My younger sister is getting married this autumn. I am a lesbian, living with my partner. We have been together for a decade. My sister and my parents know my partner well but no one else in the family knows that I am a lesbian. My parents hadn’t accepted our relationship until last Christmas when they invited us for New Year’s Day dinner. I was hoping my sister would invite us both to the wedding but she didn’t – only me. My parents explained that they don’t want a scandal at the wedding and that it’s not a good place to come out as it is my sister’s special day and I will spoil it.
I suggested telling the family that I am a lesbian before the wedding, but they said that will still destroy the wedding (my family is quite conservative and there might be a lot of nasty comments). Later when I spoke to my sister about it she was very angry that I have even mentioned the subject, telling me that this is her day and that the family will be shocked. The conversation was very unpleasant and she hung up on me.
I am quite angry with my sister and I don’t know if I should go to her wedding reception. Also, she asked me to be her witness – should I decline? I am in my early 30s and pretty tired of pretending I’m single and attending family functions alone. I would be very grateful for your advice.
I have a golden rule about weddings: the bride and groom have the absolute right to invite whom they wish and impose whatever sanctions they wish (eg no children, all guests to be dressed in orange, etc). But guests have the absolute right to decline invitations. So, obviously you can choose not to go. But I think that would be a shame. Presumably, you get on with your sister and it would be nice to share her day.
You’ve been with your partner for 10 years and yet you’ve told no one else in the wider family that you’re a lesbian, and I wonder why. Have you chosen not to say something? Has this been imposed on you? If so, why have you chosen to keep it quiet?
Because whatever reasons you have, these are either still relevant (if they ever were) or else you can wait just a bit longer.
I get how utterly annoying it is to not have your partner (of whatever sex) invited to a huge family function. It’s not fair is it? I’d love it if we lived in a world where sexuality wasn’t contentious. But, as you see, that’s not the reality.
If this sounds harsh, I really don’t intend it to be, but I think you need to work out what’s really bugging you because I want you to get the result you want and not come out as the bad person, which you risk doing if you handle this with a hot head.
Sure, it’s pretty crap that for 10 years you’ve not been able to be yourself or have your partner included at family occasions. It’d be great if you could have sorted this out before (as a family, not just you). It looks like your family is getting their heads round the idea, viz you and your partner being invited round for dinner at New Year. Great, that’s progress. Let’s work on that and not go backwards.
I think that of course you should go to the wedding and the reception and be a witness. Have fun and be yourself when you are there. Don’t deny who you are but don’t purposely take the attention away from your sister either – that’s just good manners.
After the wedding is the time to sit down and say to everyone, “This is who I am and I would like my partner to be included in family events, just like your partners are.” Then you decide on the course of action.
I do wonder how your sister and you got on before? You said your parents didn’t accept your relationship, but it sounds like your sister did? I think it would be unfair to take this out on your sister if that is so. If there is any other resentment there, perhaps you need to have a look at it and make sure you tackle the right issue. I’m wondering if a little bit of you isn’t angry at yourself for not having come out to the family before.
When your sister’s wedding is done and dusted and you have, hopefully, had a great time, perhaps you might like to plan your own party (party, not necessarily a wedding) to introduce your partner to the family? Then, it’s your rules.
This column first appeared in The Guardian Family section, on 11 July 2014.