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Author Topic: Unsupportive siblings
Cian
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I have in many ways thanked my luck because none of the important people in my life reacted badly to me having a girlfriend, or were unkind to my girlfriend. However whenever I try to talk to them about things that are important to me, like the fact I won't be able to get married in a church like I /wanted/ to, their response is that it doesn't matter because I don't believe in God. In that sense, I suppose they're right, but it is however meaningful to ME in a different way and I am upset I am being denied the right based on who I have partnered with.

My older sister is a biology major and she will go to great lengths to tell me how heterosexuality is normal and homosexuality is abnormal. However she says that there should be no emotional ties to these words, they are just the truth. In my opinion though "normal" and "abnormal" are very charged words. She is essentially telling me I am faulty and abnormal and how I should not be upset by this because it's simply true.

My younger sibling will constantly tell me how I'm putting myself and my female partner on the pedestal and saying that being partnered with a woman is better than with a man. While I understand why this connection might be made by what I say, I have tried to explain that I say it because I personally don't get along with men and to me it would be very miserably to partner with one. I'm upset she thinks I'm trying to make myself special when I am simply mentioning my girlfriend like any other NORMAL person would.

I feel very disheartened. My sisters are very dear to me but they are really getting me down and I have to consider cutting ties with them. Which breaks my heart. I have tried telling them that what they say hurts my feelings but they think I'm just being a drama queen or getting upset for no reason.

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Heather
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Not having core parts of who you are unaccepted by people we're close to, or the import of our very important relationships unacknowledged or denied is obviously very painful. I'm sorry you're dealing with this (and sorry for the field of biology your sister is such a lazy student clearly bringing a lot of bias to the table, but that's besides the point).

It does sound like there might be more room here to work with your younger sister than your older one, especially since I can see that perhaps some of your approach with her either helps set up or enable a judgmental situation for both of you. (And after all, it isn't how you feel about men that has anything to do with how you feel about women: being oriented to women is about women, not men, just like someone who likes apples but not oranges likes apples because they like apples, not because they dislike oranges.)

So, if you want some way of having inroads, with your younger sister at least, it does sound like their might be room to change the conversation here and have both of you feeling less judged and unaccepted by the other, if that's something you want to do.

Not sure about with your older sister, but we could brainstorm on that too, if you like.

Of course, we also always all have the right to have who we want in our life and to not have who we don't, including people we're related to. So, if you feel better about distancing yourself from your sisters than trying to work things out, that's okay, too.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Cian
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In my older sister's opinion heterosexuality is normal because it is biologically designed to produce offspring. Heterosexual couples who choose not to have offspring or who are unable or still biologically valid, though, because they still have the capacity to have children (as nature intended). However homosexuality or non-conforming gender identity according to her is a fault caused by prenatal stress. And while words like fault, abnormal or disorder don't carry negative connotations to her, they do in society. As far as I can tell as a linguistics major.
In my sister's opinion everything is dictated by our genetics, prenatal hormones, our own hormones. Everything. Ever.

As with my younger sister, I don't really know where to initiate this "I'm sorry I make you feel like partnering with a woman is a better choice in my opinion" conversation. I want to tell her that there are good men out there, but I don't know how to tell her that without essentially lying through my teeth. I have never actually met a man who would be "good" by my standards.

I feel very conflicted about distancing myself from my sisters. I worry I will just become the "hermit sister" or the "difficult gay sister" or the "paranoid sister" or what have you.

Also my sisters get very offended if I use the word heteronormative to describe how I see the world functioning, they say I use it as a negative word (and in some ways I suppose I do, because I feel isolated and excluded not being hetero myself). In my opinion the world is very heteronormative where hetero is the norm and thus desirable, deviations are undesirable. But I guess I'm just being a hetero-hating bigot if I say that.

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Cian
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Also due to my self confidence problems I am very impressionable, I will soak up subtle messages like "wrong", "abnormal" and "faulty" very easily and take them to heart to the extent that I will quite seriously question if I may indeed be sick, wrong, disordered and undesirable or if just my sexual orientation is what's wrong and undesirable. It very much conflicts with my own ideas of sexual orientation, but not as much with my ideas of self.

So although I will on some level critically scrutinize and disregard such notions, there is another level of me that will acknowledge and let such notions fester into self doubt and feelings of worthlessness and undesirability. The message doesn't need to come from a close proximity, I get very unsure and upset by just reading the news about whether homosexuals 'deserve' to have rights or if someone thinks it's disgusting or wrong.

So to have these messages fired at me from very close to home makes them really shake the very foundation of 'me'.

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Heather
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Again, like I said, sounds like your sister is a pretty lazy biology student -- don't mean to be so judgy, but bad science is a bugbear of mine -- especially since even the field of just biology alone makes clear that all of bonding and sexuality for any species is hardly just about reproduction.

(And of course, not all heterosexual people have the capacity to reproduce in the first place.)

Unfortunately, sounds like your sister's biases are probably not going to be anything you can make much headway with. here's hoping she outgrows them or her field of study alone makes clear how foolish and patently wrong they are.

With your young sister, though, I'm hearing YOU being someone with some bias here. The fact that you, personally, haven't met any "good men," in your life really doesn't tell us anything about if "good men" -- or men as "good" as women -- exist. It only tells us that in your experience and by your terms, you haven't met any.

