We don’t look like sisters. That’s maybe the first thing you should know.
I’m several inches above average; she’s barely brushing five-foot-two. My hair is dark and curly; hers is blond and straight. Her skin is glowing and tan; I’m consistently the lightest shade in the foundation line.
We’ve never looked alike, and people delight in telling us that.
My sister first came out to me the summer before I started Grade 7. She was 14 and I was 12. We had come in from a day at the beach and were sitting in the bedroom we shared at our parents’ vacation house. It had plenty of bedrooms, but we always shared, always insisted on sharing.
We were sitting on the floor in our wet bathing suits when she said, “I think I might be gay.”
I nodded, then told her she probably wasn’t.
“Everyone thinks that sometimes,” I said. “I thought I was gay for a while until I realized I wasn’t.”
But that didn’t happen for her.
A few months later, she came out officially to me and my parents. She was in the shower, and she called me into the bathroom. I sat on the floor while she told me she was gay, and I made all the right noises of support. I cried in my room alone — we didn’t share a room when we were at home — that I wouldn’t be the maid of honour at her wedding. I hated myself for not accepting her as fully and readily as my parents seemed to.
And I hated, hated, hated, being the straight sister, for reasons I couldn’t fully articulate for a long time.
I dated one boy and found myself engaged by the time I was 17. When that broke off, I ended up, after a couple drunken “why not” encounters, throwing it in with a girl.
Around the same time, my sister met a boy and was utterly blindsided.
When I was 20 and she was 22, both of us eventually came out as bisexual.
I thought my parents would be fine when I told them. After all, they were fine when my sister came out.
Instead, I got plastic smiles, strained a high-pitched “thank you for telling me”, and stony silence when I mentioned my girlfriend.
It’s hardly the worst coming out story of all time, but I was thrown.
I told my sister I didn’t understand how, eight years after they’d been fine with her, they were so uncomfortable with me.
“They were never fine with me,” she said.
It’s easy not to see awkwardness when it’s not directed at you. Not when you’re busy sorting through your own.
In retrospect, I probably gave my sister that plastic smile too. It turned out that mine just came from a different place.
It’s been seven years since I came out.
My sister still proudly identifies as bisexual. She’s a lawyer with a prestigious job, expecting a baby in January and married to that boy she met.
I was the maid of honour at her wedding, which, in total coincidence, took place the exact day the US Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. While my sister is fully settled and delighted in her domestic life, I’m single and aimless in just about every way, putting her family values to shame and splashing around in the pool of all things queer.
I know I’m a lesbian now and while people assume my sister is straight because of her family and her growing belly, people see me and never have a chance to assume anything because I’m screaming my queerness into their face as quickly as I can.
My sister and I have come a long way from a shared room and matching bathing suits and the shared, niggling worry that we might be gay.
Our lives are almost a study in contrast right now; I’m at a place where I’m rejecting heterosexual ideals of partnership and familyhood, and she’s embracing them. And we support each other, one hundred percent.
The timeline is confusing. The changes in identification are confusing. What has never been complicated — what will never, ever be complicated — is the bond between me and my sister. Because no matter who I meet, no matter what happens, I think my greatest queer love story will always be this.
People have always said that my sister and I are different from other siblings.
We had the same friends when we were in school together. She and I would also spend hours just driving around after school, talking about everything.
We’re physically affectionate. We share glances nobody else understands.
She’s the first person I tell when I meet a cute girl. Nobody else’s approval means more to me, even as I work on slowly chipping away the walls around my parents (my mother actually liked the last girl I dated).
Now that my sister lives seven states away, we’ll sometimes go weeks without speaking, but we pick up easily.
I don’t think our connection is just a remarkable closeness between siblings. I think there’s a bond that only exists between two queer people huddled together against their surroundings, no matter how different they are — and that’s something that non-queer people will never, ever understand.
I think one of the most extraordinary things about talking to other queer people is not having to explain things, and it’s also one of the most extraordinary things about talking to your siblings.
There’s so much shared context. I didn’t need to explain the awkwardness of my parents to my sister after I came out. And I didn’t need to tell her the significance of my mother liking the last girl I brought home.
Unlike other queer people, my sister and I didn’t have to find each other.
We were born two years apart, but we were born holding hands.