[Chosen Family is a blog series made up of different chosen family stories from our community members in the SGV.]
Chosen family can be a lifeline for those who cut ties with their biological relatives. So when we talk about chosen family, I think a lot of us picture someone who has been completely rejected by and/or estranged from their biological family. While that’s certainly a common experience among queer and trans folks, my personal experience with chosen family doesn’t fall into that category.
I feel extremely lucky to have supportive parents. I grew up in a non-religious, liberal household, and even when I was a kid, queerness was normalized. My parents owned every Indigo Girls record, and when six-year-old me asked what a lesbian was, they had no problem explaining it. I had relatives and close family friends who were gay, and there was never secrecy or shame about it. Because I felt safe enough, I came out as bisexual when I was relatively young, to my mom when I was 13 and to my dad when I was 15. I was never rejected by them or made to feel unsafe or unloved because of my orientation. I still live with my parents for financial reasons, and while we have our differences like any family, we love and care for each other.
My first experience with chosen family is one that is -- somewhat unexpectedly -- shared with my parents. When I was in junior high, I started to hang out with a boy from my grade, Kevin, who lived two blocks away from us. He was adopted, and had three younger siblings, so he didn’t have as much attention from his adoptive mother as he needed. He started spending more and more time at my house, and quickly became part of the family. My mom took to calling him her “faux son,” and he and I referred to each other as siblings. My parents helped him with his homework, took him shopping when he needed clothes, and gave him rides to and from school. My mom was the one to take him to the DMV to get his driver’s license when he was sixteen, and took him to car dealerships to find his first car. We took him with us on family vacations, and he even lived in our guest room for a while. He has a key to our house, and he spends most holidays with us.
Kevin’s been a part of my family for about twelve years now. When people ask if I have siblings, it’s him that I think of first, rather than my two older half sisters who I rarely see. Kevin was in my life long before I had even heard the term “chosen family,” and he’s a big part of the reason why it resonated with me so much when I learned about it.
When I started community college in 2011, I was in a rough place. I was going through a bad breakup, my mental health was at a low point, and I felt very isolated, especially because many of my high school friends had moved away to attend four-year universities. The GSA at my school held a few National Coming Out Day events, and that’s where I met Sara and Tyler, the people who are now my chosen family. We were just acquaintances at first, but somewhere along the line we became best friends. It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly when that happened, but I think getting to know them during such a scary, transitional period in my life made us grow together that much faster. They have been my primary support system for seven years, even when I was living 400 miles away for grad school. Sometimes I find it hard to put into words just how much the two of them mean to me. When I’m with them, I’m completely myself, in a way that I rarely show to anyone else, and I can’t picture my life without them.
Like I said before, my parents are very accepting and supportive of me, so it’s not that I needed a chosen family to replace them. However, there are some things that my parents won’t be able to fully understand, not only because of generational differences, but because they’re straight. It helps to know that I always have two other queer people to lean on in those moments, and that’s what chosen family means to me.