Dear Straight Talk: I’m 16 with a stepsister the same age. We share a room during visitations and have become good friends. She has confided that she is lesbian and is having gay sex with a gay friend. She said she is not ready to come out, but needed to talk to someone.
She said she knows I’m straight and will not try anything sexual with me, so it wouldn’t be a problem for us to continue sharing a room. I will keep her confidence, of course, and I believe her when she says she won’t do anything sexual.
The quandary is that I now feel very uncomfortable undressing in front of her. I thought about changing in the bathroom, but that would be so unusual, I’m afraid my mom will ask about it. I tell myself I shouldn’t worry since she’s seen me nude for two years and it never bothered me, and she is still the same person. What can I do? — Stepsister, Vacaville
Molly, 21, Berkeley: I can’t imagine she is attracted to someone she considers a sister, but if you aren’t comfortable and need to change elsewhere, I urge you to talk to her first! She needs to know you are still OK with her and that this doesn’t change your relationship. Suddenly shifting your behavior without communication will make her feel really bad, right when she needs your support.
Christina, 20, Marysville: You are correct: She is still the same person and it wasn’t a problem before. Nonetheless, nudity is only appropriate if you are comfortable. Maybe try small steps like changing when she is out of the room. Make sure to handle it politely and keep her feelings in mind.
Brennan, 19, Colorado Springs, Colo.: Just be honest. The last thing your stepsister wants is to make you uncomfortable. Sit down and tell her what’s happening for you.
Nicole, 23, Santa Rosa: Do what feels comfortable for you. Be honest with your sister and explain that, under the circumstances, you would feel best if she looked away or stepped outside. If you change in the bathroom and your mom asks about it, just tell her you’re growing up and like changing alone.
Brandon, 21, Mapleton, Maine: From your letter, she has never made a move on you. You even say you believe her when she says she won’t. If you run from her, you are on the same backward-moving boat as many other heterosexuals in America who are unreasonably terrified of their openly gay friends “making a move.” I have a gay friend who I kept changing in front of during sleepovers, sports, etc. Sadly, everyone else ran away. It definitely hurts when five boys run elsewhere to change because they’re afraid of changing in front of you. He never made a move on me, and we’re still friends today. Be reasonable. Close your eyes and put yourself into her shoes and see if this unwarranted segregation feels right. If it does, you didn’t think hard enough; if it doesn’t, then do the right thing.
Dear Stepsister: Knowing the courage it took for your stepsister (and good friend) to confide in you, I embrace the advice from Molly and Brandon. To suddenly change your behavior will surely be hurtful — at a very difficult time. On the other hand, nobody should feel pressured to undress in an uncomfortable setting. You own intuition is always better than outside advice. The question is, how do you tell intuition from unwarranted paranoia? This is where you have to use discernment. Please give her the benefit of the doubt unless there is a real reason not to.
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