Dear Barb – When a family member comes out

Dear Barb;

I am the youngest in a family of three children. My 22 year old sister, who has been away at university for the last three years, recently returned home with the announcement that she is gay. My parents are devastated and having a hard time believing this is true. They think she is just confused. My sister has always been a little different and I suspected she might be gay. Therefore I was not that surprised by this announcement and I would like to help my parents. Do you know of anything I can do to make it easier for my parents to accept this?

Tina in Edmonton

Hi Tina, you have brought up a very important issue.

It must have taken a lot of courage for your sister to tell your parents of her sexual orientation. If she is like most gay individuals she has probably been struggling with this issue for many years before finally resolving it within herself.

It is not surprising that your parents are having difficulty with this issue, as most likely they are from the generation when gay people stayed in the closet. In the past being gay was something to be ashamed of, at the very least. Gay people were treated horribly. In fact some individuals were tormented even to the point of having to die simply because of their sexual orientation. For those who witnessed this horrible discrimination the last thing they want to hear is that their child may become a victim of this abuse.

Like yourself, your parents may have also seen signs that your sister was different, but chose to ignore them, hoping they were wrong, or simply that she would outgrow this. Tina, my advice to you is to be patient with your parents, and give them some time to digest what they’ve learned. Their hopes and dreams for your sister will have to be modified with this new revelation and this will take some time. As well, your parents may be blaming themselves for your sister’s homosexuality. They may wonder if they did something to cause your sister to become gay. In the process of coming to terms with this situation, your parents will experience a wide array of emotions, which is perfectly normal.

Although today’s society is more tolerant, being homosexual is still not totally accepted. However your acceptance of your sister’s lifestyle will provide your parents with a good example to follow. Through their anguish I am confident they will come to see that being a lesbian has not changed their daughter. She is still the same person she was last week before they knew she was gay.

To be honest with you Tina, I can’t really offer you much more advice except to have faith in your parent’s ability to recognize that if they want to be a part of their daughter’s life they will have to accept her as she is. Thanks for writing. I’m confident your support will be invaluable to your parents during this difficult time.

E-mail your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.