Hi there Jon,
Let's start with what we know! I think it can be hard, when hearing secondhand information, to root yourself in what is truth
, what is inference, and how to go from there.
From what I'm hearing, this sounds like what we've got (and please correct me if I'm wrong!):
1. There is a possibility that your brother is queer-identifying.
2. Others are talking about his sexuality, possibly without his permission.
3. You want him to feel loved and supported.
Since he hasn't told you about his sexuality directly, and you say yourself that you're not sure how reliable that information is, I think instead we work from the *possibility* that he's queer*
. I'll tell you something from my own experience -- it's honestly easiest to assume anyone could be queer anyways, and thus model that you value inclusion and LGBTQ safety and happiness regardless of who you're talking to. If you do this, then your brother will see it -- even though it's not directed at him, per se
-- and will get the message that you're a safe person for him to talk to, if and when he needs to.
For me, there are so many ways to signal comfort with, and support of, queer folks. This can include things like:
Mentioning queer folks that you admire, follow, or love, without drawing excess attention to their sexuality. It can be skeevy to hear someone say, "I'm so down with Sam Smith, even though they're queer!" but to me, it's helpful for someone to be able to talk about queer people without calling out their sexuality -- e.g. "Have you seen Ellen Page and her wife's Instagram stories? They're so good."
Learn on your own. Being here is a great start! Try to learn about contemporary LGBTQ issues, our culture, and how to be respectful of the community -- without asking him to teach you, necessarily. Make the effort independently.
Being aware of queer issues and lending your support to them in a visible way. For example, knowing how queer communities are being affected by the current pandemic, and talking about important efforts to support them (here's a list of community funds and efforts that can help you get a sense of that).
Not making assumptions about sexuality. When you're talking about a new friend, or your brother is discussing someone in his life, don't make assumptions about their sexuality. For example, if his friend (who's sexuality you've never been explicitly told) has a date, ask "who's the lucky person?" rather than assigning gender.
This is just a tiny list, but does it make sense where I'm trying to go with this? In short, try to be someone who an LGBTQ person would feel comfortable approaching
. Don't ask him probing questions if he's not ready, or make assumptions -- who knows if what this person said is true? -- but instead, model for him that you're a safe person to talk to.
This is also a great place to ask questions that may not be appropriate to ask your brother or other queer people in your process of learning -- a lot of our staff are queer-identified! -- so please use it, if you'd like.
Also, as an aside -- it might be a good idea to tell whoever shared this with you that outing people can be dangerous, and shouldn't be done without someone's permission. It might be a good learning opportunity. <3
Glad you're here! Let me know what you make of all of this. I know I just put a lot out there.*I am queer and thus use this word to describe our community. As a straight person, it's best if you do not use that word unless someone asks you to use it to describe them.