I think it is best if I explain the situation i am in then ask, so here it goes:
I’m 25 and my brother has just turned 23. He came out to me yesterday, he said he first started to realise that he was gay when he was young and was sure of it by the time he was around 15 or 16. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to me and I haven’t been able to get worked up about it. Obviously it was a nice moment, I’m proud that he felt able to tell me and it was great to go out for a celebratory drink. He has had problems with anxiety in the past and it was literally like watching a weight be lifted of his shoulders. His good friends have known for a while so I wasn’t the first to know, just the first family member, so in many ways he has had a period of time to adjust to things in a way that is comfortable for him which is good.
As lovely as all that is, it seems to me that if was particularly comfortable with this he would have brought it up before now, he is obviously worried about bringing this up with our family. He mentioned that he was concerned about our parents reaction (which he really needn’t be, it has always been made clear to us that we will have their support, but I do understand why he is uncomfortable with telling them, any sex related chat is going to be awkward with parents I suppose), our sister, our younger brother (still in high school) and his wider group of friends. I think there is also a bit of stress (a lot I suppose) for him now that he is thinking of transitioning into life as a “gay man”.
The more time I have spent clicking around on the Trevor website, along with Stonewall and the It Gets Better Project, it seems to me that their are going to be problems and struggles for him that I probably don’t fully appreciate just yet. I really hope that everyone is great about it and that his life just goes on as normal, unfortunately that seems a bit naive! There is a real lack of information for people in my position on line, I am desperate to be able to provide him with support and advice if things don’t work out as well I as assume they will. He is going to face some challenges and I don’t want him to feel alone in them!
Please give me some advice of what I can do to make things easy for him! I really do not want to let my brother down here.
Letter submitted by:
I’d like to start off by saying that your brother is extremely lucky to have a sibling as caring and concerned as you. It’s true, he may face several different obstacles as he begins his life as an openly gay man. However, please hear me when I say that just by accepting and being there for him, you’ve already made an enormously positive impact on his life, confidence and future. Our relationship with immediate family members is detrimental to our feelings of self-love and worth. It is such great news that you foresee a positive reaction coming from your parents and other siblings upon your brother opening up to them. You’re absolutely right, talking about sex with your parents can be uncomfortable for all people, both gay and straight. The difference is that we live in heterosexually oriented society where children are brought up expected to behave certain ways and fit certain gender-roles. Like your brother, most gay people become aware of their sexuality at a young age. We all know that kids can be cruel, and children in general quickly acquire a desire to “fit in” and be accepted. Gay youth so often recognize that they are different, and, despite how accepting their families may be, decide to conform to social norms due to an inherent fear of rejection and outcast. Put simply, it’s a lot for someone so young to comprehend. One of the biggest obstacles your brother may face is healing and coming to terms with the past. Growing up “closeted” (as so many gay people do) can have a serious effect on every aspect of their life because, as children and young adults, they lacked the validation that their straight peers inherently got from their parents, friends and society. The most important thing you can do for your brother is to empathize with what he has gone through whilst supporting and validating his character. Just knowing how much you care and understand can make a world of difference in any struggles he may face in the future as it will give him a sense of validation which will help build his inner-strength, confidence and self-love.
At the end of the day, gay or straight, we’re all the same and we all want the same comforts out of life. Despite challenges your brother has faced in the past, coming out to you was a huge step towards a brighter future. It’s so wonderful that you went out for a celebratory drink as this is absolutely something to celebrate. I applaud both you and your brother’s strength and am thrilled that you’re heading down a path of so much love and support. I’m so glad that you reached out and I encourage you to continue browsing through the Trevor (and similar) websites. PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) is a great resource for family members of the LGBT community who have questions and want to actively support and understand their loved ones. You can visit their website at http://www.pflag.org.
We’ll always be here if you or your brother have any other questions or concerns. Thank you so much for writing! Again, he is very lucky to have you.