Dorien Rozing

It's all in the family

'I’d recommend it to anyone!'

"Homosexuality is in your genes." If you type this assertion into Google, you get an array of scholarly articles supporting the statement. You get roughly the same number of articles which claim the opposite is true. Another click with the mouse and you’re gifted a variety of "fun facts" about the "biological" side of homosexuality. Lesbians have longer ring fingers than heterosexual women; Gay men’s underarms smell differently; and women who smoke are more likely to have lesbian daughters.

In other words: there is still a lot unclear about the biology of homosexuality. While no distinctive ‘homo-gene’ has yet been found, there have been DNA sequences found which are significantly more prevalent in homosexuals than in heterosexuals. So it would not be weird that more than one person within a family could identify as LGBTQ (Lesbian/gay/trans/queer). 10 years ago, the author come out of the closet ; Her sister followed a few weeks later. “And what about my grandchildren?” Sorry mum. Six other brothers and sisters share their story:


Michel (32) and Angela (25) Otten

“You were sitting on the back of my bike, and I was biking us to a concert when you suddenly said that you were also gay”. Michel (32), remembers how his sister came out to him; her memory, however is slightly fuzzy. “Oh, really? Just like that?” “yeah”, says Michel. “I think I said something along the lines of ‘join the club’ and then we had to hurry because the concert was starting.

Both come from a small town in the south of the Netherlands. Michel paved the way for his sister by coming out to his family while in his twenties. Angela was thirteen at the time, and recognized something in her brother’s story. “When you came out, I’d known I was gay for quite a while, but I supressed it. ‘That’s impossible’ was my primary conviction.”

Michel went his own way after he came out: he traded his older home for one in Amsterdam, and there he spread his wings “Because of the age-gap, I was never really invested in my sister’s life. Consequently I also didn’t know she was gay or that she was struggling with it. I really didn’t see it coming.”

The expectations had already undergone some adjustments, so I was welcomed too!

Until that bike ride. “I just had to say it”, said Angela. Michel was the first to know. Their parents knew nothing at that point. “I pushed my sister to talk with our parents. I saw she was ready for it.” Did it help that Michel had already had a similar talk? “It wasn’t really any easier for me to come out after Michel did, but it may have been better for my parents. The expectations had already undergone some adjustments, so I was welcomed too!”

Michel has, in Angela’s eyes, overcome the largest hurdle by coming out to his parents first. “I could see that he struggled with it. But that might be what an older brother is for: being the first at everything. Our parents appreciated the fact that Michel had done the “work” first.” They reacted well, remembers Angela. “They asked our other brother if he might also be gay, just to check.”

Has their relationship changed? Both think; no. “We’ve always had a good relationship. If we stayed in that town we might have grown closer, but here in Amsterdam we’re both first and foremostly brother and sister, only then are we both gay.


Mirte (33) and Bente (29) van den Oosterkamp

The search for sexual identity began, for Bente and Mirte, at Anouk’s concerts. They’re seated at a café (both sipping cola, “just the regular one”) while they reminisce. “I went to all of Anouk’s concerts with Bente. I was around the age of 15. I could often be found on the Anouk-chat, and Bente had even briefly become a member of the fan club. In hindsight there were an immense amount of budding lesbians within the group of Anouk-fans; though I couldn’t really care less at the time. It wasn’t until around 21 where I began to explore that scene, and I decided to come out."

When Mirte got her first girlfriend, she told her parents and her sister. “I found it pretty difficult to hear, because I was just starting to question my own sexuality”, said Bente. “That wasn’t an easy process, and I though, for a while, that I just hadn’t come across the right boy.” Bente’s coming out also kept being delayed because of her parents. “I was really afraid that they would be disappointed that their second daughter also turned out to be gay. I kept thinking ‘Oh my god, what would my family think of this?!”

In hindsight these worries were completely unnecessary. Mirte: “My mom looked something up once in library about having multiple lesbian daughters, but that was mostly just out of curiosity. Our parents have always been supportive, and our grandparents always asked us if we wanted to bring along our girlfriends.”

I kept thinking Oh my god, what would my family think of this?!

The two sisters have lived together for years, and their shared interest in women has only strengthened that bond. “I found a lot of acceptance and understanding with Mirte. We went out together, watched the L-Word until we collapsed and we have an annual tradition of going to the Roze Filmdagen.” Another perk: they understand each other’s jokes. “Mirte thought it was priceless when I decided to move in with my former girlfriend rather quickly, and immediately adopted two cats. I was a walking stereotype.”

Both agree that there are mostly positive sides to the situation. “If Mirte wasn’t gay, then I’d always feel like the ugly duckling, or the odd one out in my family. Now we’re a majority!” It’s also helped for their parents that they were together. “It instigated conversation and made it “normal” for them. And it’s just more fun this way. I’d recommend it to anyone!”

