feelings.

 

For all these reasons it is a good idea to pay close attention to siblings in families with coming-out gay and lesbian youth. Parents might fear that by telling younger children they might upset them too much or reveal something sexual that the youngsters are not ready to hear. Many therapists who have worked with young children, whose prejudices are not yet fully formed, know how surprisingly flexible they can be when it comes to understanding topics such as homosexuality if they are explained in ways that are in line with their cognitive abilities. In addition, since dealing with courtesy stigma might be an issue for brothers and sisters, it would also be a good idea to include siblings in family discussions of how to cope with issues such as societal intolerance and other people's prejudices.

 

Mothers and fathers might also fear that such information could influence the younger sibling to actually "turn gay." Parents need to be reassured that such concerns are unfounded. There is no evidence that having a lesbian sister or a gay brother can persuade a child to become gay. Furthermore, one gay child in a family does not necessarily mean that others will be as well. However, there is some evidence that compared to families with no gay siblings, if one son in a family is gay, his brothers are statistically more likely to be.

 

[Source: Dr. Michael LaSala, Psychology Today, 2011]

 

 

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