Q My older brother and I have been at odds since my coming out. The rest of my family has been mostly supportive, especially my little sister. Our brother recently got engaged, and it took some prodding from my mother for me to congratulate him considering less than a month before he proposed, he likened me to a pedophile and somebody who practices bestiality. I had a hard time helping my mother understand why I was not excited for the wedding. She convinced me that although I was hurt by what he said, it was still the right thing to express congratulations. So I did. I began to calm down about the whole thing and actually felt a bit excited about their marriage and stupid for getting upset about it in the first place.
Then my sister informed me that our brother wouldn’t allow her to bring her best friend to their wedding as her date because he is gay. When she told me, the anger and hurt from the earlier name calling and arguing returned. I’m not sure what to. Do I attend the wedding of somebody who is clearly unsupportive of me and would not reciprocate the favor? Or do I stand up for what I believe in and respectfully decline the invitation? If I choose not to attend, the rest of my family would be very upset and would accuse me of being childish and making mountains out of molehills. When speaking to my mother about it all, she made a good point; the wedding is not for another 14 months and there is time to iron things out. However, I don’t feel that this is something to be negotiated over with deals made back and forth to appease each side. Any advice would be helpful.
A What a heartbreaking story! I’m so sorry you’ve had to endure such discrimination within your own family. Even the supportive straight members of your family don’t seem to recognize that by forgiving your brother’s behavior (or completely ignoring it), they’re condoning it and saying it’s OK. But it’s not OK, is it?
Fourteen months is a long time to sort through your feelings with your brother, so I don’t think it’s time to announce your plans to not attend his wedding. Rather, I think it’s time you either make a phone call to him if you’re feeling bold or sit down to write a lengthy letter about how you’re feeling. Personally, I like letters so the recipient can’t interrupt you. Start from the beginning. Tell him everything about how it’s been growing up gay and how you’ve felt along the way. Talk to him about the struggles you’ve encountered, but also the joys you’ve felt when you’ve found love—just as he’s found love now. Be as open and honest as you can without showing your anger. When talking about actions he’s taken, start out with “I feel” instead of “You did this.” At the end of your letter, ask if he’d be willing to set some time aside to talk to you about his feelings. Give him the opportunity to show you how he can be a better man before writing him off completely.
Also take into consideration that his animosity toward you and your sexuality might be stemming from his soon-to-be wife’s point of view on homosexuality.
A very similar situation happened to me 10 years ago. My brother and his pregnant wife told me they didn’t want me to bring my girlfriend around their son once he was born. An e-mail war ensued including him telling me that homosexuality was akin to bestiality. It ended when I told him he was no longer my brother. Nearly a year passed without us speaking. And then I sent him a note to tell him that I missed him. From there, we began to heal. He finally divorced that religious zealot, and we’re so close now. In fact, he walked me down the aisle last year at my über-gay wedding.
Don’t give up faith just yet!
Kirsten Ott Palladino is the co-founder and editor in chief of Equally Wed, the nation’s leading gay and lesbian wedding and honeymoon magazine. Follow her on Twitter. Connect with her on Facebook. Write her with your gay wedding questions. If she can’t answer it, she’ll find another expert who can!
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