I am the oldest of my mother’s children which makes me a big sister. But I have had the unique opportunity and delight of having kids of all types – extended family, family friends, etc. – in my heart. And they have graced me with such pure love and inspiration to do for the future… they make me aware of the importance of being a friend, of openness, and of meeting people where they are.
And – boy – some of them have needed it, to know they are loved and accepted just as they are, to have someone to bounce their ideas and identities off of from time to time…
I’ve gotten everything from curiosity about drugs to crises of faith… but one instance that’s stuck with Big Sis happened recently: a kid hit me up and quietly said, “I think I’m gay.”
The personal, quiet coming out that many people have. I had it YEARS before I was in a place to own it & even wanted to date seriously.
Now, I’m not here to “advocate” for any “lifestyle”… only for healthy, self-aware, enlightened lives. I’m never telling a kid to do drugs or that they should abandon their faith. And just because I’m committed to a bodacious blonde chick, I’m not all gung-ho about it for anyone else. Everyone has to walk their own walk.
But I know what sexual attraction feels like. I remember what it was like trying to figure myself out and, coming from a fearsome community, feeling ashamed and afraid and alone about nearly everything…
But, unlike how these issues were treated when I was an adolescent and are still treated in places like the south, I’m not going to immediately-and-without-discussion shut them down.
Things come up for a reason.
Feelings, curiosities, and questions arise. They are inevitable realities, and it’s not up to me to deny (1) very real topics in life, (2) what’s in someone else’s mind.
Repression is unhealthy when it comes to those inklings about one’s desires (unless, you know, you get off on dead nurses – Big Sis won’t help there). And I’d rather offer some insight from those perspectives, instead of leaving anyone to go into self-discovery completely alone or without some positive guidance.
Little Socratic method. Little bit of “It’s OK to have questions.” Let’s use this as an opportunity to grow.
After this kid shared their “secret,” I snapped into serious mode: sat cross-legged on the couch, pulled one of bazillion blankets around me, and was simply… present.
Okay… I know that’s a big deal…
“I’m just scared, because I don’t want to come out and get kicked out… that’s TOO much out.” Then, the all-too-familiar story of knowing their family’s über-anti-LGBT sentiments (even about me, someone they’ve known my entire life, who smile in my face), hearing and seeing how blindly hateful and intolerant they act, and fearing it, fearing the backlash and displacement…
Toxic bigotry poisoning yet another kid’s personal, sacred sense of identity and self-acceptance before it’s gotten a chance to mature.
But I couldn’t say all that. It’s not right to be similarly poisonous (look where that’s gotten us as a society) or to undermine parents’ authority.
So, freaking out about the magnitude of this conversation and being keenly aware not to overstep, I started off with something like:
Well, I’m glad you felt comfortable coming to me. I know it can be confusing trying to figure life out, and hormones are ridiculous… Just always respect yourself, first and foremost. And be honest, because that’ll help you be more self-aware. And be safe.
And then I inhaled really hard.
I had been holding my breath.
Oh! And… coming out. That’s going to be something that you feel is right for you. At the end of the day, it’s really nobody else’s business. If they’re concerned… THAT’S THEIR CONCERN. (Then I shared my experience, bc that shiz was paaaiiinful.)
And then, I just listened.
That’s all I can offer. That’s all I have to give – myself – in those instances. It’ll be a cold day in hell before I let one of my peeps feel alone, especially when they’re trying to figure out love.