Auntie SparkNotes: I Think My Brother Is Gay
It all happened yesterday: I was running to the bathroom, bursting to pee, and something stares back at me from the toilet bowl. No, it's not a frog or Gollum, but a CONDOM!!! My parents separated last year so I know it's not them. (Besides when I showed it to my mum, she didn't even know what it was because she's never even seen a condom before, let alone used one.)
And then I remembered that my brother and his male friend "hung out" at home today. Here's a few things about my brother: He's 20 and has a history of substance abuse and he gets really violent at times. It's usually me or my mum who bear the brunt of it. We've tried to get him help, coaxed him and even forced him but he doesn't want to change.
So when I saw the condom, the only thing I could think is that he's gay. (This isn't the only indication of his sexuality. He forgot to log off his Facebook account and I saw a few cryptic messages like "You be the woman next time," between my brother and this "friend" and they hang out all the time.)
Now about his sexuality: what do I do Auntie?
I know confronting him is the worst possible idea and honestly, I don't know what to say or feel. He's had girlfriends before so this is a shock to me (or maybe I knew it but didn't want to see it.) We are also from a religious, conservative family and a conservative country so if this kind of thing gets out, it would be very, very bad for him.
Also while I'm definitely not a homophobe, I don't know if I I'll ever be okay with it. Before you judge me, please try to understand me. I have never, ever met a gay person in my life. There are no gay people in my school (at least openly.) I don't know gay people, and I have never heard of openly gay people in my country at all. This is a very new thing to me.
I'm the only one who knows about it (I managed to convince my mum that it was a just a bag) and I just don't know what to do. I feel bad for my brother now that I know what he's really going through but I don't see a solution.
Before I say anything else, Sparkler, I just want to thank you for the parenthetical bit about how you dealt with your little surprise toilet artifact—not just because it was very decent of you, but because I'm still laughing over "just a bag." Well-played, Sparkler. Well-played, indeed.
But beyond that moment of levity, I'm sorry to say that you're pretty much stuck. You ask about solutions, but finding a solution isn't your job; that's for your brother to do, and man, I don't envy him the task. Because assuming that you're right about his orientation—and the signs certainly seem to be pointing that way—then he's in a miserable conundrum from which there is no good or easy escape. Depending upon where you're writing from, his sexuality could be anything from a social albatross to a punishable offense—and if it's the latter, then his choices likely come down to either fleeing the country, estranging himself from everyone and everything he's ever known, or remaining closeted for life.
And if he does choose to stay put, then whatever he's doing with his friend right now may well be the closest he gets to having an authentic romantic or sexual relationship, with anyone, ever.
Not that there's anything you can do about that; it's his business, and his alone. But since you asked what to do, here's a suggestion: educate yourself. Strive for a better understanding. PFLAG is a great, great place to start getting a clue about what your brother is probably going through, and making yourself into an ally—which is a great thing to be in any event, whether or not you turn out to be right about this, and whether or not you ever know any gay people. (For the record: you probably know some already; you just don't know that you know them, because you live in a place where it's dangerous for them to live openly.) Because this is the truth: saying that you're not sure if you'll ever be okay with someone being gay is like saying that you're not sure if you'll ever be okay with him having brown eyes, or big feet, or a talent for playing the violin. Your orientation isn't an accessory; it's who you are.
And under the circumstances, understanding that is probably the best and most useful thing you can do for your brother—along with forgiving him, if you can, for taking out his misery on everyone around him. Not that it's an excuse for his violent, crappy behavior, but considering the hell he's probably going through, it's not hard to imagine why he's lashing out. And when you're in hell, one voice of understanding and support is better than none at all.
Of course, you may not end up using that voice, at least not directly; it doesn't necessarily have to come out until or unless your brother does. But I promise, your work won't be wasted. Developing an understanding of people who aren't like you—whether your differences lie in race, religion, sexual identity, or something else—is always, always worthwhile.
As is writing your bro a casual, non-judgmental note suggesting that he be a little more careful about logging out of Facebook and, ahem, flush more carefully next time.
Have you ever uncovered a sibling secret? Share in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at email@example.com.
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