I have four siblings, with a total of fourteen nieces and nephews, and I'm gay. In the past, I have been asked by my then 11-year-old niece Megan if I might have a wedding soon, and could she be invited to be a bridesmaid. She wondered if I even had a boyfriend. Not knowing what to say, I simply responded, "Gee, not yet." (Gee, not ever.) If Don't Ask, Don't Tell is true for the armed forces, it's also a policy that can be true for many of us gay men and women within our own families. Surely, my 18-year-old niece in college knows. Doesn't she?
I recently got in touch with three of my four siblings (one sister has twins who are only two) to see if their children knew I was a lesbian or not. We are an Irish Catholic family, so I thought their responses would be interesting, and full of no's. I never thought it was my place to tell my nieces and nephews the truth about my sexuality, as I felt that decision was up to their parents. Nor do I think I'd be good at the birds-like-the-birds and the bees-like-the-bees story. When I reached my youngest sister Sarah, she said, "No, I've not told them that you are gay. But they know girls can love girls and boys can love boys." In the rear seat of her SUV, 4-year-old Lucy piped in, "And sisters can love sisters, but brothers hate brothers." My sister added jokingly, "I feel like you're the one who can deal with this! You chose that route!"
Next up was my very Catholic brother Bill, who has six children ranging in age from two months to 18. "Wow, that's an interesting question," he said. "I think our oldest knows. But no one has ever asked about your sexuality. Still, the twins (13-year-old girls), like Santa Claus, are also picking up on it. And I simply don't think it matters to our son (15). Unlike the Catholic Church in general, our parish is very inclusive to gay couples, and we're always saying that gay marriages should be recognized by the state." Hmm. This was becoming interesting, as I had always thought that my siblings weren't even all that embracing of my sexuality, as we never really talk about it.
When I finally got a hold of my sister-in-law Kathie, mother to my 16-year-old and 14-year-old nieces and my 8-year-old nephew, she simply replied, "Well of course, I believe the girls at least do. My mother told them. But William doesn't know, and he's in school right now. Do you want me to pull him out so we can have a dialogue? Because I will ..."
What more can I say? This was my family's truth, and it kind of made me smile.
|Sue Carswell is a Vanity Fair reporter/researcher. She is a published author, former senior story editor for "Good Morning America," contributing launch editor for "O, The Oprah Magazine," former executive editor for Random House Inc, senior editor at Simon & Schuster, and former correspondent for People magazine.|