I have four siblings, two of which I share one parent with and, upon being asked about them, will often get the look of disbelief followed by, "(S)he looks nothing like you!" "Is (s)he/ Are you adopted?" "Are you sure (s)he's not your cousin?" However, this is the one that always gets me:

"Why don't you just call them your half-siblings?"

The answer to that is actually quite simple:

As a child, I was always raised not to draw a distinction between my siblings in terms of importance because, like any other comparison between groups of people, it never benefits anyone to feel like they are more or less important than anyone else--the absence of rankings as are present in a hierarchy is the key to thriving, especially in a familial setting where every person's worth is inherent. Families support each other, no matter what, and if they support each other as much as my brother has supported and continues to support me, then they should never feel or be regarded as any lesser than they truly are.

Though nobody could believe we're brother and sister, my older brother has always made sure to keep my best interest at heart. We have different fathers, but a lot of our life experiences happened under the same roof. In other words, we share more than just a mother:

We attend the same college and play in the same bands, so we already tend to share more experiences than most siblings can or choose to share. We both grew up in the same house in Pilsen (predominantly Mexican neighborhood in Chicago) and looked forward to getting horchata and tacos from the restaurant across the street which we lovingly referred to as "the Mexican place." Then we shared eleven years in the suburbs, and now we'll share two years at North Central. We shared and continue to share laughter, tears, inside jokes, friends, interests, crises, celebrations and, most importantly, family.

To answer the previously posed questions, no. We are not cousins--we are siblings. He is not adopted, and neither am I, but even if he were, our mother would argue that we're stuck with each other for the rest of our lives.

I have friends from high school that essentially serve as my second family, which we call "Study Group" because we studied together all throughout high school. The host of this study group was my best friend of eleven years who, along with every other member of the group, I revere as a sibling, though nobody considers that to be wrong. I was there for the adoptions and/or deaths of three of her dogs--a purebred golden retriever, an Australian cattle dog mix, and a Newfoundland/border collie.

One would argue that she who is not related by blood is my sister, but my brother who shares a parent with me is not my brother, with which I take great chagrin.

I always tell people that my siblings are the closest people to me on this earth, namely my older brother, and he is so much more than a mere half-sibling. He means so much more to me than those two words can convey, and I thank him for sharing all these moments with me, whether he chose to or not. I hope to never stop sharing moments with my siblings, even if those moments are spent trying to tell people we're not adopted.