1. It shows you – in a very intense way – the power of embracing who you are.
Chances are your sibling did not have an easy time coming out, even if you have the most understanding family in the entire world. No matter how progressive the world is getting, coming out still essentially means having to ‘announce’ to everyone in your world that you are different from the majority of them in a large way. Watching a sibling go through this shows you how important it is to be open, proud, and unapologetic about exactly who you are.
2. It reminds you that everyone is struggling with something.
My older sister was third in her high school class, took more A.P. classes than I thought was humanly possible, and graduated from Vanderbilt with an insanely high GPA. When I think back to how people viewed her before she came out in her early twenties, they were always commenting on how smart and impressive she was (and still is). But internally, she spent years struggling with an identity that was initially very emotionally traumatizing for her. When your sibling comes out to you, it hits you in a very hard way that everyone you know, even those you least expect, are often suffering in a way you could never even imagine.
3. You learn not to get so defensive and aggressive about things you don’t understand.
We’re a world of hotheads, especially now that social media is a key factor in our lives. When someone believes something or does something that is different from us, human nature makes us want to react with anger and aggression, sometimes even violence. But having an LGBT sibling teaches you that everyone has a story, and that the only way we are going to grow as people is if we start with compassion.
4. You get a strong reminder that nobody is exactly like you.
Your sibling grew up with the same religious and socio-economic background as you, and unless adoption was involved, you share the same DNA – same race, same ethnicity, many physical similarities, etc. And still, they are so, so different from you in so many ways. It’s a beautiful lesson that no person is ever going to feel, think, and behave exactly like you.
5. You better understand the ways in which you are privileged.
I don’t think anything is better for the human soul than having friends and loved ones from all sorts of diverse backgrounds – to remind you that the world will never be homogenous, nor should it be. An LGBT sibling teaches you that the things that come easy to you do not always come easy to other people – no anxiety about bringing your partner to the office holiday party for the first time, no worries about whether or not all your relatives will come to and support your wedding, no mistreatment from homophobic people, etc.
6. It reinforces that you should never judge a book by its cover.
You will never, ever have the ability to look at a person and know exactly what they’ve been through and exactly how their world works.
7. You learn what ‘family’ actually means.
After my sister came out to everyone in my immediate family, it was a while before the rest of our relatives and social circles knew. And oddly enough, it brought us closer, probably because my family’s way of dealing with any slightly difficult situation is to use inappropriate humor. I know that our situation was more like the exception than the rule. But whether your family embraced your sibling or rejected them, you learn the definition of a real family: those people who, while not always blood-related, loved your sibling unconditionally and supported them for exactly who they are.
8. It makes you more aware of the word choices you make.
I used to ask females if they had a boyfriend and males if they had a girlfriend, because I was a female, and I liked males, and I forgot that that’s not how it works for everyone. But after my sister came out to me, it was a much-needed reminder that you should be very conscious about what you say, in all situations. Some people are not heterosexual. Some people suffer from depression. Some people’s parents are deceased. Some people don’t feel comfortable in the body that they were born into. You shouldn’t walk around on egg shells, but you should pay more attention to the things you say and what they could imply.
9. You have a close relationship with someone who is wise beyond their years.
Your sibling probably started feeling like they were a little different from their peers at a very young age. And they probably kept a lot of their fear, anxiety, (sometimes) self-loathing, depression, and questions to themselves. They experienced stress and worry that many people don’t encounter until adulthood. You have the timeless advice, help, and wisdom of a young soul in an instant – through a text, phone call, or a conversation at Mom’s house.
10. It broadens your view of exactly what love means.
As a child, love is a couple of Disney characters who fall for each other within five minutes of meeting. In real life, you’ve learned – much from the help of your sibling – that real love is about courage, honesty, struggle, difficult choices, acceptance, trust, and truth.