Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Brother, I'm gay too - when you're not the only gay in the family

With thanks to So So Gay

We’ve heard it before – coming out is not as easy at it ought to be, but when two of you in the family are gay, how difficult is it for the second to come out?

Since my brother came out to me I soon realized I wasn’t unique, let alone being the only ‘gay’ in the family but being the only family with two gay sons. It turns out it’s more common than I thought. It seems with every turn I make I meet a gay with a gay sibling. Here are some of our stories, starting with my own:

My story
Before I came out I planned putting my sexuality on hold for the sake of my brother. I thought, that just maybe I could get married, give my parents grandchildren and let my baby brother have an easy life. Mum scuppered that plan by the time I hit 18, sat with her marigolds she told me I was gay. Cat out the bag, what would my brother think…
It soon transpired that my younger brother had a girlfriend, he lived with me for a year dating girls. Then one fine September evening just four years ago at a pub in Borough he spills the beans. He’s gay, had a boyfriend and had been hiding this secret life for several years. Disbelief? no. But certainly an awakening to what would come next. My brother, the one to bring the next generation to the family? That’s not going to happen.
Four very difficult months and in time he came out to my parents. For weeks I consoled my mum and dad while trying to support my brother the best way I could. In a year the family was closer than it ever had been before, more honest and happier with each other. I realized I had it lucky but my 23 year-old brother had to hide, and had to wait.

My brother, Ross:
When mum told me Ryan was gay I really didn’t know why he didn’t tell me himself but I certainly understand now. Coming to terms with my own sexuality was incredibly difficult, I felt this huge responsibility to get married and provide grandchildren. I knew I’d hurt my parents and it was the last thing I wanted to do.

I ended up in a state of denial for many years, having girlfriends, pretending to be straight and finding ways around facing the truth. For the first few years I hid my relationships from everyone, including friends – I was terrified my family would find out. How could I tell my parents that they have two gay sons? It would be such a big shock and devastate them. Not just their feelings but how they would have to deal with the wider family/friends having two gay children – the pressure was immense.
There was never going to be the right time to tell them or Ryan. When I met my current boyfriend I felt there was no turning back, I wanted to be happy and I wanted my parents to meet him. So my brother was the first person I told – after a couple of bottles of wine. He accepted it so much better than I expected and went on to support and guide me telling mum and dad. He left it to me and I feel that was the best thing that could have happened.

I told my parents in stages, and each stage seemed all the more difficult – but once it was out in the open I felt like this huge weight, that they would be extremely disappointed with me, had lifted from my shoulders. Now I feel the family is much closer than it’s ever been, we can talk openly about the subject, our feelings and our boyfriends. Mum and Dad are incredibly supportive, we couldn’t have asked for better parents.

My brother came out to the family when he was 20, it was not a surprise to any of us. I then felt pressure not to come out because it would make my parents feel bad to have two gay sons. I told my father when I was 37, and he told my mother. We do not discuss it as it makes them both extremely uncomfortable. I have never come out to my brother but I assume he knows.

Karl, London
It took me a while to break the news, in fact not until I was 38. I told my brothers about 10 years ago, while he was shocked he was really cool with it. Though my cousin outed him about 5 years before. I was a bit annoyed at first, but mainly because I was one of the last to find out.

When I came out to him it gave us something that we both had in common and that might also contribute to why we are close now. Having a gay brother made it a lot harder for me to come out to my parents. I felt the pressure of not being able to give them grandchildren and not carrying on the family name. In the end I realised that being honest with them and living my life happy was more important.

My parents found out I was gay when they were snooping through my computer when I was 15. Being the first to be outed I got all the unpleasantness, when it came to my sister it was pretty much a walk in the park. A few months after leaving home, when she was around 13, I found out she was gay.  We are definitely closer, there are no barriers between us. It’s really brought the family together, strangely.

Robert, London
My brother came out to me when I was 20 he decided to tell me after meal during the Christmas holidays. I burst into uncontrollable tears and in my brothers eyes it must have looked awful. I came out a couple of years later to Mum she listened intently and it was acknowledged but not openly discussed again and certainly not in the company of my father.

Thomas –
I have two older sisters and one twin brother. The oldest sister is a lesbian, and my twin is gay too. I told my family in stages. I was most afraid of telling my twin brother because I had too much to lose if he wouldn't accept me. When my twin came out it was a relief, because we could talk again about men and share ideas and beliefs. My mum still struggles with it sometimes and my dad gracefully accepts all his children.

I was the youngest and also the first to come out. I learned from my brother that he was gay when he told me he had a boyfriend about 1.5 years later and I learned of my sister from my straight sister "by chance".

Brother of Thomas - Sam
I was around the age of 22, after the coming out of my brother. It was not an "official" coming out for me. My brother told me after he had split up with his first boyfriend. I was a bit disappointed that I was not the first to know, being his twin. But as twins we are always close. I don't think this has changed.

Lee –
I told my parents not long after my 22nd birthday when they came to visit me at university, and I told my brother a few days later. I knew he would be cool about it, but that didn't make it easier to tell him before having told my parents! But I had known my brother was gay four years before. It wasn't at all a surprise to me, although did make me feel guilty about my own homosexual thoughts. I wasn't completely open with myself then, so I thought I could make myself like girls more and that would be fine.

Knowing my brother was gay definitely made it a LOT harder to come out. The pressure was on me to be the provider of grandchildren, so I knew I would be a disappointment. I was worried that my parents would feel that they had done something wrong, ending up with two gay sons. I came out rather accidentally and awkwardly to them during conversation.

Paul – brother of Lee
I was 24 at the time when I 'officially' came out, although my mum had always known from an early age, finding magazine and newspaper clippings under my bed. My mum asked me to be honest with her. I did. My brother said he already knew due to my internet browsing history and said that nothing would change between us.

However he told me over the phone. I was actually speechless when he broke the news. That was the last thing I was expecting! I never had any inkling that he was gay. At first I felt that he was 'stealing my thunder' - that being gay was 'my' thing.

I came to realise that the burden I had shifted onto his shoulders of being the one to give our parents grandchildren had expired. Our mum took it badly. I had to mediate between my mum and my brother, I had to explain where both parties had probably offended each other and how they could see common ground.