When My Brother Came Out

img_2224My brother came out when I was in high school and he was in his early twenties. The right way to come out is different for every person. For my brother it was in a mailed letter.

I was sitting at the dining room table doing homework with my boyfriend when my mom came home from work and started opening the mail. She stopped halfway through the stack of envelopes and catalogs.

She went up to her room and came back down wearing a sweatsuit and said she was going for a walk.

That’s when I knew something was wrong. My mom never went for a walk and I didn’t even know she owned a sweatsuit, let alone the bright white sneakers that served as warning lights on her feet.

After she walked out the door, my boyfriend and I stared at each other without speaking . This wasn’t the nightly routine.

She returned hours later. She was sweaty and I could tell she had been crying.

She told my boyfriend that he needed to go home, but didn’t offer him a ride. Something life changing had happened, or was happening. I braced myself.

She said she needed to talk to me and I followed her to my room. She started talking in a tone that was forced calm, measured calm, scary calm.

“I got this letter in the mail today,” she started, waving the envelope in the air.

I racked my brain trying to think of what the letter could possibly say. I came up with nothing that would warrant my mother putting on a sweatsuit.

“This letter is from your brother and you know what it says?” she asked. I shook my head.

“Do you know what he is?” she said. The scary calm was fading, now she was just scary. “He’s gay.”

“So?” I thought to myself.

“Shit.” I thought to myself.

“This is going to suck.” I thought to myself.

She was still talking, but I couldn’t hear her because I was thinking a lot of things to myself.

“This doesn’t mean that you’re gay. You have to promise me that you don’t think you’re gay,” my mom said, finally getting my attention.

Wait. What?

img_2864What did my brother coming out have to do with my sexuality? Hours earlier I had been making out with my boyfriend when we had the house to ourselves.

But…I was oddly, strongly attracted to the girl who sat in front of me in English class.

Maybe I was gay.

No. I couldn’t be gay. Only one of us could be gay and my brother had clearly already called dibs. If him being gay forced my mom into a sweatsuit, I could only imagine what me being gay would force her into.

She retreated to her bedroom and closed the door. I heard yelling and crying all night. She didn’t go to work the next day.

When I got home from school she told me to get in the car immediately because I had an appointment to see a therapist.

“Why?” I asked. With all due respect, it seemed like she was the one who needed a therapist.

“Because your brother being gay is going to be a lot for you to deal with.”

It was?

Once awkwardly sitting in the therapist’s office with my mom crying in the waiting room, the therapist opened our time together with a prayer.


PFLAG brochure circa 1992

Then, for an hour, she told me what the bible said about gay people. She taught me how to pray for my brother so that he might see the error in his ways, ask for forgiveness and, once again, lead a godly life. She taught me how to pray for myself so God would know I loved my brother, but didn’t agree with his sin. The therapist told me not to tell anybody that my brother was gay.

I sat in silent revolt. The therapist obviously didn’t like my brother, so, therefore, I didn’t like her. I was supposed to meet with her once a week. I refused — leading my mother to firmly believe that she had failed as a parent. The relationships that my mom had with each of us as individuals and together as a sibling unit were never the same.

She made my brother tell me himself over the phone that he was gay. Like it was a punishment. I was just happy to hear his voice, until I heard that he was crying. I cried too; not because he was gay, but because he was in pain.

I didn’t tell Michael about my therapy session until much later because I knew it would hurt his feelings. And, it did.

But, at some point when I was feeling like he thought that his coming out affected only him. I needed him to know that it affected me too. It’s a major plot twist in my life story. Coming out isn’t just about the LGBTQ person. Conversion therapy isn’t just for LGBTQ people. But, I always knew that however bad I had it, my brother had it worse.


PFLAG brochure circa 1992

Before her death a year and a half ago, my mom cried to me and told me that she felt like a failure as a mother because of her reaction when my brother came out. She said that, at times, her love for my brother, for her kids, didn’t triumph over her concern about what others would think or say. Weeks before she died she told my brother in words on a card.

Going through a box of my mom’s stuff last week, I found a huge envelope stuffed with papers sent to her by her sister the week that my brother came out.

The note said, “When you’re ready, maybe some of this info will help.”

Handouts, copies and brochures from an organization called PFLAG followed the note. I held them in my hands, thinking of my mother’s sweatsuit, my brother’s tears, the therapist’s prayers and I thought about how different my family’s life could have been if my mom and I had attended a PFLAG meeting instead of a religious therapist.

