My ‘little sister’ came out over 14 years ago. She was married, although separated from her husband, and had a young son. It simply never occurred to me that she was anything other than heterosexual. The only thing that upset me on hearing her news, was that I felt that somehow I should have known. I felt guilty that I had not been more supportive and I really worried that she had been very unhappy over the years.
Our parent’s reaction was initially hostile and very negative. I was living hundreds of miles away at the time, and know that my sister had a very difficult time of it. Our father would put the phone down if my sister’s partner happened to answer it. Our mother often became quite hysterical and tearful. Gradually things changed and they adjusted to the fact that one of their daughters happened to be a lesbian. And over the years they came to love my sister’s partner as a true member of the family too.
What saddens me is that various pressures mean that neither my sister nor her partner is ‘out’ at work. My sister works for a multi national company and says that if her work colleagues found out that she was gay she would lose respect and her authority. For me, my little sister’s sexuality is not an issue. It’s not something I think about. However I know that life is still not as easy as it should be for my sister and her partner. The other day we were discussing the fact that they need a new bed. Bed manufacturers recommend that you and your partner test the suitability of the mattress by lying on it in the shop. I said that I thought this was a good idea and she looked askance at me. ‘What do you think they would say in the shop if Liz and I lay down on the bed together?’ It simply hadn’t occurred to me that anyone would take issue or that my sister and her partner would be uncomfortable doing that. I have a lot to learn!