Auntie SparkNotes: My Sister Came Out, But I Think She's Full of It
So I'll just cut right to the chase: my 13-year old sister (I'm 15) recently came out to me and my Mom as being bisexual. It was literally right in the middle of an argument, when I was chastising her because she had been extremely rude to me as of late for no apparent reason. She then told us that since she had been holding the secret of her sexuality in, she was being rude to me and my mom.
My immediate reaction was that it's total bullcrap. She's never dated anybody before, never kissed anyone (she even admitted that), nothing. So I find it very hard to believe that she could think that she also has crushes on girls. Because if she's never actually had a romantic relationship with anybody, guys or girls, then how could she know anything about her sexuality? I'm also dubious because she's recently been watching a lot of Glee, and she's the kind of person that gets really influenced by media. So she comes out to us right around the time that she's been obsessing over a show that features a gay couple? Not necessarily a coincidence, in my opinion.
It's not like me or my family has anything against homosexuality, as my uncle is a married gay man, and we love him. It's just the fact that my sister is so young. Also, we live in a tightly-knit conservative community, so I'm worried what other people will think of her, and as an extension, me. My sister is the kind of person that trusts people that consistently stab her in the back, so that's why I'm worried. What should I do Auntie?
Um. For starters, you could maybe stop being such a presumptuous jerk about someone else's sexual identity?
... Yeah, okay. I'm sorry. That was, perhaps, a bit more brutally honest than Auntie intended it to be. But geez, kid. Your letter is so contemptuous and smug that every time I read it, I get this picture in my head of you writing it while sitting atop a gilded throne, wearing a diamond tiara, while somewhere out in the forest one of your loyal henchman is following your orders to chase down your stepdaughter and bring you her beating heart so that you can eat it.
But since you are a Sparkler, I know that you're better than this very mean letter. You just caught a temporary case of the Nasties, right? RIGHT. And now that it's out of your system, you can take the opportunity to give a second, more measured thought to how you've dealt with your sister's coming out.
You can start by questioning everything about your immediate reaction—"that it's total bullcrap"—and ask yourself whether there's any legitimacy to the arguments you're making. For instance:
- Do you really believe that a 13 year-old can't experience attraction? (I have about one million letters in my inbox suggesting otherwise.)
- If your sister had confessed to crushing on a boy, would you respond by scornfully declaring that she couldn't possibly know her own heart? Why or why not?
- Have you considered that maybe her obsession with Glee stems from her struggle with her sexual identity, instead of vice versa?
- Do you realize that teenagers often fixate on certain shows or stories because they see some piece of themselves reflected there?
- And do you think that this might be a more likely scenario than the one you're suggesting, i.e., that your sister was "influenced by the media" to make the pretty damn scary and intimidating move of coming out as bisexual? (I'll save you the trouble right now and tell you that it is. People do not, by and large, come out of the closet just for funzies.)
And if you're feeling really brave, you can also tackle this question: How much of this is about feeling concerned for your sis, and how much is about what your community will think of you if she comes out publicly? If you look back at your letter, you seem in an awful hurry to discredit her as naive, credulous, gullible, and easily manipulated—even though she almost certainly knows more about her orientation than you do. You seem to be taking this very personally.
And at the risk of pointing out the obvious, you shouldn't. This isn't about you. And if your sis is bisexual, she deserves your support, not least because she just did a seriously brave and difficult thing by telling you guys the truth. But if she's not—if she's mistaken about her orientation—then she deserves your support even more. Because man, is she in a hard, scary place right now. She's the one who's struggling; she's the one who is painfully confused about who she is; and she's the one who gets hurt by this, if anyone is going to.
Don't get me wrong: I know that might be frustrating to watch, and it might make you cringe for her, and it might lead to (small-minded, short-sighted, unkind) people thinking less of her, and (if they're really small-minded) of your family, too. (Although as the niece of a beloved gay uncle, I'd think you would know better already than to devote even an ounce of your head space to worrying about the good opinion of such lowlifes. Honestly.) But that's all the more reason why it's important for you to have your sister's back: because other people, people who don't love her and care about her well-being, probably aren't going to. This is a moment in her life when she could really use someone in her corner. And while it's your choice whether or not you decide to be that person, I can tell you: you have nothing to lose by doing so except for the opportunity to be indignant and resentful about a struggle that has nothing to do with you. And you can trust me on this one, Sparkler: when you look back on this moment, you'll never regret that you gave up that right in order to be kind.
Got something to say? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want more info about how this column works? Check out the Auntie SparkNotes FAQ.