An Open Apology to Those Who Need to Hear It

I wrote this a while ago to my little brother. I asked if I could publish it because I realized that other people might need to hear it too, especially after reading articles like Vicky Beeching’s brave and heartbreaking interview this week.

And then I realized that more than any of that, there might be more people like me out there who need to say this but keep putting it off. Here’s your sign. It’s time to apologize for speaking before thinking and judging before loving.


Dearest Little Brother,

I’m sorry.

Sometimes words come out of my mouth and even as they are coming out I know that I will regret them. Sometimes my mouth works faster than my brain and words that I would never have thought I would say come out before I even know what they are.

I don’t even know if you remember (but I bet you do).

It was the day after Thanksgiving, finishing up a family dinner of turkey sandwich leftovers. I stood to clear the table, and you said, “Actually, I wanted to talk to you guys for a minute.”

I’ve never been one to believe in déjà vu or premonitions and I’m no prophet, but somewhere deep in my mind I knew what you were going to say.

And I reacted how I never thought I would.

Before you even said anything, before I even sat back down, before anyone had time to even think about what it was you could possibly want to say to us, I said, “Oh shit.”

You turned and looked at me like I was insane, like, “How could she know?” You probably thought our brother had already told me, that somehow I already knew (I didn’t). You said, “What?!” and I sat, quickly, head lowered, humiliated.

“Continue,” was all I could say.

I looked cautiously up into your eyes and you looked right back at me. And into my eyes, with our parents sitting right next to us, you said, “I’m gay.”

I knew it was coming.

If anyone had asked me the day before if I thought you were gay, I would have said of course not. I promise you the thought had never even crossed my mind, but the moment you said you needed to talk to us, I knew. I knew by your terrified expression and the dry mouth that seemed to have come out of nowhere. I knew by your history and your life and your love. I knew, and I said, “Oh shit.”

If someone had asked me the day before what I would do if you told me you were gay, I would have said that I would say, “Thanks for telling me, I love you.” It’s what I should have said, but it isn’t what came out of my mouth.

I am so sorry.

There’s probably a good, healthy, loving way to react when your brother tells your conservative Christian family that he’s gay, but I am not the model for that. I have felt guilt and shame about those two words every single day since you came out to us.

Every. Day.

Because what I should have said was, “I love you.”

What I should have said was, “This doesn’t change anything about my love for you.”

What I should have said was, “Thank you for telling me. I’m so happy you’re being yourself and you’re letting us be a part of that. I love who you are and I’d love to talk to you about this more but tonight let’s just hug because that was scary and you are so much braver than I am.”

That’s what I’ve tried to tell you every time we’ve talked since that night. I hope you’ve understood that. I think it’s what mom and dad meant too, with all their questions and fear that night. But I won’t speak for them, because clearly sometimes I get words wrong.

So from me, I just want to say that I’m so sorry, I’m so proud of you, and I love you so much and I love getting to know you better. What I said was a split-second exclamation that came out of the part of me that is afraid of change and afraid of conflict. I’m working on those parts because they don’t breed love well.

I hope that I am the worst reaction anyone ever has to you being yourself around them. I hope that the most hateful thing anyone ever says to you is, “Oh shit,” but I know that’s probably not how life will play out for you. I hope you’ll still come to me in those moments and let me hug you because I promise, I promise, I’ll never say those words about you again.

I love you. I’m proud of you. Thank you for forgiveness and grace that goes beyond what I deserve. And I’m so thankful that I get to be your sister.




Photo by Bethan, via flickr.

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  1. Radina Welton · · Reply

    Thank you, Rachel!!! For your courage, your honesty, your humility, and your love. So proud of you!

  2. Radina Welton · · Reply

    Thank you, Rachel!!! For your courage, honesty, humility, and Christ-like love. Proud of you!

  3. Radina Welton · · Reply

    Thought the first comment didn’t go through, so posted again

  4. I came across this post through a chain of comments on Jen Hatmaker’s blog and I’m so glad I did. In reading this, I feel like I am looking at somewhat of a mirror of myself five years ago. My parents had called a “family meeting” (which happened approximately NEVER) and both my sister and I knew a few months before the calling of this meeting that something was up, because our parents were acting funny and speaking strangely, but we weren’t sure what. My teenage brother told us, point-blank, almost in the same breath, that he was gay, that he’d been through counseling, and he no longer believed in God – at least not the condemning one in the Biblical account. While I don’t remember what I said, I know the honest version of my mental response must have been some version of “Oh Shit.” I knew I loved him regardless, but the world our family had known shattered in that moment, and a mourning process began. We would have to start from scratch. Five years later, we don’t have anything figured out, but we are a happier, healthier, more honest family than we’ve ever been. We all fully admit that though my brother’s coming out process was painful for all of us, having a gay son/brother has made us all better, more understanding, and more loving people.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story, Erika! I think our family would say the same thing, that we are more understanding and loving people because of this.

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