There are multiple factors to our relationship. As an immigrant family, my parents relied on me to take care of my younger siblings. I became the “third parent” to my younger siblings. My family also sees me as the “successful” one while my brother is the “black sheep,” which leads to unfair comparisons between the both of us.
My brother also struggles with many mental issues. His trans identity, his extreme anxiety, and his severe depression make it difficult to connect to him. When I try to talk to him, he immediately reacts very defensively. Sometimes he overreacts to the point of screaming and running away from me. During college, he also attempted suicide. He now goes to therapy for his issues. But because of these mental issues, my brother and I are never on the same wavelength, and I feel that I’m always the “bad guy” in his mind. It’s impossible for me to have a decent conversation with him without arguing soon afterwards.
Regardless, he might need someone to be there with him during his top surgery to take care of the logistics. I care about him enough to at least try and put in the effort, but I’m honestly lost on what I should do. I donated money to his surgery, but do you think I will make things worse if I ask him about being there for him? Given our not-so-perfect relationship, a part of me is unsure if I should even offer to be there. I live a few hours away and my parents are there, so he’s not completely alone. While I’m not the greatest sister in the world, I just want to do the right thing for my brother whether that means I should be there or not. — Trying to Support My Trans Brother
There are lots of ways you can support someone without compromising your boundaries. You’ve already shown support by donating to your brother’s surgery fund. You could also send a small care package, call before and after the surgery to wish him well, and ask your parents (or whoever will be immediately caring for him) if there’s any support they need. I would not offer to be there, especially since: it would require traveling on your part (and missing work or school, maybe?); you say it’s “impossible” for you and your brother to have a conversation without arguing; there are already unfair comparisons between you and your brother (which, I think, would only be highlighted during a surgical step in his sex reassignment process); and you both reject your “third parent” role in his life.
Stepping in as a caregiver while he recovers from major surgery could have some benefits to your relationship, but given your history and the dynamic between you, it’s more likely that this role as caregiver while he’s physically vulnerable will further complicate your relationship. I’d avoid it. Lend your support from a distance and be grateful there is (hopefully) someone else in his life who can provide the physical support he’ll temporarily need post-surgery.
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