A chosen family can be defined as people who are not related by blood, but instead, by love, shared bonds forged by empathy and trust, and have familial relationships meant to last a lifetime.
LGBTQIA+ Communities find lost feelings of family in their chosen families. Because of their rejection from their biological families, a chosen family is sometimes the only family a queer person can have.
A chosen family is just as important as a biological family. They are the people a queer person goes to when something happens in their lives and they seek emotional support. They are the people a queer person goes to when they need advice on paying their taxes. They are the people a queer person goes to when their car tire goes flat. They are the people a queer person goes to when they need somebody who knows how to read their souls.
Unfortunately, the world struggles even to attempt to understand the soul of a queer person. The responsibility for this falls onto their chosen family.
Their family is like any other. It doesn’t matter that they do not share DNA; they share something their blood didn’t have the decency to shower them in. Love.
A chosen family can be formed in different ways. A great example is Houses in Ballroom Culture.
Ballroom Culture is the underground Black and Brown queer scene where queer people found community in Harlem, New York. Ballroom Culture has expanded internationally and has recently been given its show called Legendary. It is here where Houses in Ballroom Culture compete against each other to win a monetary prize at the show's end. The Houses are families that have been formed to shelter members and help members improve their voguing. These Houses gave homeless queer youth a place to stay when they would get kicked out of their homes for their sexuality or gender identity.
On Legendary, these Houses had a couple of minutes to explain how much their houses meant to them, and the words that were most frequented were “family” and “love.”
Not every queer person with a chosen family suffered the same tragic cut-off from their biological families. Some have chosen families because their chosen families are the only ones that can understand what it means to be queer and the repercussions that come with this identity. The empathy from the queer community is very comforting when experiencing hate crimes or queerphobic attacks. It feels unique because there’s no need to explain why it hurts so much that the person who you thought wouldn’t judge you for your sexuality does so. It’s comforting because there isn’t anyone telling you that it’s your fault for trusting too easily. There’s no need to explain, only an empathizing group of people ready to shower you with love whenever needed.
Furthermore, an essential aspect of finding chosen families is preserving queer friends. These friends are the ones who clap for you the loudest when you’ve found love, the ones who cry the hardest when you get hurt, and they are the ones who hold space for your queerness whenever, wherever.
Queer friends know how it feels like to navigate different scenes. Whether that be the gay dating scene, clubbing scene, or navigating work as a queer person, they all can be your mentors or students.
Besides, if there’s one thing that makes queer friends different than any other friend it is the shared relief that comes with their friendship. Having only straight friends is how some queer people find company, but others find solace in queer companionship.
Because queer friends are a part of the LGBTQIA+ Community, they understand the hardships of everyday life as queer people. For example, feeling frustrated when seeing a straight couple happily in love with each other in public—or even worse, seeing other people around them smiling at the happy couple. Of course, queer people are happy for anybody being in love, but sometimes there is that sting.
The sting that comes from seeing someone live out what you wish you could do and still be safe and not in danger of a hate crime. Straight people have the luxury of holding hands and kissing in public without fear of a hate crime or a malicious attack.
If a queer person were to tell a straight person why this makes them feel downhearted, they’d be told, “I’m sorry about that,” or “your time will come,” or not be able to say anything. It isn’t their fault either. It’s no one’s sole fault for how queer people are treated by society. But another queer person would be able to look at them and instead say, “I know it hurts,” and tenderly embrace them with the gift of understanding.
This is what family looks like.
This is why chosen family matters.
It matters because no one else gets it as queer people do.
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