If you are an adult or parent struggling with a loved one coming out, please seek support that doesn’t seek to change your loved one. Click here for some resources.


About raisingmyrainbow

RaisingMyRainbow.com is a blog about the adventures in raising a fabulous, gender creative son.
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32 Responses to When My Brother Came Out

  1. kurlykc says:

    That physical feeling of relief when I read she sent him a card saying she wished she had done better…

  2. What a fantastic read. There seems to be a lot of love and support between you two. I look forward to reading more in the future from you. I followed!

  3. Awesome story! 🙂 Warms my heart.

  4. ettina says:

    They make excuses for pedophiles while hating gays. I will never understand conservative Christians.

  5. Zach W says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! Im super lucky as my whole family is loving and supportive of me being gay but i have friends who are not as lucky. And when i read your story about your brother it brought tears to my eyes and i can see the loving person you are in your words.

  6. Jessica Kelley says:

    Another great resource is Susan Cottrell’s “Mom, I’m Gay.” It offers support and advice for Christian parents struggling to accept and support their LGBTQ children. Great book (as is yours, Lori!)

  7. Jduron says:

    Hello. I was in shock and stop reading after the part of the anti gay Therapist,
    i couldn’t take it. I started to feel angry. not a bad feeling
    Im an 80´s kid i was raised by my single mom, a nurse with lots of gay couple friends who always were around her and us, on a 3rd world country. I never asked what was correct if male with male or male with female or female with female was ok to raise kids. I was never taught which way of social interaction was better (straight/religious or gay). Im thankful for that. Either my mom was too busy for that or she let us get our own opinions.
    I feel better seeking justice and being a lawyer myself, i cant help but feeling disgusted for the way it was understood and is understand to be gay back then and now. I feel myself an ally of LGBT. I do live with a gay friend and i respect him and love him like my own blood brother. Being gay is not a disease, being gay is not bad it is not a sin, they must be respected and be treated the same way.

  8. Excellent post. Your honest raw vulnerability shows and builds your foundation of strength. thank you for sharing.

  9. Pingback: “my brother had clearly called dibs” | Riddle from the Middle

  10. encounters says:

    Hi Lori,
    A very moving post I could not help but shed a tear not about your brother being gay but for the pain you all went through.
    I am a Christian believer myself who continue to grapple with human sexuality. I have committed myself to understand how God wants us to deal with questions about human sexuality.
    I do not believe that the Christian faith is about exclusion on whatever grounds because that is the thing Christ challenged and died for. Christ reached out to those who were being excluded because of race, gender culture and desease to just mention a few. As a black African I know what exclusion means because as a black person I was excluded throughout my life because of my race even in church there were churches for white people only and churches for black people only in Rhodesia then. That was never right in my understanding because God is the one who created me black I do not believe that he did that so that I can live a life of exclusion. So because of my experience I never want to wish it on another person.
    The question ‘is homosexuality a sin’ will never be answered because no-one knows. While the Bible was inspired by God it was humans who decided what was going to be the final acceptable text which is what we have now.
    I am sorry that you lost your mum I pray that you and your brother can be happy with each other.

  11. Pingback: When My Brother Came Out — Raising My Rainbow | chitchatjonny

  12. Pingback: When My Brother Came Out — Raising My Rainbow | Stating My Closet Case

  13. Sister Unity says:

    Just this Saturday, when I was at Oceanside Pride, I met a wonderful young man, no yet 20, with clear eyes, no guile, and a ton of confident integrity, who has just moved in with his boyfriend, suddenly, from clear across the country, Florida, because his parents searched his phone and finding his live messages to his boyfriend, kicked him out of the house and their lives. Clearly, sadly they are mentally blind to the wonder that is their son.

    • Gosh that makes me so sad. Do they really think that’s what God wants? He blessed them with a child and they threw him out like trash, at a time where he probably needed their support more than ever.

  14. oopster74 says:

    No it’s not a sin, but even if it was, there are other and bigger sins that no one seems to worry about.

  15. Nikki Hadley says:

    We live in a day and age where it is more acceptable to be different yet there is still such a stigma in so many ways and I think it is because the Bible says that being gay is a sin. But the bible also says you can sell your daughter into slavery, working on the Sabbath is a sin, planting different crops side by side can get you stoned. We don’t believe that part of the bible. People pick and chose what parts of the bible best suit them and the rest be damned. We don’t live in Biblical times, the world is constantly changing and with that needs to come understanding of those that are different then yourself.
    I don’t personally know any transgender people but after reading your book and then watching a documentary about transgender children with Barbara Walters I learned a LOT! This is not a choice these children make. I do however know a young man that is gay that is a good friend of my youngest son and he is a wonderful young man. My children have always accepted him for who he is and for that I am very proud.
    If we could just learn to love our fellow man and not try and force our beliefs on others this world would finally find peace across every border.
    Your life inspire me!

