Siblings are built-in best friends from birth. They make us love them and hate them in equal turns, but at the end of the day, a brother or sister is sometimes all we've got. Telling a sibling you are gay or lesbian can be terrifying, but the disclosure is usually accompanied by instant relief. Here are some suggestions for breaking the news without breaking the relationship.
- Skill level:
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Think about what you're going to say. Consider practicing aloud. There's no need to prepare a speech or write down paragraphs of pre-planned dialogue, but you do want to have an idea of how you would like to broach the topic and what points you want to cover.
Measure the quality of your relationship and the timing of the conversation. Determine what's going on in your sibling's life. If your brother is getting ready to go on a dream vacation or your sister has been recently depressed, consider waiting for a better time to have the conversation. While there will never be a "best" time to come out to a sibling, some moments are better than others.
Make your personal feelings abundantly clear to your sibling. News that you're gay or lesbian can be confusing; take the time to clarify how you feel about it. The conversation will be easier if you communicate to your sibling that you are leading a comfortable, fulfilled and happy life.
Reiterate your relationship with your sibling. When you come out to your brother or sister, tell them how important they are to you, how much you care for them and how crucial it is that they are aware of your lifestyle. Remind them that you always want to be an active part of their life. Their initial feelings of anger, surprise or sadness will probably change, but they will remember that you stressed your love for them.
Encourage your brother or sister to ask questions. Don't dominate the dialogue so much that they leave still wondering about things. Showing your appreciation for their questions and answering candidly will result in a much better coming out for both of you.
Tips and warnings
- Here's a helpful hint--your brother or sister may already know. They may just be waiting for you to feel comfortable enough to tell them. Conversely, they may be in denial. Either way, telling them will be a relief for both of you. Fortunately, their prior knowledge will probably make the conversation a lot easier.
- Avoid using GLBT terms or jargon that your sibling won't know or understand. The gay and lesbian community adopts, reclaims and uses words and phrases that will be foreign to some people. Speak in layman's terms and explain yourself when using words that might be confusing. Talking over someone's head can be an isolating experience for that person.
- Keep talking to your sibling after the coming out conversation. Unfortunately, many gay people come out to their families and then the subject is dropped, avoided, denied or ignored for years. Maintain your relationship with your brother or sister and incorporate, however slowly, your being gay into the everyday dialogue.
- Although it will be difficult, avoid apologizing for being gay or saying "I'm sorry" repeatedly. This will send mixed signals to your sibling. Even though it is not your intention, your brother or sister will pick up on the negativity that is associated with your apologetic tone. Do not give them the impression that you are confessing a great sin. Give them the impression that you have good news to tell them about your life.