I’m an early 30s gay woman. My partner and I have been together about a year, committed for about the past six months, and we are now talking about starting a family of our own. My issue is with my younger sister.

For some background: we were raised in a chaotic and abusive household. I made it my mission to protect my sister as best as I could, trying to make sure things that happened to me never happened to her, and that she would always have what I never did, i.e. someone she can rely on, someone who is stable and mentally healthy, and who gives her unconditional love. My sister is married, a military wife, and has two kids. I have always been there when she needed me, even to the point of taking family leave a few times the past few years to offer her help in times of need. I have done this out of genuine love for her.

When I mentioned the topic of wanting to have kids to my sister a year ago, she had an explosive reaction. At that time, I was single and she railed against single motherhood, saying it would be selfish of me to bring kids into a single parent situation. She said it “didn’t make much sense,” that I was “skipping steps,” and that I should focus on finding a partner first and only then think about having kids. She even said I should seek therapy to figure out “what was wrong” with me and why I hadn’t had a long-term committed relationship yet. At that time, I expressed how this was a really harsh reaction, judgmental and mean, and re-affirmed that there was nothing wrong with me for being single. That I respected her perspective but had a different one and that it’s okay to have different perspectives. Her response was that she's a mother so has experiences I do not, that watching her kids for a few weeks or months at a time is “not the same” as being a mother, and that I really have no clue what I am getting myself into. She has always given “tough love,” she insisted, she was only expressing her concerns because she wanted me to be happy.

After this conversation, I haven’t brought up the topic of having a baby to her again. Recently she started talking about her plans to have a third kid. I debated, but decided to tell her we are planning to start trying in the next few months too, sharing my concerns that we might not get pregnant right away and the logistics of artificial insemination are a lot. At first she asked why we didn’t consider adopting. I said we are considering it too, but wanted to try to get pregnant first because I’ve always wanted to have the experience. This led down a spiraling rabbit hole.

She is saying that I’ve never mentioned having kids to her before last year and that our whole relationship is a “sham” because if this has really been a dream for my life I would have mentioned it before last year. To be fair, I guess we haven’t had an explicit conversation about it but having a family (with or without a partner) has always been a given in my mind that I honestly didn’t even see a reason to have a conversation about it before. I apologized to her for not making it clearer, that I find it difficult to be vulnerable with her because she can be very critical and mean. This has led to an epic-level drama fest, complete with long rambling emails from her about all the times I could have brought up the topic of wanting kids and how hurt she is by this, even saying that I didn’t act “very excited” about her plans for a third kid and she is really hurt by that. In none of this has she even acknowledged trying to see my POV, which I brought up and she said, “Yeah, you’re right. I don’t get your perspective because it makes no sense to me to hide a life goal from your sister.” I’ve re-affirmed my love for her and desire to work forward and heal from this, but it takes two to do that. She insists I explain why I didn’t bring up my desire for a family during one of the fifteen different scenarios she laid out in her email, which I haven’t responded to.

My girlfriend thinks this is surfacing underlying homophobia, my cousin thinks it is residuals from our abusive childhood. I don’t know what to think, welcome your thoughts.

Seeking Insights Surrounding This Enormous Rupture

What I think can be summed up in three words: fuck your sister. And fuck her "tough love!" bullshit. This isn't love, tough or otherwise, it's unhinged assholery masquerading as concern. And fuck this bullshit about how you did something wrong by not mentioning your desire to have kids until, you know, you mentioned your desire to have kids—it doesn't matter whether being a mom was a longstanding dream of yours or something that only occurred to you last week.

You haven't done anything wrong, SISTER, and your sister is acting like a lunatic.

As for why she's behaving this way, well, we could speculate. It could be homophobia. Or it could be her identity is so wrapped up with being the "mom" in your generation of kids that she can't share the role with you. Or it could be that she doesn’t want you to move out of your caretaker role—your role as her caretaker—and some part of her reptile brain perceives your becoming a mother as a threat to her own safety. Your girlfriend's and cousin's guesses are as good as mine, SISTER.

But even if we managed to guess correctly and you could confront your sister with the real reason she's acting like a monster, SISTER, it's unlikely to change anything. It's not like saying, "Hey, this is really about your homophobia/your identification with the mom role/your lingering damage from our chaotic childhood," is going to open her eyes and get you the apology you deserve. Even we managed to come up with the right answer here, SISTER, your sister is almost certain to react defensively and double down on her attacks.

Here are only things we know for sure: 1. your sister is being cruel and selfish and irrational and that’s unacceptable, 2. you don’t need her permission to have a child on your own, with your partner, or with the USC men's swim team, and 3. your sister isn't entitled to your time or your attention. You did right by her when she was a child and good on you for that. But if your sister can’t treat you with kindness and respect as an adult, SISTER, she doesn’t get to be a part of your life. She doesn't get to abuse you. Period.


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