Throughout our lives we meet a lot of people. When you’re a child, it seems so easy to make friends. We even retain that idea that the more, the merrier. But as we navigate through the teenage years and reach our adulthood it’s important to know how and when to “trim some hedges” and choose the ones that matter, especially when you’re in the LGBTQ+ community. We call this our chosen family.
A chosen family is that group of non biologically-related people with whom we share a much closer and tighter emotional bond than even with our birth family. It’s the people that are a much more reliable support system, when your biological family does not match your emotional needs for understanding, tolerance and acceptance.
For these people will get to know us in a way no other person will, even in our biological family.
Find yourself first, then find your tribe
Getting to know who we are is a huge part of being human. This is what makes us go looking for our tribe, or the so-called “chosen family”. Being in the LGBTQ+ community, I learned that I have to know who I am to know who I want to keep close to me. And this includes biological family too, as not even there everyone in the family has our backs am I right?
When you come out as lesbian, gay, trans, or any other element in the LGBTQ+ community, you are revealing a part of yourself that is vulnerable out there. It’s a part of you that’s as real and valid as everything else. But not everyone is going to like it or agree with it. And this is where the importance of the chosen family comes in, no matter who and what they are or identify as.
You might wonder, why is this so different from the biological family? Well, let me tell you.
The family you’re born into is obviously important. For better or for worse, they’re the ones that raise you, feed you, clothe you and put you a roof over your head. They are the first relationships we make in life, and that’s good – this is where we take some basis on how to connect with others.
But there’s also the other side of the coin. Blood relatives follow several legal, cultural and societal expectations that they project on us, and judge us on how we choose to live our lives. Not all of them, mind you. Luckily, there are families out there that are accepting, loving and inclusive to their LGBTQ+ members! But the majority of families are not like this.
Knowing someone is there for you because they genuinely care for you, and not out of a sort of genetic obligation makes all the difference. We’ve all heard of the sad stories of people that were rejected by their own families because of who they are.
To whom do those people go to for help? Their friends. *cue I’ll Be There for You, from FRIENDS*
Those people that accept us with our whole being are your chosen family. They are the ones who back us up, teach us, comfort us and with whom we have that strong affinity that allows us to be mutually honest and even give some tough love when needed. In other words, our “ride or die” people.
And do they matter? Yes.
Topics like “family”, “marriage” or “reproduction” always generate controversy because society still sees them as ”traditional values” that should not apply to queer people, which leads to prejudice, abandonment, distancing and even violence, most of it coming from the biological families themselves.
So chosen families are often born out of necessity. They are a refuge, a sanctuary, where we find others that will love us, help us and see us for what we are: human beings.
They are a safe place, where we can be ourselves without the fear of being mocked, judged and bullied. They elevate our soul, they do not pressure us, we can trust them. But, most of all, they don’t have to be there, but they are. And that makes all the difference.
Your chosen family will make sure you are safe!
Going through the poppy fields
Allow me to get personal now. I think about the movie The Wizard of Oz a lot, when it comes to talking about chosen families. I’ve always seen the film as a parable for life itself. We see young Dorothy being swished away from her family farm in Kansas to a land of colour and joy, but also of dangers and darkness, named Oz. Along her journey to the Emerald City, she meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion, who become her friends.
She reaches her goals obviously, but not without trials and tribulations. She kept being threatened by the Wicked Witch of the West, who bewitched an enormous poppy field to make her sleep forever.
I have been in that poppy field.
And just like her travel companions kept pushing her to keep moving forward despite her numbness and will to give up, I was lucky to have my chosen family pushing me forward when a guy breaks my heart, when I was a victim of homophobia, or when my mother passed away (which was the hardest time of my life, just to give a few examples.
I have seen and felt a type of caring, love and friendship that not even in my biological family I’ve experienced.
When the night has come, and the land is dark…
I urge everyone out there to find your chosen family. Especially if you are in the LGBTQ+ community – but really, having a sense of belonging amongst your friends is for everyone! We all have our own origin stories and need to find our place in the world, with the right company.
Your tribe is around you.
You just have to see it.
And you’ll know where to go in any time of need, for they will always say “stand by me”.