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Here’s what happens when you come out to your identical twin sister

Here’s what happens when you come out to your identical twin sister

Rosie and Emily Pentreath gay identical twins

You’ve shared everything from the moment you were conceived: so what happens when one of you is hiding something?

When 24-year-old journalist Rosie Pentreath was a teenager, her identical twin sister Emily suspected there might be something she wasn’t sharing – until Rosie explained she’d been in a secret lesbian relationship with her best friend.

We caught up with the pair to find out a little more about what it’s like to come out to your sister – and why they think being gay can’t be explained away with genetics.

When did you first realise you might be gay?

Rosie: The moment I remember first thinking I might be gay was one evening when my family and I were picking out a DVD to watch together. I was about 15 and it occurred to me, quite suddenly, that for a while I had been deciding on films according to how attractive the women in them were, rather than how attractive the men were.

You know how it is when you’re that age – who cares about the plot, as long as there are abs?! Anyway, I think the film I put forward that night was What Lies Beneath, not for its quality plot of course, but for Michelle Pfeiffer… Who wouldn’t?

How did you come out to Emily?

Rosie: I still remember coming out to her like it was yesterday! ELLE magazine had published an article called ‘I’m in love with my best friend’, or something like that. It was all about closer-than-close same-sex friends who had ended falling in love.

One night I plucked up courage and took the article out and said, ‘this explains everything.’ She thought I was infatuated with my best friend and I had to tell her that we’d been in a relationship secretly for a few months.

Emily, how did you feel when Rosie came out to you?

Emily: I knew Rosie had something important to tell me as it was clear there was a secret growing between us and as the closest of twins this had never really happened before.

When she came out I remember my reaction was mostly one of curiosity about her first lesbian relationship; I wanted to know how it had happened, how long it had been going on: I just wanted to be filled in on everything about my sister’s new love life!

I think the overwhelming feeling for me was one of happiness that my twin had felt able to share this with me and relief that there was no longer a secret between us and our close relationship was restored. I felt lucky to now be able to support her in this.

Rosie: She was amazing. I mean, it was silly to think she wouldn’t be, but I was keeping it secret then and she was the first person I told.

Just after I told her, she asked a few questions, but I think for her it was as if the pieces of a puzzle had suddenly slotted into place. Anything we had had differences about or that she felt I was being cagey about vanished and we were closer than ever.

I soon came out to my friends and since graduating from university (in 2012) I have tried to be out to everyone, even at work and things. In that respect, she is really supportive and if anyone she meets makes a questionable comment about being gay, she’s pretty quick to correct them apparently!

I feel lucky to have the love and support I have.

What did your parents say when you told them?

Rosie: My mum said ‘I knew all along.’ Which annoyed me at the time, but I was of an age when anything Mum said got on my nerves! Also, I have always had long hair and feminine clothes and, although I don’t believe stereotyping is right at all, never resembled a more butch lesbian.

Looking back, I am not surprised she had an inkling about the relationship I had tried to keep secret for nearly four years – it was quite obvious! I was more nervous about telling my Dad, but he is wonderfully cool about the whole thing too. Just the other day he said, ‘Rosie. I can’t believe you ever thought I would have minded.’

They are brilliantly nonplussed about the whole thing, which is just what you want really.

Emily: Honestly, I think we’re lucky to be living in a time of greater equality where, for most people the idea that someone is gay or transgender or bisexual doesn’t merit a huge response.

When I mention my twin is gay, aside from the odd immature testosterone-filled remark about threesomes and sister orgies, people tend to neither have a positive or negative reaction. I feel most people have the same reaction they would if I were telling them my twin was straight or loved music and camping or enjoyed Indian food!

I personally think this shows how far society has come in terms of respecting equality and embracing and celebrating people’s individuality.

People say you’re ‘born this way’, and being gay is part of your DNA. Does that make you feel weird, as identical twins?

Rosie: Yes, it does. Emily and I are identical twins, which means our DNA is an exact match – the fact that one of us is gay and the other is straight blows the ‘gay gene’ argument clean out the water.

It’s funny, people don’t say ‘you’re born fancying tanned men, let’s do a test’ or ‘it’s in your genetics to fancy ginger haired men, that’s why you married Mike!’ so I don’t know why the DNA argument has held up for so long for gay people.

For you as a woman, it might just be that a woman is your type as much as a dark-haired tall guy is someone else’s type. The DNA argument makes being gay sound like something you’re trying to explain away, like it’s an impairment.

Now that laws are being passed and being gay is becoming more and more normalised, I think people will stop trying to explain it away and will start treating it like we do any heterosexual relationship.

Do you have any advice for others who might think their sibling is gay, but hasn’t come out yet?

Emily: My main advice would be: don’t push anything. When they’re ready, they’ll tell you.

The most you can do is make sure they know they have your full support and confidence in all areas of life, and this will create a foundation of trust on which they feel safe to share anything with you.