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She's Cool, She's Funny, She's Gay--and She’s My Sister
Knowing my sister means discarding your stereotypes
Sandra Leon
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When I was younger, I never really cared about what other people had to say about homosexuals. But ever since my sister Sonia came “out of the closet,” I’ve been outspoken on the topic. Now I can’t let the dumb remarks about gay people go by without commenting on them.

I always knew my sister Sonia was a lesbian and it never bothered me. But when she finally told my mother, we thought mom was going to scream at the top of her lungs. My mother raised us to think homosexuality was wrong and strange. She totally hated it. I thought mom would disown Sonia or try to force her to be straight.

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She did neither. Instead, she withdrew from my sister’s life. For a couple of weeks my mother totally ignored Sonia. There was always tension in the air—my mom and Sonia repelled each other. Say my mom was going to the kitchen and Sonia was leaving at the same time. They would meet and then do a 180 to avoid each other. My mom wouldn’t step into the kitchen unless Sonia wasn’t there and Sonia wouldn’t leave the kitchen unless she was 100% sure mom wasn’t outside in the hallway.

Then one day my sisters and I were discussing a problem Sonia was having with her first lesbian relationship. My mother overheard and asked us what we were talking about. My little sister said bluntly, “Oh nothing, just that Sonia’s got woman troubles.” My mother’s mouth opened wide but she didn’t say a word. She just gave Sonia a how-could-you-talk-to-your-sisters-about-that look.


That night, my sisters and I told mom how we felt about Sonia’s sexuality. It took a long time but we finally got through to her. At the end of the discussion, mom told Sonia that even if she didn’t agree with what Sonia “chose” to be, she would always love her.

My mom also told Sonia that whenever she had a problem she could always come to her and talk about it. Sonia can openly talk to my mother when she’s hurting, no matter what she’s hurting about.

I think it’s great the way my mother has come to accept Sonia for who she is. Now I’m trying to get my friends to do that too. They’re always asking me, “Why is she gay?” and “How does it feel to have a lesbian sister?” Then they want to tell me how they feel about gay people.

image by Daniela Castillo

So every time I bring friends to my house, Sonia is the first person I introduce them to. When we leave, I tell them, “That’s my sister who’s gay.” Some of my friends just say, “Oh, she’s the one? Well, she’s nice.” But others do a double-take: “That’s her? No way, get out of here, really?!”

The people who are surprised tell me that Sonia doesn’t look gay or that she doesn’t act like a gay person. I reply, “What does a lesbian person look like? How are they supposed to act?” After that, all they have left to say is: “Well, you know.” I tell them, “No, I don’t know” and ask them to explain themselves.


As a result, I’ve gotten into some heavy conversations about gay stereotypes with my friends. I couldn’t believe some of the ideas they had about gay people. They told me that lesbians dress and look masculine. That they act like men because that’s what they want to be. Since my sister isn’t like that, she couldn’t be gay as far as they were concerned.

I tell them that their stereotypes just aren’t true. As far as I know, my sister loves being a woman. She enjoys her femininity. For her, being gay doesn’t have anything to do with a secret desire to be a man—far from it. Sonia is a lesbian because she enjoys the company of other women, physically as well as mentally. She’s told me that, for her, a relationship between two women is deeper than that between a woman and a man.

Another thing that a lot of my friends believe is that gay people try to get straight people to become gay. Once a friend asked if she could stay at my house for a couple of days. I told her she could stay as long as she wanted, but she must be comfortable with my sister. She said, “OK, as long as Sonia doesn’t fall in love with me.” I thought that was a very stupid thing for her to say. My sister doesn’t chase after straight women. So I replied with sarcasm: “You’re not her type. So please, darling, don’t flatter yourself.”

Some of my friends also feel that gay people have a negative view of the opposite sex. Not true. My sister has always had men for best friends. She may not be attracted to them sexually but that doesn’t mean that she hates men.

I’ve found that a lot of people who condemn discrimination based on race or religion or nationality act like discrimination against gay people is acceptable. Why is that? How can you be open-minded about one aspect of a person and close-minded about another? Even people who have been victims of discrimination themselves can be totally insensitive when it comes to gay people.

I don’t understand people like that, but I can give them a piece of advice: open your eyes and ears, your minds, and your hearts. My mother has and so have a lot of my friends. Knowing Sonia has taught them that you can’t believe stereotypes.

(NYC-1992-06-26a)