My sister was the first person I came out to as a teen, and she accepted me.
Years later, I wanted to come out to her kids, but she told me I couldn't.
She now limits the amount of time I spend with my nephews, and I feel like I no longer have family.
I grew up in a Latino family in conservative Florida. The white kids in my primary school often told me I looked Mexican. I didn't understand then, but I later learned this was an insult because to those white kids, being Mexican was terrible.
This form of discrimination put my queerness on the back burner. I was Latino first and queer second. This form of compartmentalizing made toxic events bearable. Whenever my older brothers would make a homophobic comment, I chalked it up to the fact they were allowed to because they were discriminated against for being different, too. This form of backwardness lasted years and kept me from coming out until my late teens.
My sister was the first person I officially came out to during a car ride from the beach. She gave me the confidence to be more open with my identity.
But over the years, she became very religious and I'm feeling the same sense of discrimination I felt as a kid. She now limits the time I get to spend with her kids.
I was uncomfortable when I came out but found myself in a safe space
Returning from a beach trip, I was in the car with my older sister and her then toddler son. She paused mid-conversation and casually asked me if I was gay. I hesitated to answer, but I finally gave in and told her yes. This was the first time I officially came out to anyone, and saying it aloud felt like a ton of bricks were suddenly placed on my chest.
I expected her response to be negative and anxiously cringed. But what came next surprised me. She said she was OK with the idea and asked if I was dating anyone. Her relaxed demeanor about it made it seem like no big deal. She even went as far as saying I should come out to more family members.
Her response gave me the confidence I lacked. This conversation made that weight on my chest disappear, and I felt like I had an ally who cared.
Several years later, I wanted to come out to my nephews
I asked my sister if I could disclose my identity to her then 9- and 6-year-old sons. I figured showing them that someone they loved was queer would teach them that it's OK to be different and that they would be spared from the shame I felt as a kid.
Around this time, my sister had converted to devout Christianity, which was surprising since we barely attended church as children.
Speaking to her in her kitchen, I expected to encounter the caring ally I experienced in a car many years ago — the one who pushed me to be more open with other family members. As I told her I wanted to be more honest with my nephews, I could see my sister's body tense. We were alone, but it felt like there were a million people between her and me, and I didn't understand what had changed.
I asked her if it was at least OK to explain to my nephews what the word gay meant. I told her I would explain that some families have two daddies or two mommies.
My sister immediately shut it down and said she would have the conversation at the same time she explained the "birds and the bees."
Feeling confused, I explained to her that my identity as a queer person was separate from sex and that you could discuss both separately since they were different. She hesitated and left the conversation.
Since then, my time with my nephews has become more distant and sparse
I am no longer invited to babysit. When I took my nephews out to eat, we suddenly had to be chaperoned. My sister told me I couldn't take them farther than 5 miles from the house and that I had to get approval from her and her husband.
This sudden change wasn't a coincidence. I knew my sister and brother-in-law were afraid I would tell my nephews who I was.
I eventually moved further away, and contact with my nephews has become almost nonexistent. I used to be a constant in their lives from birth, and suddenly I became someone they saw randomly throughout the year.
I felt like I wasn't part of the same family anymore. I understood that my sister wanted to shield her children from dangerous parts of the world, but what I didn't expect was that she viewed me as part of the danger.
Now my relationship with my nephews is channeled through a quarterly FaceTime or a semimonthly postcard I send them from different destinations.
Eventually, I accepted the separation from my biological family and focused on creating a chosen one
The shift in our relationship was never fully resolved, but I firmly believe time heals everything.
I hope every time my nephews receive a postcard, they know that their uncle loves them — even from afar.
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