My 18-year-old sister recently told me that she was gay. Not only that, but she was also in a relationship with a girl whom we all thought was her best friend. And to make matters even worse, she said she was not sure she felt Muslim anymore.
Obviously, I was shocked. But I love my sister; I have practically raised her since she was little. So I listened patiently (she has a history of mental health/anxiety/self-harm issues) and I told her that, while I did not agree with her life choice, I loved her no matter what. I feel that the worst thing I could have done at that time is to reject her. I did not even go down the ‘it is un-Islamic’ road—she already knows that, and she is struggling with it.
Now, we have long conversations about how/if Islam fits into her life. I know I cannot force her to remain in the faith if she does not want to, but I feel so lost myself that I am running out of things to say.
I guess I am not asking if her being gay is ‘halal’, but rather looking for advice on how to deal with a loved one going through something like this. She has obviously gone through hell and back alone, and now finally she feels like she can confide in someone about ‘who she really is.’ Given her background of poor mental health, I am loathe to do or say anything that could tip her balance the wrong way. I just do not know how to support her, and if in doing so I am going against my own beliefs in the process. Her well-being is the most important thing to me right now.
It sounds like maintaining a positive relationship with your younger sister is very important to you. Her identification as being gay and questioning the role of Islam in her life further confirms for you the importance of maintaining a positive relationship with her. You have been able to approach her with compassion and empathy but you also question whether this challenges your own personal beliefs.
By maintaining open communication with your sister, you are modeling empathy and understanding for her struggle. By loving her, you also realize that you cannot change her, but you can be there for her if/when she has concerns or questions. If you feel that she respects your boundaries and does not impose her choices on you, then you are engaging in a mutually respectful relationship. Maintaining open communication with her does not mean you accept what she is doing, but rather that you have a loving heart towards her as your sister, and do not wish to break the bond of a family relationship.
VMCounselors was a collaborative advice column produced by two previous website authors, Amal Killawi, a Clinical Social Worker with a specialization in mental health and marriage education, and Munira Lekovic Ezzeldine, a Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in premarital counseling. Please note that our counselors are not religious scholars and will not issue religious rulings.
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