Today is the 5th annual Blogging for LGBTQ Families Day. In light of that, I’ve been thinking a lot about what family means to me.
I haven’t always had the closest relationship with my biological family. I come from a conservative Christian background. When I came out as a lesbian ten years ago, I really rocked the boat. My parents and I have mended our fences, but my older brother and I still don’t talk. I pray every day that we can find a way to reconcile, but the realist in me doesn’t hold out much hope. I will always be queer, and he will always be disappointed in me for that. I miss having a big brother, but there’s not much that I can do about it.
When I was totally estranged from by family of origin, I made a chosen family for myself. God blessed me with a best friend named Nick, whom I affectionately call my Tiggy Piggy. Nick and I came out together. In a way, we grew up together, because I think that coming out forces us all to go through a second adolescence as we relearn how to be in the world. Nick and I have been through a lot together, and our relationship runs deeper than just friendship. I can honestly say that he is my soul mate. I don’t know where I would be without him.
My chosen family has extended in include a lesbian couple who is expecting their first baby, a butch straight girl who drives a U-Haul like she was born to it, two former roommates who supported me when I was home-bound for six weeks, the chosen mothers who threw my graduation party, and a loud-mouthed queer feminist with two neurotic dogs who likes to inform everyone just how fabulous she is. We’re a motley crew. But we’re family.
Family means more to me than DNA. Family consists of the people who will love you, no matter what you do, or who you are. Chosen family members come together by chance, they’re not the people that you’re forced to love because you had no choice about which home you were born into. There is no sense of obligation that keeps a chosen family together. There are no legal definitions that protect our relationships. And yet we manage to make it all work somehow.
My chosen family has grown again. Last year I unofficially got married. Shannon’s family has welcomed me with open arms, and I love spending time with my sister-in-law. I never had a sister growing up, but now I get to do all of the things that sisters do. The state of Arizona doesn’t recognize us as family, but given the current state of politics in Arizona, I take that as a blessing. I never imagined that I was the type to get married. Once a wild child who could party all night and still make it to work on time in the morning, I have learned to enjoy the simple things with my partner. We spend our free time playing video games and reading to each other. We’re usually asleep by 10:00 PM. A trip to the farmers’ market is like an adventure for us. And you know what? I kind of like it.
My partner and I live in a two-bedroom house with our menagerie of critters. Two weeks ago my beautiful chicken Betty was killed by the neighbor’s dog. I mourned for that little bird, just as I have mourned for other family members who have passed away. Our pets are as much a part of our family as anyone else. They all have unique personalities, and different ways of expressing their love for us. We stick together because we need each other. And when one of us leaves the flock, it hurts.
Straight people are at a disadvantage when it comes to creating a family. They can get knocked up by accident – they don’t have to make as many plans as queer couples do. Most straight folks don’t lose their families of origin when they announce that they’re in love. And straight folks have the luxury of being able to count on the state to protect their family ties. We queers don’t have any of that, and I think that we’re better for it.
What is your experience with chosen family like? Would you say that they mean as much, or more, to you than your biological family? Do you think of your critters as family members? I’d love to hear what family means to you.