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Better late than never: My sister's coming out story
Anita and I at my wedding in August.
“Are you going to do it soon?”
“How will you do it? What will you say?”
“OMG, how do you think they’ll take it?”
“Are you scared?”
These are just some of the questions that would pepper the conversations with my younger sister, Anita, when we would talk about her coming out to my parents.
We’ve had these talks many, many times over many, many years. I would patiently listen and comfort her. She was scared, nervous and always said she “just didn’t want to disappoint them." There is no manual in life to tell you how best to do this. And, there certainly isn’t a manual for an older sister trying to guide her sibling through a pretty big moment in her life. I was nervous and scared, too.
Anita came out to me when she was 17-years-old. I told her I already knew. She was a tomboy. She was often mistaken for a boy. While I brought boys home, she didn't. I wasn't surprised, and, I've never told her this, but I was worried -- about what my parents would think and how others might treat her.
Now, almost 15 years later, there has been progress and acceptance of people in the LGBTQ community. But not always. This year, two gay British women were beaten for refusing to kiss on a London bus. Closer to home, Calgary's beautiful rainbow crosswalk has been vandalized. Things like that make me think about my sister.
But thankfully Anita has an amazing group of friends and support system.
However, on the homefront, we never really knew what to expect with my parents. We grew up in a very strict, traditional and conservative household. Yet, my parents treated us differently. They were always concerned about who I was dating or hanging out with, but they never questioned Anita. She did bring girls home from time to time, but introduced them as “friends” and was discreet.
Anita moved to Vancouver and about four years ago, met "the one." Anita started bringing her home to big occasions, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. My parents were happy and they really liked Anita’s “friend,” but I think we were all too scared to say it out loud.
She texted me earlier this year announcing that they were getting married. I was ecstatic for her. Then she sent photos of their engagement and a note: “Don’t tell mom or dad."
My heart sank. It shouldn’t be that way. From there, our conversation about coming out started again. How and when?
I suggested that maybe we should do it after my wedding this summer, to give my parents the big traditional event they always wanted to host. Right before I left for my honeymoon, Anita sent me a message saying she will do it on August 18. She wanted me and our youngest sister, who also knew, there.
I was nervous for Anita, but also my parents. The day before, I sent her Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson’s coming out story so that it may inspire and give her courage.
We prepared for any outcome. Joy, disappointed tolerance or straight-up disownment. Anita had a bag packed just in case. I was worried, but I had to be strong so that she could be brave.
After dinner, we sat around chatting.
My heart was beating so loudly I swear everyone else could hear it. As sisters, we decided the best approach was not to make too big of a deal out of this. Just be normal. Be chill. I thought Anita was going to let it out right away, but she just couldn’t. The conversation wandered.
Finally, after we finished discussing my wedding, Anita jumped in.
“Speaking of weddings ... Mom, dad ... I’m getting married.”
After years and years and years, this is how my sister ultimately decided to let my parents know who she truly is. It was brilliant. It was self-explanatory.
I held my breath.
My parents looked at her with smiles on their faces and exclaimed, “Oh wow! That’s so great!”
Wait. What? I am stunned. What is happening? Do they know who she is marrying? Are they actually OK with this? Did we really worry all those years for nothing?
Anita, finally asked our parents what the three of us were thinking.
“Do you know who I’m getting married too?”
Without skipping a beat, my mom replied, “Yes of course. She is a very nice girl.”
They knew all along. And they are OK with this. More than OK, I thought. I wanted to cry and hug my sister. I wanted to cry and hug my parents. I felt such pride for all of them. But we said we’d be cool, so we just continued the conversation and my parents started asking questions about the wedding. They wanted to know how many people they could invite. My mom asked if Anita wanted to go Asia to get wedding clothes made, just like I did for my wedding. Everything was so ... normal. It was like a dream.
We didn’t ask my parents that night how they felt about Anita being gay because we didn’t need to. However they feel, it doesn’t matter. At some point, my mom and dad decided that they are going to love her for who she is and that’s how it truly should be.
After all those years of stress, we didn’t need to stress at all.
I believe my parents knew all along, and wonder if maybe they should’ve asked her sooner, or if she should’ve come out sooner. In a perfect world, I wish Anita didn’t have to wait so long. I wish that for any person in the LGBTQ community because we all should be able to love who we want, and be who we want to be without judgment or fear.