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Non-binary sibling and framing our shared childhood.

Dear Prudence,

I am the middle sister of three siblings from a devout Christian family. Last year, my older sister came out to me as nonbinary, and I was immediately supportive. Despite their strong biblical beliefs, my parents are logical, intelligent, and loving people who have often surprised me with their liberal reactions to things that challenge them. My sister has begun accusing our parents of childhood wrongdoings but is often very cryptic because she isn’t ready to come out to them. I can see my parents’ confusion, surprise, and shock at some of the things she says to them, but they always try to understand and love her very much.

I would never invalidate her trauma, but I have a very different memory of our childhood. Our parents weren’t perfect, but I feel that all of us were loved and supported, and we weren’t limited as to what we could achieve. Gender identity was not something that my parents considered in the ’80s and ’90s, and while gender roles were not challenged, they always fostered our individual interests. I played basketball, my brother baked, etc. I know I don’t know her pain, but I feel many of the specific examples that my sister cites could have been the normal higher expectations of an oldest sibling, or internal insecurities, not a result of my parents’ actions. I love my sister very much and try to be a supportive listener and source of unconditional love. She is going through a lot and has to figure things out on her own timeline, but I often think our parents can’t possibly begin to understand how she’s feeling, unless she tells them what is actually going on. I worry that in the meantime she will cause them a lot of pain. I know it’s not my place to interfere in their relationship or to disclose things that are hers to disclose, but is there anything I can do?

—Sibling Communication

Re: Non-binary sibling and framing our shared childhood.

  • I think that Sibling can make an extra effort to affirm to her parents that she appreciates them. Other than that, she needs to let everyone else work through this. 
  • I could be wrong, but since sibling is now stating they are non-binary, that could be part of the feelings.
    Maybe have sibling clarify to LW where the wrongdoings were, and that may help LW where they are coming from
  • Siblings can have very different experiences growing up in the same house, react to the same environment in very different ways, and memory is unreliable. 

    Support your sibling, encourage them to talk with your parents when they are ready, and support your parents when sibling does share. 
  • What Banana said was perfect. This is an example of how different people react differently to the same experience. My sister and I are very much like this. Because of that she and our mom have a very different relationship than Mom and I do. 
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