Wedding Woes

How do I tell my sister she's got the 'allyship' all wrong?

Dear Prudence,

I’m a queer woman with a conservative family, apart from my siblings. My sister is fairly progressive and tries to be a good queer ally, although she doesn’t always know how to do it. She never asks me for my input but speaks from a place of assumed knowledge. In the past few years, as her social awareness has increased, she’s taken to venting to me about our family and their conservative views. This often includes sending me screenshots of the racist and homophobic things our mom says, for example. I don’t mind her processing the racist stuff with me, and while part of me wants to know the homophobic things my mom says to others (my mom would never say such things directly to me), the other part feels super uncomfortable to have to see it.

Her relaying these homophobic messages from my mother (or aunt or grandmother) that weren’t meant for my ears feels at best like she thinks we’re equally affected by their prejudice (we’re not) and at worst like she wants to incite my hatred of those people. If she phrased it in a way that conveyed sympathy and recognized the fact that she’s telling me that my family hates me, I wouldn’t be questioning this. But she uses casual language that she expects me to easily digest and the purpose of which seems to be to alleviate her annoyance. On top of this, she maintains close relationships with these same people, something that I feel has been taken away from me given what I now know about how they view me. Can you help me suss out these feelings? I don’t want to be blind to the homophobia of those close to me, but I also don’t want my sister treating that homophobia as gossip. Second, am I allowed to feel betrayed by her continued closeness with our homophobic family, while I now feel that because of information she gave me I no longer have that option?

—Would-Be Ally Sister

Re: How do I tell my sister she's got the 'allyship' all wrong?

  • I wonder if LW's sister is mentioning it to LW to get a sense of what to say - but not saying it?
    Sister should stop and LW should tell her to stop - even if LW wants to be nice about it "I get they're offensive but please stop showing me. I know how *family member* is and I feel uncomfortable with you sending it to me"

    That was LW opens convo about why they're uncomfortable and sister can learn what to respond to family with.
  • Sorry it's huge and bolded (I copied it).  But this letter reminds me of the wisdom of this quote:

    “It takes your enemy and your friend, working together, to hurt you to the heart: the one to slander you and the other to get the news to you.”

    ― Mark Twain
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
  • Tell your sister how this makes you feel. Tell her it’s hurtful to be surprise with this vitriol and that surprise and the content are hard for you. If sister really wants to be an ally she needs to be open to hearing how the person is she most trying to ally with needs her to help. 
  • How is your sister supposed to know this if you don’t tell her? She clearly loves you, she is trying, and she’s getting it wrong. So tell her, and give her a chance to do better!
  • VarunaTTVarunaTT member
    Knottie Warrior 10000 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    edited August 2019
    This is very similar to when friends where screenshotting the shit my ex and his mother were posting about me on his FB and sending it to me.  They were doing it with the best of intentions, but I finally had to ask them to stop it.  Especially once the divorce was finalized.  To this day, it's been hard for me to let go of some of the nastiness and I'm pretty sure I'd have to immediately remove myself from any room my former MIL was in, b/c the inner pull to physical violence would be immense.

    So, I get where LW is coming from, is what all of that means to say.  And IDK where I would fall, TBH.  I think I would talk to sis and draw some boundaries about what the intent of those screenshots are.  If it's just to share and alleviate her annoyance, I'm not interested in being a sounding/gossip board for something so intimate to my identity.  If it's to figure out a way to help sis with changing those people's minds, I'd probably help with that as long as I could or send her to sources that could take that burden from me; I believe LW is within their rights to not want to do those things either.

    Family dynamics are hard.  I'm incredibly lucky that my family supports me as far as I know, at least to my face.  And honestly, I believe them.  When my great uncles/aunts where here, they were very kind to K and included K in all of our conversations, so I believe they were really making an attempt.  They could've been shit talking behind my back though, IDK.  If I did honestly know they were shit talking, I would remove myself, but I wouldn't expect my grandparents to (reminder of my family dynamics, raised by my grandparents).  I think that really has to be left up to each individual and you have to work with each individual how you can.  If LW wants to cut off all contact with all of their family, I totally get it and LW can go pick their own family now.  If they want to try and work with sis, again, I think discussing boundaries of how sis and LW have to work together for family is important.
  • In regards to feeling betrayed because the sister still spends time with the family that says such things ... I'm in a situation where one sibling has disowned another.  Things were said that shouldn't have been said.  I still maintain contact with both, and while I know one sibling probably feels betrayed that I still associate with everyone (ironically the one who said the things that shouldn't have been said), you are allowed to feel the feels but you can't tell someone who to associate with.  And you can decide who you want to associate with in the end. 

    Sharing horrible things that they have said though ... no.  Why spread the pain?  Usually I just shut it down and stand up for the person.  You both know I still talk to everyone, why trash talk them to me?   So it usually works out that I have no horrible gossip to share in the end.  The fact that LW's sister still has this information and the family is still sharing it with her makes me think that the sister isn't standing up for LW.

  • How is your sister supposed to know this if you don’t tell her? She clearly loves you, she is trying, and she’s getting it wrong. So tell her, and give her a chance to do better!
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