Dear Amy: Last year I took a DNA test, hoping to get some answers regarding my paternity and lineage. I discovered that I have a half-sister (turns out that I have five of them, but that’s a whole other story. Let’s just say our father got around).
I’ve spent a year navigating this new relationship. I’m thrilled to be an aunt to two nieces and a nephew. I have thought long and hard about what it means to be a good aunt and sister and have tried to act accordingly. However, I’m really struggling right now.
My sister and I are truly like city mouse/country mouse. I live in liberal Chicago. She lives in a small, conservative town in the South. While we are very alike in many ways, we are also very different in others.
Earlier this year she went out of her way to tell me that she can’t accept gay people. She wasn’t all fire and brimstone about it, but merely acted like this was something to “agree to disagree” about. I politely and respectfully reiterated my views that there is nothing wrong with gay people, and she dropped the subject.
This has been, in my mind, a roadblock in our relationship ever since, although I have never said so to her. I have been a vocal advocate of gay and transgender rights all my adult life. I’ve known many of my gay friends for almost 30 years. Being told that they are somehow “unacceptable” bothers me to no end. If she wasn’t family, I am not sure I would have continued to nurture a relationship with her; it bothers me that much.
How can we get past this?
— Stranded Sister
Dear Stranded: One way to get past this is to go through it.
Your sister volunteered her point of view concerning an entire class of people. Presumably, her views are more prevalent in the community where she was raised and where her views were formed. The same goes for you.
You are experienced and open-minded. Extend your open attitude toward your sister. Don’t dismiss her the way she has so easily dismissed so many others. You could see your willingness to discuss this honestly as a way to demonstrate your own tolerance toward others.
Here is how you could start: “I’d like to talk to you about something you said, which has been bothering me. I want you to know that I know and love many gay people. Given our huge DNA sisterhood, we likely have gay family members. I’m hoping to inspire you to open your heart a little bit. Can we talk about this?”