Heterosexual Chinese Americans’ Experiences of Their Lesbian and Gay Sibling’s Coming Out

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Abstract

This qualitative study explored the experiences of second-generation heterosexual Chinese and Taiwanese Americans who have gay biological siblings. Participants had been aware of their gay sibling’s sexual orientation for over 2 years. Ten participants, 3 Chinese Americans and 7 Taiwanese Americans, completed demographic questionnaires and in-depth, semistructured interviews. Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed, and analyzed using grounded theory methodology. The authors explored the participants’ overall experience in relation to their gay sibling’s coming out, how their sibling and family relationships evolved over time, and how traditional Asian values were related to their worldview and relationships to family members over time. Five major themes emerged: (a) various personal reactions to finding out about their gay sibling, (b) intrapersonal changes of heterosexual individual who has a gay sibling, (c) evolving sibling relationship between heterosexual and gay sibling, (d) evolving family relationships following disclosure, and (e) interplay of culture and lesbian and gay sexual orientation following discovery of gay sibling’s sexual orientation. The results of the interviews highlighted the importance of sibling relationships to the coming out process for gay siblings. Siblings typically bonded over the gay sibling’s sexual orientation disclosure, became more self-reflective and self-aware, and became more politically active. Participants’ struggles in accepting their gay sibling’s sexual orientation revolved around conflicts between lesbian and gay sexual orientation and their ethnic cultural values, family values, and faith. Implications for future research are presented.

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