Siblings have been recognized for their major role in the coming out process. They share the same family as the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning, intersex, asexual and/or ally (LGBTQIA) individual and are often of the same generation. However, research on coming out has mainly focused on parents. There are only a few studies, which have examined the coming out process with respect to siblings. The coming out process is defined as the experience of revealing one’s sexual orientation to others… a self-disclosure that requires a non-judgemental and empathetic audience, as often found in a brother or sister.
My brother revealed being gay to me when I was about 16 years old. I remember feeling surprised, intrigued, and curious. I was curious, as it was different from anything I had known or heard of and yet it did not seem unnatural to me. I had no reference for the existence of homosexuality. I had seen, by that age, no gay couples together. I just knew my brother liked men and, I repeat, it did not seem unnatural to me.
We grew up in a traditional Portuguese household, within the core of Toronto’s Portuguese community. For my brother, at that time, he did not know that being openly gay was even an option. Homosexuality was taboo in our culture – given this, it is not surprising he denied his sexuality for years, had a girlfriend for a long time and tried to ‘pray the gay away’. He loved her with all his heart but could not live the lie anymore. The ignition of his self-awareness, subjection and inequities taking place at that point of time in Canada, in our Portuguese community was too much to bear. So, he went to live oversees… to be free… camouflage free.
As our parents aged, I supported my brother in declaring his truth to our strong, prideful, and often times seemingly emotionless father. I did not give him the tools to do so, rather, I provided reassurance. I would remind him, “You are enough… you do not have to strive to become more worthy; more valid; more acceptable or more loved. You are all of those things.” These are all expressions of your enough-ness. They are not about changing yourself; they are about being yourself.
In the moment, my brother decided to alleviate his soul of the burden of his truth, which had resided within him for years to our paizinho. I stood beside him, in his enough-ness… and it ended up being one of the most poignant… exalting moments of my life… our father’s reaction, one that neither of us dared to anticipate.
Com lágrimas a escorrer pelo rosto, “Filho, tu és criado aos olhos de Deus. O amor de um pai é incondicional. Meu amor por ti não muda. Tenho orgulho em ti. És um homem honesto, gentil, compassivo e autêntico. Sou eu, que preciso de te pedir desculpa… por teres sentido a necessidade de esconder a tua verdade todo esse tempo e por te teres sentido incapaz de ser quem és, comigo. É isso que me deixa triste neste momento.”
For over 30 years, my brother calls Amsterdam home, living in peace and love with his husband. They are about the healthiest and happiest couple I know. Celebrating Pride Month has become personal to me. The fact that my brother had to leave Canada, from our Portuguese community, to feel the freedom to be himself. I refuse to live in a world like that anymore. We are all equal and deserve to be treated equally no matter what. I will continue to fight for this, for my brother and brother-in-law and his wonderful friends to be treated with the respect and dignity all deserve.
This is a time for remembering those who paved the way for the LGBTQIA community and who continue to do so. It is a time for continued education and breaking down barriers. Let us look back at the changes and see what work still needs to be done.
Bro, you were enough before, you are enough now and you will continue to be enough as you become more of who you were made to be. To keep believing that, when the world keeps whispering otherwise, is BRAVE!