I remember telling my twin sister Emily that I was gay. Only, I didn’t say that. Instead, I referred to an article I had recently read in a magazine called ‘I’m in love with my best friend’ and tried to piece together the story of my then-best friend and I falling in love.
The first thing Emily said was ‘Does she know?’ And I was forced to start again. ‘She loves me. I love her. We are in love. I am a lesbian.’
To this day, it remains one of the most difficult things I have ever had to tell Emily. I was 18 and living in a small village where I felt there were certain expectations of me. Coming out as gay is difficult whoever you are, but, after admitting it to yourself (unfortunately that’s what we still do as the minority – admit it to ourselves), having to admit it to your identical twin is almost more difficult.
In the process, here’s what I learnt. About myself and my sister.
You will Google ‘How do I know if I am gay?’
Literally, I did this. I can’t remember how young I was when I realised that I admired the women I saw on screen, in magazines and in life far more than I admired the men. And this admiration went beyond the usual ‘I want to be like that’. I didn’t want to be like these women – I wanted them. When it finally dawned on me that I had developed a crush on a girl in school – cue the usual sweaty palms, butterflies and stolen glances – I felt a twinge in my gut as I found myself thinking, ‘Shit, I am turning into a lesbian, aren’t I?’ It was a resigned acceptance rather than a fearful realisation, but nonetheless I Googled, ‘How do I know if I am gay?’ to, well, check. Four years and a couple of girl crushes later, I fell in love with my first girlfriend.
Keeping secrets from your twin sister is near impossible. Especially when you know this shouldn’t be one
My girlfriend and I kept our relationship secret for almost a year. Neither of us were ready to ‘come out’, and so in love were we that we believed our secret was beautiful and strong enough to make us ecstatically happy forever. But it soon became difficult to answer the inevitable ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’ question that arose so much more often than I ever thought it would. And my sister soon realised that I had a secret. Not only did it cause an unspoken rift between us, but also led to some huge rows and a shed load of tears. And, ultimately, while I had half-admitted to myself that I was gay, not admitting it to my sister – the person I was closer to than anyone else in the world – made it feel like it wasn’t real. I felt alone and increasingly unhappy.
Nonetheless, it will be the hardest thing you ever tell her
I still remember how my cheeks burned and my chest pounded on the night I decided I’d tell my identical twin sister that I had been in a lesbian relationship for a year. I tripped over my words and fumbled for an eloquent way of saying it. When it was all finally out I became fearful of the long silences between her rather hesitant questions. But then it dawned on me that she wasn’t shocked, disappointed or in any way judgmental of my revelation as I feared she would be.
But it will make your bond even stronger
With the advantage of hindsight, it is almost laughable to think my sister would have ever flinched at the news I was gay. She was inevitably supportive, enthusiastic and, above all, excited by this wonderful news I had. I was in love and happy, and to be able to share that with my twin was fantastic.
You will feel more yourself than ever
Once I had told Emily, I slowly revealed my secret to friends and family. Their responses ranged from, ‘That makes sense,’ to the more patronising ‘Oh. I didn’t expect that... but it’s really cool!’ and some, um, less encouraging. But the knowledge that those closest to me, especially Emily, know and care gives me an inner (and outer) confidence that keeps my head above any choppy waves of homophobia, sneery remark-making or disapproving strangers I come across.
You may disprove both genetic and environmental theories around being gay
When you are a gay identical twin, it gives you an invincible feeling that you can disprove theories that being gay is a) the product of your upbringing, and b) a genetic ‘disorder’. Emily and I grew up in a beautiful rural area with access to all the play, freedom and open-minded thought we wanted. And, although monozygotic twins can display some different characteristics from one another, they are both part and parcel of the same genetic code, so any arguments that lie along gayness-as-innate-illness surely don’t apply. Still, old-fashion (and ridiculous) as they may be, these arguments do still get bandied about. So it’s nice to be living proof that they’re not true.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.