I remember the day so clearly. My best friend was driving me home from her house and it was a particularly dark summer night before our freshman year of college.
I had noticed that her and my younger sister, Sophie, had been having a lot of "private chats" recently. I, as nonchalantly as possible, said to my friend, "You know, I am one of four daughters, so statistically one of us is probably a lesbian, right? My money is on Soph."
I knew that my friend was a bad liar and if she knew anything, I would find out pretty easily. My friend confirmed what I had always known-- my little sister loved girls. The second she admitted what my little sister had shared with her, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. I had friends come out to me in the past, but it is so much different when it is your family. There is nothing in all the ally training that had prepared me for this.
I went through so many emotions and thoughts during the remainder of that car ride that I don't even remember what I said or what my best friend said to me.
I finally had definite confirmation. I had been pondering this topic for so long independently, and I am not the type just to let something like that go. To no longer need to devote that much brain power to speculation anymore was like a weight lifted off my shoulders.
All at once, I realized all the societal implications of being a part of the LGBTQA+ Community, and I was terrified for my sister. If I was having such an extreme reaction to this information, and I considered myself an LGBTQA+ ally, how was everyone else going to react? I realized how deeply heteronormativity had been ingrained into society.
I was mad that she had told my friend before she had told me. Sophie and I were incredibly close, and so why would she not tell me? I had always shown support for all the LGBTQA+ people in our lives and had been outspoken about my support and acceptance. She had to have known that I would still love her.
I carried anger with me the longest. When Sophie came out to our immediate family, I was in college and I was the last person she told. I was supportive and I told her I still loved her regardless and this really didn't change a thing about how I viewed her.
The experience was positive, but I was confused and I was hurt. I felt like I wasn't a significant enough person to be told. I felt like she didn't trust me.
What I didn't realize is this wasn't about me not being trusted or not being significant enough. I was only concerned about how I was feeling and wasn't seeing it from her side.
"I found coming out to you the hardest. I've looked up to you my whole life and telling you that I am different form what you have known me as was hard. I felt like I was lying to you and everyone for years" - Sophie
I wasn't considering how scary it was for her to potentially lose someone every time she came out to a new person and how this was augmented with people who mean a lot to you.
"I was scared, even though I knew you would still love me, that you would think of me differently. I only had two close support systems at the time: the girl I was dating and my family. Everytime I told another family member, it got scarier becuase I always thought of the worst case scenerio, and that was losing the support from my small but strong group." - Sophie
She needed to be ready. This was about her, not me. I needed to take myself out my place and put myself into hers to see that this really was not the place to be putting all my negative energy.
I share this story because I could never understand people who got overly emotional about their family member coming out before it happened to me. Even equipped with all my knowledge, I still had an extremely emotional experience with this.
I want to open people's eyes to see that even though it may be shocking or you might be hurt by the order or manner in which they come out if they do at all, it is probably ten times harder for the person coming out. Coming out is the last part they have complete control of, and then the ball is in your court and you get to dictate where the situation goes from there.
It is OK to struggle with it at first. It is OK to seek out support, whether that be through community resource, online groups, or other people who know. Just remember, at the end of the day, it is all about supporting them through the hard times and reminding them you love them and you are there for them.