  16. I am so sorry. For you. For your brother. For your mother. For all those who somehow get stuck with the thinking that *what* they are (gay, trans, straight, alien) matters more than *who* they are (someone we love! damnit)! I’ve always told my son there are only two things he could become that would make be disown him – a drug dealer or a televangelist (maybe I should add politician). I’m glad your mom finally realized her heart was big enough to love her son, all of him, even the parts that made her uncomfortable. I just hope I never have to love a televangelist….

  17. Rebecca says:

    At a PFLAG meeting I attended the majority of the parents reported that their adolescent children communicated that they were transgender was through a text. Welcome to the new age!

    • Wow, that makes me so glad mine came and sat down with us in the lounge and told us. That is one of my most immediate thoughts when she did it – “I’m so glad she realised she could tell us like that.”

  18. stevewayles says:

    Thank God he had you as his sister!!!

  19. mdaniels4 says:

    Y’know, for straight folks especially back then, it was difficult too. There was so much social animosity, still is, but fore Pete’s sake I really don’t understand that they still think that either. So in some ways your mom needs to get cut some slack. She came around. Great help from your aunt. That’s good.

  20. Tamsin says:

    Beautifully written, thanks for sharing

  21. brenda says:

    Your openness and willingness to share will pave the way for those who will one day walk this path. Please no times are changing….

  22. Stephanie says:

    I can see why your brother chose to come out via a letter! So sad that it had to be that traumatic for you all.
    My trans daughter wore girl clothes in public for the first time this week (to school) and this post makes me grateful for how times have changed.
    And I long for a day where she might actually appreciate how supportive her parents are! (She has Aspergers as well, so warmth and appreciation aren’t really part of her skill set.)

  23. DBesson says:

    Wow! Thank you for this story, It made me cry for several reasons, happy that your brother has you in his life, happy that you and CJ have him, sad for how his coming out story went, sad for your mother to think that she was a bad parent when she was really just lost and confused, sad for you to be taken to a therapist for nothing at all and then angry to have that therapist throw the Bible at you and how inappropriate she was. I feel so lucky to have such a supportive family and friends for my coming out, and am so thankful that CJ has such a supportive family like yours.

  24. Gen says:

    It’s so sad and damaging when parents are the biggest bullies.
    My mom forced me to come out when I was 19 (by threatening she would call my gf’s parents if I didn’t confess) and then outed me to our extended family, posing as a martyr. My grand-mother tried to help the same way your aunt did- she sent my mom a book by Ellen’s mother with a very nice letter. I couldn’t believe my grand-mother, who was almost 70 at the time, was more open and accepting than my mother. 15 years later, we are on better terms, but I’m still bitter that she stole the moment from me. I am out at work and all my friends know my partner, and I have NEVER heard anything as bad than those homophobic and ignorant words my mom said when she found out.
    Sure wish I’d had a supportive sibling! 🙂

  25. Holly says:

    It’s the non affirm religious affiliations that have muddied the waters of many good and gracious people. I’m not “religious”, more spiritual then atheistic. I am in the presence of all kinds of company. Some of them get it right others do the best they can. Some won’t try at all. And it is usually those that hold a to teaching that is supposed to be about love, turning it into a tool for thier own discust for things they do not understand.
    Your stories always move me. Mostly because I know they are filled with love.

  26. Ken says:

    I also did the coming-out-by-mail thing… it was a similar reaction from my folks. I wonder how many of us who did the letters had read Armisted Maupin’s “Dear Momma” leter in MORE TALES OF THE CITY? Thanks to you, and him, for this poignant reminder from other, harder, times. It is good to be now.

  27. Wow! It’s nice to hear that your Mom had a change of heart and lived long enough to express that to your brother. In a sick way I feel lucky that I wasn’t close to my family to begin with so any negative reaction they would have had when I came out, wouldn’t have affected me too badly. Ultimately they took it well so I never had to deal with any of that stress. It’s still not an easy life, but it’s so much better when you have support from family and friends.

  28. Brian says:

    Wow! Very moving and touching. My mom’s reaction when I came out wasn’t so very different from your mom’s. It makes me happy to know you are a supportive sister.

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