I am writing this as I wait to hear back from my dearest gal about her most recent appointment for her new cancer meds. She’s moving to a new city, and I’m helping her in any way I can to make the change easier. We managed to find her a decent place to stay, so that’s sorted out.
Dev finally went to the wedding with John, it’s a big step in his relationship, and I’m glad they can show up to weddings as a couple. Alex is making TikToks and teaching his followers how to make tasty Indian dishes, and showing off the beautiful sarees that he wears from time to time to us. He just gets sarees, if you know what I mean. None of these people are related by blood to me, but all of them are family - because after years of living through whatever life has put us through, we’ve literally "earned” each other. We’ve found our family.
For better or worse, nature gave us the primal and necessary need for social structures and family bonds- far surpassing the vast majority of other living beings, and second only to eusocial insects like ants or bees. We need social interaction and familial structure to meet our basic psychological needs. But that’s easy to achieve, right?
The truth is, it isn’t. It doesn’t end there and it isn’t that simple. Not for the marginalised or oppressed, who in the stress of conducting their daily lives and affairs to the full truth of who they are, can lose something as precious as a family. This rings extremely true in the case of queer people where societal norms, misunderstandings, and inherited values causes their family and society at large to become stagnant and opposed to change. They reach a crossroad between choosing to be, embrace, and express who they are truthfully, or hiding parts of themselves to maintain the peace, the current normal, and even the family itself.
But this isn’t a lecture about the process. What does it mean to lose a family even though they’re still out there? It’s devastating - even more so, if you lose them for finally showing them who you truly are. Losing one’s family is the kind of identity crisis that in itself requires a family to get through. Yet, as queer people, we’ve taken this conundrum and ran to the hills with it. If anyone has defined the terms "chosen family” or "found family”, it’s the LGBTQIA+ community.
Throughout history, we, as different and unwanted as we were (and still are in many places), have congregated and flocked to each other. Congregated is the perfect word, because finding your chosen family is a spiritual experience in its own right. Liberated, your eyes open to possibility, the joy of simplicity, and living amongst people that only share love and will never judge you. We’ve done this time and time again, often with the most oppressed and maligned amongst us taking charge to make a semblance of peace and home for the rest of us. If the gharanas of the hijra community, the Jogti and Aravani cultures, or the ballrooms and "houses” of New York and Atlanta have taught us anything, trans and intersex persons of colour - despite facing the hardest struggles, are fighting the most for structural change and yearning to create the families we most certainly deserve.
Moreover, despite the times changing and more acceptance being found in all the corners and homes of the world, we as queer folk still run to each other in newer ways to find that family, a second home, a newer beginning, a more humbling and truthful experience that doesn’t ever have to root itself in shame. We still keep each other in check, keep each other on the track to being better. Once you find that family and being queer is no longer the main topic of your existence, you finally learn to live, to expand.
The world still isn’t the safest place, and society still holds cis-heteronormativity above all else. As a queer person, you’re often expected to just survive. Your found family helps you adjust from surviving to living. Then, as you blossom and become a part of this family, you go from living to thriving. And when you’re in a place to give that family back to another one of us who has that lost look on their face, and you open your arms with no conditions, you go from thriving to triumph.
That’s what a family does: it brings about the revolution, taking people from Survival to Triumph.
That’s what they’re doing for me, anyway. I’ll survive, live, and thrive long enough to give back someday, and I’ll tell you when I do.