The following is an abbreviated form of an article that appeared in a Catholic paper some time back:
The August sun was shining through the apartment windows and my brother was lying face down on the floor. The arpeggios of Beethoven filled the bright room, but all I could think of was the strange mundanity of seeing Tom's battered sandals and grey jogging bottoms. Never mind the beauty of the day, it was the vulnerable ordinariness that finally made a Christian big sister cry.
It's now approaching 10 years since Tom told our parents he had found the man he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. I often half-forget the abnormality of it; Tom is simply a homosexual, in the same way as other people's brothers are heterosexuals.
It wasn't always so easy. When Tom first began going out with other men, I felt bafflement, frustration and even anger. Our mum has been a practising Catholic since I was at primary school, and our Protestant dad converted several years ago.
It was only when Tom, then 16, started coming in late on Saturday nights that our parents, expecting experimentation with drugs or girls and prepared to handle either in a loving, Christ-like fashion, gently asked where he had been. The revelation that he had been going to a gay bar threw them.
I dealt with it as a typically bolshy older sister, challenging Tom to justify himself. I didn't understand it, didn't want to, and felt it was all, well, incredibly disloyal. We had grown up pretty close, but Tom's choice sat stubbornly between us for several years. For mum and dad their only son's experimentation with sexuality was, I think, much harder. Tom moved out and found his way around a number of relationships. In the end, in 1998, aged 25, while living in London and teaching history at a secondary school, he rang home to tell our parents he had made up his mind to settle down with his partner.
Although they had been half expecting the news, it still shocked them. Mum was upset - she now feels embarrassed that she thought of the grandchildren Tom might have had. Dad was bewildered, coping by writing down all he could. They asked, gently as ever, for reasons, and Tom wrote long letters home that set out his reasons.
Mum and dad wept, talked, accepted what they couldn't at that time understand and in the end blessed him with furniture for his apartment. I, meanwhile, left rejected and unwilling to hear his explanations, all but cut him off.
What has helped us come to terms with Tom's decision has been the simple passing of time.
In the end, siblings choose a lifestyle, and Tom's is just odder than most. I don't exactly understand it, but I respect it.
EDIT: What do you think of the experience of this sister and her parents? Any other comments on their thinking and the article?