Side by Side: On Having a Gay or Lesbian Sibling

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How would you react if your brother or sister came out to you?

"I'm proud to have been the first to know."

"My conservative upbringing contributed to the notion that John’s behavior was sinful. The first thought I had about it was that my brother had somehow been misdirected, involving himself in the wrong crowd. How could he be gay? I was convinced we all had to help him overcome this problem. I equated being gay with having a mental disorder and thought maybe we should send him to a therapist."

"I love Beth very much. I am proud of her, thankful for her, and can’t imagine life without her."

In this first-of-its-kind book, Andrew Gottlieb, the author of Out of the Twilight: Fathers of Gay Men Speak and Sons Talk About Their Gay Fathers: Life Curves, continues his landmark exploration at the intersection of sexuality and family studies. Here he turns his thoughtful gaze to the powerful bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood to address questions such as:

  • How are we affected by the knowledge that a sibling feels same-sex attraction, and how does that knowledge impact on our relationships with our brother or sister?
  • How do brothers and sisters of gay/lesbian people cope with stigma and homophobia?
  • What if there’s already a non-heterosexual sibling in the family—how does he or she react when another sibling comes out? Do each of their roles change?
"Besides the fact that Lee didn’t conform to my notion of what a lesbian was (I, of course, always looked and acted the part), I wondered how this would affect my role as ’the lesbian of the family.’ . . . Would this rock the boat? Would two lesbians in the family be one lesbian too many?"

In their own words, 18 men and women share their thoughts and feelings about their gay brothers and sisters. What they have to say is revealing—about themselves, about the nature of sibling relationships, and about their role as peacemakers. Gay men and lesbian women often disclose their sexuality to their siblings before anyone else in their families. Side by Side examines the impact of a brother or sister coming out and of the way that a gay person’s siblings are sometimes placed in the position of being a social/moral bridge between the generations.

"Clearly Tina has been a major force in my life, and it doesn’t just end with me. My three children and husband have all learned by Tina’s example; we all do what we can to bring fairness and equality to everyone. With a smile on my face, I occasionally say to Tina, ’Look what you’ve done to me!’ Without her, I would never be where I am or who I am."

The contributors to Side by Side come from varying religious and economic backgrounds. In plain language that is easily accessible to most adolescents and adults, they candidly relate the experience of what it was like to find out about their sibling’s homosexuality and how that knowledge affected them over time. Some of their perspectives may surprise you. Many will move you. You’ll also find a list of suggested readings and a list of organizations offering support and information for siblings of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

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What People Are Saying

Marc E. Vargo
WARM, INSIGHTFUL, AND WELL-WRITTEN, this is a valuable text not only for clinicians and researchers, but also for those brothers and sisters, gay and straight alike, who wish to learn more about preserving their family bonds. An outstanding contribution to LGBT family studies. . . . A work of humanity and grace, this book GIVES A VOICE TO THE BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF GAY MEN AND WOMEN, a group whose unique perspective has seldom been explored in print. Written by siblings themselves, the text's essays reveal the complex and very human issues that so often emerge among family members having dissimilar sexual orientations.
—(Marc E. Vargo, MS, Author of Noble Lives: Biographical Portraits of Three Remarkable Gay Men Glenway Wescott, Aaron Copland, and Dag Hamarskjöld and Acts of Disclosure: The Coming-Out Process of Contemporary Gay Men
Jerry J. Bigner PhD
Jerry J. Bigner, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Colorado State University; Editor, Journal of GLBT Family Studies
Andrew Gottlieb has done it again. By providing us with new material that sheds light on the family ties of gays and lesbians, he helps us in innumerable ways, especially those who did not find acceptance, love, support, and understanding in our families of origin. The stories in this illuminating text demonstrate how healthy family relationships should be and, simultaneously, serve as a source of where to begin the study of sibling relationships of gays and lesbians, an area severely lacking in the research literature. Most important, these stories put a face on sexual orientation issues as well as provide excellent examples of the possibilities that exist in the context of this special relationship.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560234647
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 12/28/2004
  • Series: Haworth Gay and Lesbian Studies
  • Pages: 146
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

  • About the Editor
  • Contributors
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction (Andrew R. Gottlieb)
  • 1. Jigsaw (Christian Webb)
  • 2. I Was the First to Know (Ariana Lee)
  • 3. Missing Pieces (Erin Michael Starr)
  • 4. A Farmer’s Daughter (Kaye Lewis Cook)
  • 5. There and Back (Amber Hannah Love)
  • 6. Like My Brother (Meg Weber)
  • 7. A Lesson Learned (Tom Nelson)
  • 8. More Than Family (Shari Hanofee)
  • 9. A Road Less Traveled (Lisa B. Lewis)
  • 10. Step-by-Step (Luke Markert)
  • 11. Sara and I (Kate Boesser)
  • 12. Speak No Evil (Brad Randall)
  • 13. My Sister’s Closet (Meredith Greenfield Siegel)
  • 14. Knowing Sheila (Maggi Sullivan)
  • 15. The Older Kids (Tess Russo)
  • 16. Look What You’ve Done to Me (Terry Dolney)
  • 17. Common Threads (Ann McWhorter)
  • 18. The Puzzle (Brian Watts)
  • Resources
  • Additional Reading
  • Organizations
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