Hi, my name is Emma and I’m a proud ally of the LGBTQ+ community.
I have an older brother. As a little girl growing up in the 80s, there was an expectation that the older brother would ‘protect’ his little sister. There were times when kids would say things about my brother to bully him, because he was ‘different’ from them. Instantly and without hesitation, I would jump to his defence. (There may have been an incident where a cricket bat accidentally met a bully’s shins, but no one was seriously injured in this educational process. I was young, forgive me. I now know there are much better ways to deal with bullies).
I always knew that my brother was gay. Long before he did. I waited patiently for many years for him to realise this so that he could lead the life he was destined to lead: To be happy in his own sexuality and meet the man he could grow old with. I never expected him to ‘come out’ to me as why should he have to and why was it anyone else’s business? The fact that he felt he was expected to have ‘the conversation’ made me feel sad. I never had to tell anyone I was straight.
The day he decided to tell me, he was home from University during a break, and while making sandwiches for lunch he told me he had something to tell me. I took a gamble and figured that this was the right time, in my very subtle as a sledgehammer way, to let him know that I already knew. “What, that you’re gay?” is what I responded with.
I guess I did this because I wanted him to know that 1) it wasn’t a ‘requirement’ for him to tell me, 2) it wasn’t a big deal to me, and 3) to save him from having to say the words. In hindsight, maybe he needed this moment to admit, for the first time, to a relative, that he was gay. He may have felt it was ‘the norm’ for him to have to ‘come out’ to me. I was the first step to start the ball rolling on a lifetime of challenges, civil rights questioning, homophobia, eye rolling, sideways glances, tutting and huffing amongst many tirades of abuse he would receive.
With my brother, I took the initiative to speak first. With other families, between other friends or colleagues, the case may be different. The conversation we had was the first of many educational family conversations that followed, many arguments and some fallings out. I was just glad to support my brother through it all.
There may be no ‘right’ way to be an LBGTQ+ ally that fits every circumstance. But there are some principles that I think are always the right ways to start:
1. BE KIND!
2. Treat everyone as you would expect to be treated yourself – with dignity and respect
3. Google it! Education is key
4. Diversify your kids’ bookshelves
Fast forward *cough* years, and my brother has been with his husband 21 years and married for six. I couldn’t be prouder of him (don’t tell him or show him this article though, he is still my brother – so I can’t be giving him too much of a big head!). He is an internationally known academic, specialising in chemical pathology, and has researched heart disease for the last 20 years. He has written over 150 published papers and edited and published chapters in 13 textbooks. His husband is a senior business manager in the NHS running the Southern Hub Bowel Cancer Screening service responsible for inviting approximately five million people for bowel cancer screening.
I was, and am, proudly in his corner, and I always will be.