[Chosen Family is a blog series made up of different chosen family stories from our community members in the SGV.]
My Senior Capstone project in college was focused on chosen family and how people form and maintain it. I interviewed my own chosen family and spent hours and hours researching what chosen family means through a queer theory lens, through an indigenous lens, through a feminist lens, and even through the lens of American society. The basic premise of the term “chosen family” is that the people we consider family aren’t always biologically related to us. We can find those people and maintain our familial relationships with them in varied ways. What I found in my research is that chosen family means different things to different people, depending on their race, ethnicity, socio-economic background, and even religious affiliation. Official study findings aside, I found that there is something indescribable about having a chosen family. Even when you keep your biological family in your life, you may still feel that there are others out there that understand you on a different level. There is something profound and beautiful in forming a bond of your choice and putting in the work to maintain that love and connection with another human being.
My chosen family was forged through my academic struggles. There were many times where I felt isolated and out of place. After years of being depressed and having anxiety I needed a proper support system to face my new life as a young adult. During that first year I spent in community college a friend from high school that I hadn’t spoken to in a while had a class with me: Rob. His name was called from the role sheet and when I looked around for him he was nowhere to be found. I messaged him on social media, asking where he was. His panicked response included his phone number and from that point on we were inseparable. We scheduled classes together, worked on the school magazine together, and spent all of our spare time driving around in his 1992 Honda Civic blasting electro-indie music. We had always had a bond in high school; forming secret alliances over our peers, whispering our secrets in the hallways after class. When he came out to me as gay when we were 16 and 17, I knew we had the kind of trust that you couldn’t fake or replicate. The minute his name was called on that college role sheet I knew that we were meant to fall back into each other’s paths, rekindle that intimate friendship we had started to build as kids.
It’s been 11 years since that panicked text message, and 14 years since we met and we’re still so involved in each other’s lives. We’ve spent many nights fighting over blankets, having movie marathons, eating brunch, and kicking up sand at the beach. His family knows me so well that his sister considers me a part of his family. Our nicknames for each other are “Little Brother Rob” and “Big Hermana Sara”. I couldn’t imagine my life without his love and support. He is truly the little brother I never had.
During my time in and out of community college, Rob went off to follow his career and I was left to find new friends at school. I revived the GSA on campus with some newfound friends and it was through that club that I met the other half of my chosen family: Hannah and Tyler. Tyler is a bright light of empathy and softness. He finds you and he chooses to bring you into his orbit. And I was just lucky that he chose me. Hannah came along a little later and at first she seemed too busy for me to become her friend. I can’t be sure of how it happened, but suddenly we were spending time together, getting to know one another and realizing that we were just two sides of the same coin. Now I would consider our bond to be the most intimate platonic connection I have ever had with another person.
Hannah, Tyler, and I became a unit. Everywhere one of us went, the other two followed. Even when Hannah moved to Northern California for grad school, we talked everyday, Skyped her when Tyler and I were together, and even went up to visit her. We celebrate Hanukkah together, trade Christmas gifts, spend our days off together, and Hannah and I even work together.
For me, I found my family in college. In a time where I didn’t believe in myself and was unsure about my direction in life, I found people who loved and supported me with the kindness that you can only hope enters your life. I wouldn’t be the person I am now without their influence and I only hope I bring that much light into their lives.