Debby Zutant, 50, got more than she expected when she found her long-lost brother.
Here, Debby, tells the story in her own words.
Seeing my doctor for a routine check-up, I waited for the dreaded question that I knew was coming.
‘What’s your family history like?’ he asked. I sighed, thinking of the complicated story.
Adopted at three weeks old, my birth parents – John and Mary – were just 15 when they’d fallen pregnant with me. And due to my mum’s strict Catholic upbringing, she wasn’t allowed to raise me.
I had an incredible childhood with the lovely couple who’d adopted me, along with my adoptive brother. But despite having a loving family, I couldn’t help thinking there was something missing. So, when I was 35, I hired a private investigator to find my birth family.
After six months they were successful and amazingly, my parents were happy to meet me. Seeing my birth mum, she pulled me into a big hug. And when I met my dad, he retrieved a grainy photo from his wallet. It was me as a baby.
‘I’ve carried this since the day you were born,’ he said.
He also told me I had a half-brother called Joe, from his second marriage.
Around a year later, I was at a family party when my uncle introduced me to Joe. Locking eyes with him, the world seemed to stop. ‘Nice to meet you,’ he beamed.
At that, a strange feeling washed over me. It wasn’t one of brotherly love, it was like love at first sight. I was horrified. He was my brother! We were related by blood.
After a quick chat, I left the party early. But Joe had got my number and when he asked me to dinner the next day, I agreed.
After that, he asked, ‘Can I see you again tomorrow?’
Getting ready, I took my time doing my make-up and spritzing perfume. I’m acting like I’m going on a date, I realised. ‘Get a grip!’ I told myself.
But at the restaurant there was an unmistakable chemistry.
At 23, Joe was 12 years younger than me. But he seemed to feel the same way. ‘I think you’re beautiful,’he admitted.
Chatting away, we confessed we both had feelings for each other. Not wanting the night to end, I invited Joe back to my place.
Half of me felt disgusted as we inched towards each other on the sofa, but the other half desperately wanted to see what was going to happen next. Soon we were kissing, then we went to the bedroom. It didn’t feel strange at all, in fact it felt natural. But the next morning, I was so ashamed.
When Joe left, I frantically searched the internet for other cases like ours. And I soon realised we weren’t the only ones this had happened to. There was even a term for it – genetic sexual attraction (GSA). It’s when two family members grow up apart but meet as adults and are sexually attracted. I’m not a weirdo after all, I thought.
A week later, Joe moved in with me. We led people to believe we were siblings catching up on lost time.
Behind closed doors, we were leading a double life as a couple though.
Every time I tried to bring it up with Joe, he would instantly dismiss it. But I needed to talk to someone so I confided in my adoptive mum.
‘I’ve known for ages Debby,’ she said. ‘I’ve just been waiting for you to tell me.’ It was such a relief.
In 2012, when we’d been together for nine years, Joe and I decided to move interstate. ‘No-one knows we are brother and sister here,’ Joe said. ‘Let’s just introduce ourselves as a couple.’ It was so liberating to finally be open.
Sadly our birth dad passed away before we had the chance to tell him. But slowly we confessed to more family and friends, until everyone but my adoptive dad knew. I was just too terrified of what he’d think.
Then one day, Joe and I were gazing out to the ocean. ‘Let’s get married,’ he said to me.
We went to the registry office to make things official.
A few days later, on October 3, 2015, we got hitched on a boat in Cuba. Although it’s illegal to marry a sibling, we were too in love to care. And because we had different surnames, the registrar didn’t realise we were related.
When we got home, I knew it was time to reveal the truth to my adoptive dad. I’d been keeping it a secret for 10 years. My hands shook as I dialled his number. ‘I’ve got something to tell you…’ I began. ‘Joe and I are a couple.’
‘Deb, if you’re happy, I’m okay with it,’ he said.
It was so liberating, we held a second wedding ceremony a few weeks later, where all our family celebrated with us.
It felt like confirmation that our loved ones accepted Joe and I for who we were. Now we don’t care what others think.
We’ve been together for 15 years and married for almost three. With neither of us wanting children, we’re happy as a family of two.
People might think it’s strange and I get that. But if they met us, they’d understand that we’re just normal people.
You can’t help who you fall in love with and as long as we’re both happy, that’s all that really matters.