My coming out to my eldest sister
My eldest sister is 6 years my senior. With her age and life experience so far, I consider her to be very wise. She’s a teacher and has been one since she was 20. She’s deeply religious too. The most single-minded person when it comes to matters related to God I’ve ever personally known.
I’ve been thinking about talking to her about my depression since last week. But she didn’t come home for the weekend last week. Actually, I thought of talking to her the week before that, but at the time, I still had doubts if I should be talking about this with a family member.
She had spoken in the past about some LGBT that she met in her life. And she seemed OK (read: not judgmental) when she was talking about them. So, I knew in my heart that she wouldn’t flip if I told her about my own sexuality. But you know, we can never be totally sure about these things.
However, during my lowest low a few months ago, while I was sitting in my bed, trying to hold back tears after my prayers, she came into my room and sat next to me, and asked me why I’ve been depressed. She asked me the same question the weekend before too, but I didn’t really say anything and pretended I was sleepy. So, this time, she actually sat and asked why in my face. I just told her it’s something I needed to deal with on my own and in time, I’ll get better. I just need to be patient and pray a lot. We talked a bit and she told me to tell her, so that she could help. She said it pained her to see me like that and yet she was unable to help; that I wasn’t myself at all. I didn’t tell her anything.
Today, as my sister was playing a game on her mobile phone (we spoke English; the conversation is simplified and shortened where necessary):
Me: What are you doing? I want to seek your council.
Sister: Yea, you can talk. I’m listening (as she’s still fixed on her phone)
Me: As you know I’ve been depressed lately. (pause) I think my problem is …(pause)… How do I say this? (pause) I think my problem is my sexuality.
Sister: (did not even bat an eyelid. Eyes still fixed on her phone) Uh huh.
Me: (I thought, wow! No dramatic reaction! That’s good!) So, that’s my problem.
Sister: (finally sat up and put her phone down) You see, I know you and XXX (a brother) are both different since you were very young. And YYY (a sister) too.
Me: Yes, I’ve known I’m different from I was like 7.
Sister: Sure. This is your challenge in life. This is your test from God. Your struggle. Everyone has one. And each of us is given a different one by God. Mine is very different from yours. Mom’s different too.
Me: I know that. My TESL friends have been saying that, and I know it to be true. I know of my sexuality very early. So, I had a lot of time to do research and reading.
Sister: So, pray a lot and be patient. Zikr. Don’t forget that. There’s a higher purpose for your struggle. All struggles will lead us back to God. That’s the whole point. That’s the purpose of life.
Me: I’m thinking of telling mom. What do you think?
Sister: Not a good idea. She worries easily. If you tell her, she will worry every time you go somewhere, travel or when you have a close friend. Not good (went on explaining recent event with youngest sister as example). She would have all these negative thoughts.
Me: But I just need her to know and acknowledge this part of me. If I can tell her, I can tell the world.
Sister: You know, and you’ve accepted yourself, right? Do you acknowledge it? If so, why does she need to know? She doesn’t.
Me: I know. Hence, the dilemma. If anything, she actually doesn’t need to know at all. It doesn’t affect her in any way.
Me: But it’s hard when I feel like I want to settle down. It’s hard.
Sister: Do you want to settle down?
Me: Yes, I do. Like some of our siblings, I think I share that tendency to want to come home to someone. Life has been eventful for me — I studied, a job, and then I further studied, and then looking after parents, travel, the new house…! And now, when everything is quiet, I realised that I don’t feel at “home”. (actually, not true. I tried to make it sound like that’s the reason for the depression, but it’s really not. It’s a component; but not the core.)
Sister: I don’t feel like “home” is here too (and explains herself). But if you remove your “self” from this world, there would be no need to feel anywhere as “home”. “Home” is God.
Me: Yea, I know about that whole “final destination is actually our true home” thing. Life here on earth is just a journey.
Sister: Right. Everybody has their own calling. Our purpose in this world is to serve God. I am serving God by being where I am where I teach and help students and other teachers. I am serving God by helping them.
Me: Yes, I know that. I came out my TESL friends and technical school friends and their reactions were very different. My tech friends were mostly homophobic and TESL friends were mostly supportive. I’m thinking, people like me perhaps need to be out to help one another. Judging from the tech friends’ reaction, if someone was truly reaching out, it could be disastrous for him/her! Maybe my calling is to help people like me – someone who understands the struggle at a deeper level.
Sister: Maybe. But you need to help yourself first. You need to get better and climb out of this hole first. The struggle to get out is very difficult. You can’t do it on your own. Only God can help you. To serve God, your heart, mind and soul need to be strong and pure. Nourish them first.
That’s the gist of our conversation. The conversation was actually almost an hour. In my family, that’s a lot actually, when there was no stories and re-enactment of events. We’re actually very funny people – when we talk, we tell jokes, stories and re-enact or act them out! That’s why they are usually long.
But we didn’t talk about relationships at all. She didn’t ask if I have ever been in a romantic relationship before. That was actually a good thing.
There you go! My parents have 11 surviving children and three (3) of us are confirmed LGBT. Yep, statistically speaking, it is 30%!