Emma (26) and Linda (25) Birnie

The Birnie sisters also lived together, Just like Bente and Mirte; but this didn’t mean that they knew everything about each other. Emma: "When Linda said she was gay, it struck me as odd that I hadn’t seen it before. I always had the idea that I knew her better than anyone. But apparently that wasn’t at all the case."

I’m pretty sure I’m more lesbian than you are

Both sisters have a different experience when it comes to their sexuality. Linda: "It was more of a work in progress for me. I knew that I fell for women, but I kept those feelings at bay for a very long time. My sister just suddenly had a girlfriend." "Yep," says Emma. "I never really came out. I came back from an internship abroad and I had a girlfriend. That was that."

The news never really surprised Lina. “We always went to clubs together (the Trut, for example, in Amsterdam), and Emma brought girls home from there once or twice. "There wasn’t a label attached or anything. It just happened."


"I also think that it helped that the people we surrounded ourselves with never made a big deal out of that sort of thing", says Emma. “I played soccer, hung out a lot with boys, and was part of the ‘pottendispuut’ of the surf club D.E.R.M. When Linda then told me that she was also gay I thought, ‘huh. That’s not right. That’s what everyone keeps saying about me!’ I sort of just fell for someone and it never really mattered much if it was a boy or a girl. I was never picky.”

I always had the idea that I knew Linda better than anyone. But apparently that wasn’t at all the case

The sisters do differ on that point. "I’m pretty sure I’m more lesbian than you are", says Linda. Emma: "Yeah, you feel more lesbian, and you look at girls with Martijn [older brother] and you’re more involved in that scene… Though I did participate in a lesbian soccer tournament once" she adds. "That was also pretty gay."

Are the Bernie parents as relaxed as the sisters in this matter? "Yeah, I’d say so", says Emma. "Our mum became member of the COC (a Dutch organization supporting LGBTQ’s). Yesterday she showed us how she always walks around with the membership card in her wallet!"



Jesse (20) and Mike (20) Cornelissen

Jesse and his twin brother, Mike (20) grew up together in Twente. There isn’t an accent to be found – "people think I sound posh" – in all fairness, this trait is seen as somewhat of a self-ascribed victory. Both come from the same womb– "Alright, fine, Mike’s one minute older" – and they’re both gay; but that’s where the similarities more or less end.

Mike was the first to say he was gay. He was 12 when he went to his mother. Jesse heard it later and didn’t really think much of it. It was all good. He didn’t know that he himself was gay at that point. "it only really became an option when others began to fill in the blanks. Because Mike and I are twins, people began to wonder whether or not I was also gay. That makes you wonder too."


We’re not fishing in the same pond; which is rather practical

It took around five years before Jesse followed the footsteps of his brother. "I saw how hard it was at school for Mike. I wanted to save myself that misery." Jesse also found it difficult to tell his parents. "That would mean that they would have two gay sons all of a sudden: there go the grandchildren!" Mike wasn’t at all surprised. "It was pretty obvious that Jesse was also gay, when he came out I thought ‘well, finally'". "That I saw Mike struggling made me wait", added Jesse. "But in the end I was able to learn from him how you can best present yourself to the rest of the world."

Their sexuality has changed their relationship, they think. Even more so now that they’ve both moved out. "We’re a bit calmer and less bitchy towards each other" says Jesse. It also helps that they don’t both fall for the same sort of men. "We’re not fishing in the same pond; which is rather practical."

I’ve seen you on Tinder once. I think I liked you, but you didn’t like me back

"Jesse goes for pretty much the exact opposite of what I like in a boy”, says Mike while he makes a face. "He falls for large, hairy chested, and older". "Yeah, and you go for boys that are barely old enough to pass for legal", Jesse snaps back.

The brothers have found their own paths In the realm of dating. "I didn’t have to introduce Jesse to Grindr or Tinder; he figured that out on his own." Location plays an important role in both apps, and this led to some rather comical situations. "I’ve seen you on Tinder once", said Mike. "I think I liked you, but you didn’t like me back." Jesse: "Of course not! That would’ve been a bit gross don’t you think?!"

"I also think we got each other’s discards", adds Mike. "Simply put there aren’t that many people active on Grindr in Twente, so there were a few times when I dated someone who had dated Jesse before me." Mike thought it was funny; Jesse didn’t as much. "I was completely over that person!"


Bitchy or otherwise, the two brothers are happy with one another. "As twins you naturally have a good bond. We understand each other very well. And because we also both happen to by gay, we understand each other even better."





Dorien Rozing