There are people who'd say the same about not having met "good women" by their standards and in their experience. Were the shoe on the other foot, would you agree that thus, there must not really be any?

So, perhaps instead of lying, you could simply acknowledge that you have bias with this, bias you've been leading with in a way that isn't sound, and can understand how she'd feel negatively about that? Then there can be room to talk about how you BOTH are not feeling accepted by the other, likely because of bias on both your parts.

I hear a lot of defensiveness with you around this. I can certainly understand why you're feeling that way, and of course, sometimes people who are hetero or hetero-oriented in their sociological upbringing and background are going to react poorly or reflexively around terms like heteronormative. (And yes, the irony there is that heteronormativity is exactly why.)

But you and I can have an easy conversation about that: you won't be able to with everyone, just like you won't be able to have sound conversations about the realities of racism or classism with everyone.

Sometimes what that means is that we have to be more easy and gentle with some of the way we talk with people or the way we're presenting information. In other words, like it or not, fair or not, plenty of times the onus will be on those of us calling out systems that oppress us to take the higher ground if we actually want to be heard. And it sounds like you do.

Know what I mean?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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I think the way I'd put what I was saying at the end there best, by the way, is that sometimes we need to make the choice between being the one who is right or the one who is heard.

No one can tell anyone else which of those things is most important to them at a given time, but we do sometimes need to pick just one, so we've got to figure out which we want for ourselves.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Cian
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I acknowledge I have bias and I have communicated this to my sister that I'm sorry if I make it sound like it's somehow better for ALL to be partnered with their own sex, because it is not what I mean. But she disregards my attempts to rectify where I have obviously gone wrong and communicated badly. I just don't know how to approach this issue anymore except to not talk about it at all.

I feel very invalidated by my sisters because they support heteronormativity and push me outside this circle of acceptability. I should not be upset that the world is heteronormative because heterosexuality is normal and thus should be treated as better than homosexuality. I hate to think my sisters regard me and my partner less than and biologically disordered simply because we are same-sex.

So are you saying I should just accept that my sisters think I have no right to be upset about being called abnormal or disordered because in their opinion that is simply what I am? I'm confused.

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Heather
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I'm not saying what you should do, period.

But what I'm saying is that a) sometimes no matter how compelling our argument, or how close we are to someone, we're not going to change their minds, or do so with either or arguments or our relationship with them and b) sometimes we need to go another route than the compelling argument or attempts at it.

Mind, I do think we have to accept that people think what they think in general. I mean, we can not accept it, but that's not going to change that they think what they do, and it'll probably only be more uncomfortable for us not to accept that.

I also certainly am not saying you have no right to be upset and hurt here: of course you do.

But it's sounding like with the older sister, she's not likely to change her tune anytime soon no matter what. Your younger sister might not either, but by changing some of how you talk with her and giving things some time and air, she seems a little more promising in terms of changing her mind, based on what you've posted here. Especially since it sounds to me like it's possible she may actually be reacting more to your views on men than your feelings for women or this one woman.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Cian
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I suppose you're right, but I still don't know how to deal with the fact that my sisters think I'm abnormal and their heterosexuality is better and more deserving of normal rights than my bisexuality. (Although they find it easier to lump me with homosexuals because I am female partnered). I have to accept that they do, but I don't know how.
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Heather
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Do you have any other major differences of opinion with them or anyone else you're close to about big things?

Sounds like you might have one with at least one of them and religion, for instance.

I ask that because I'd say you apply the coping tools you use to deal with that difference here, even if it may or may not carry exactly the same weight with you.

Also? Just a reminder that one thing we know is that with time, a lot of family members who start out as unaccepting of queer family members DO change their tune. In fact, we know that the biggest way people change around bias is just by being exposed to people they care about who are members of the groups they have bias against.

I know, that's only so comforting, because waiting for basic kinds of acceptance hurts like hell, especially with people we respect and care about most. There's no making that hurt magically go away or stop hurting. However, it really probably won't always be like this with them.

And in the case that it is, then you -- like plenty of us have -- absolutely have the right to construct a family for yourself that's a family where there IS acceptance for everyone in it. Whether everyone in it is related to you or not? That's up to you.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Atonement
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Just a side note, I am also a bio major and just finished a major paper on Drosophila. From what I've gathered, it's more common for them to be bisexual than heterosexual.

There are plenty of animals where same-sex sexual behavior is perfectly normal. The only difference is, they don't have anyone trying to shame them for it!

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Cian
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I often have my differing opinions trampled upon and belittled by family. My opinions or beliefs are not valuable to them. Which makes me question my opinions and beliefs.

Thank you though. I will try to have the strength to not allow my siblings to drag me down for being faulty or not-as-good-and-worthy-of-rights in their eyes. I don't think I will try to talk to them about my concerns regarding the way I feel I am being treated unfairly simply because of my choice of partner.

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ericaisawesome
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Hi Cian! I'm sorry your siblings are not supportive. I have two sisters- one is awesome, but the other one is a real jerk. She's not afraid to express how she thinks homosexuality is "unnatural" and "gross." I no longer talk to her because she, well... we think she has some major substance abuse problems, and it's very frustrating and emotionally difficult for me and other family members to deal with her. Even though I no longer talk to her, it's difficult to know that she doesn't approve of me.

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-Erica D.

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