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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Weigh what you say, when you say it

Washington Post

Dear Carolyn: I’m 17 and moving away next fall for school. My older brother, who lives on his own, came out to our family 18 months ago. My mother (very religiously conservative) has “kicked my brother out of the family,” to use her words.

My brother refuses to be kicked out. He shows up at family gatherings anyway. He also stops by the house to see me and my sister, and when Mom tells him to leave, he just smiles, tells Mom he loves her and then ignores her. He has told her repeatedly that “revoking his family membership” isn’t within her powers.

I’m tired of my mom’s constant complaining to me about my brother. I think she’s wrong but I’ve stayed silent ’cause I still live at home.

My friends say I’m a coward not to defend my brother. I love my mom and I love my brother, but I’d like to get through the last year of high school in peace. – Utah

Your brother is an impressive human being.

He’s being true to himself, firm but loving with your mom, attentive to his sibs, crystalline in his imagery, all without being punitive toward the mother who rejects him for who he is.

Your brother and your friends neatly illustrate the difference between courage and bravado, respectively. One speaks up, and the other goads someone else to.

Your story suggests your brother came out to your parents when he was already on his own, or soon to be. So this person of obvious courage also made the calculation that antagonizing the source of his nurture, food and shelter wasn’t the savviest move.

You need to make a calculation now similar to your brother’s. That’s not to say you need to declare your truth the moment you leave the nest. It just means you have to balance what you believe against what you need and feel – and do that knowing you’re the one who has to live with the consequences. Literally and figuratively.