Tom and Lena have been together for a long time. They’re in a relationship, they live together, and they even have a child. The only thing that’s unconventional about their relationship, they tell Vice, is that they’re related. And while that hasn’t kept them from being together, it’s kept them from speaking out. Not just because people would think it’s weird, but because they’d be arrested and put behind bars.
In an interview with Jennifer Tillman, Tom and Lena discussed their lives, how they came to be together, and what it’s like to be from Austria, where being involved with a family member—regardless of consent—is a criminal offense punishable with up to one year in jail (depending on the nature of the relationship). And what’s most interesting is that unlike Chris and Cathy and Jaime and Cersei (whose fictional relationships are all based on drama and intrigue), Tom and Lena claim they came together naturally, and not, as some people might think, from a twisted and broken childhood.
Tom and Lena grew up in a small Austrian village. They lived in a huge, white fairytale house with a dog on the front lawn. Their mother was a housewife and their father a civil servant. The kids were well-behaved, went to school, and did their best not to attract negative attention. In their family there were no quarrels, and smiles were obligatory. Otherwise, what would the neighbors think? At some point Tom realized that he wasn’t perfect. Lena felt the same way. “I started getting real feelings for her when we both entered puberty,” said Tom. “She was blossoming. Sometimes I would watch her getting dressed in her room and always felt ashamed of myself afterwards.”
While Tom felt the attraction first, according to the couple, Lena’s the one that made the first move more than two decades ago when they were both drunk and depressed. Lena, because her boyfriend had cheated on her; Tom, because he was in love with Lena. One second Tom was comforting his sister, and the next they were kissing after Lena asked him why “more guys couldn’t be like him.”
The entire interview is worth a read, regardless of how you feel about brother/sister relationships. While they’re not socially acceptable and, again, illegal in some places, Tom and Lena’s honesty about how and why they’re together will stay with you. While the two appear generally happy based on the interview, they also agree that their love is a “curse” due to the fact that despite their status as consenting adults, they have less rights to a relationship than a “person having sex with a cake.”
At one point, Tom became depressed, separating from Lena and trying to kill himself. Lena found him unconscious in the bath with sleeping tablets beside him. That was a moment of self-realization for him: “Something had to change. I felt like I lived in a bubble.”
So, Lena and Tom decided to move out of their parents’ home and far away from anyone who knew them. Today they share an apartment in Germany.
The biggest problem? Aside from not becoming legal anytime soon, the couple will one day have to decide what to tell their daughter about their relationship. According to Vice, the girl’s father— Tom —nis listed as unknown on her birth certificate.