[Content warning: mention of pregnancy loss]
How do you define family?
For a lot of people, when they think of family, they think of their parents, siblings, aunts, and uncles, cousins, grandparents… the list goes on. Our families are generally made up of people we are related to by blood or by marriage–the people we grew up with. However, that’s not always the case. Not everyone is born into a family that is supportive, loving, healthy, or otherwise one that they would choose for themselves. Speaking from experience as a queer person married to a transgender man… our families aren’t always our People. Sometimes, you need to go out and find your People.
This is where chosen families come in. Chosen families aren’t really a new concept for people in the queer and transgender community. We have been making our own families for decades. Your chosen family is a group of people who deliberately choose to play significant roles in each other’s lives. Chosen families come in all shapes, sizes, and make-ups. In the case of our chosen family, my husband and I built a family that is a mix of some people we grew up with, some people we found, and some people who found us. There is no “secret” to figuring out who our friends are and who is part of our family. It sounds corny to say, but sometimes a person comes into your life, and it feels like they’ve always been there.
One specific example that I think many of us can relate to is our childhood friends. I met Sam (the person on the left in the only black and white picture included in the collage above) in 2010. Our relationship has survived high school, failed relationships, multiple cross-country moves, college, career changes, dozens of life-changing experiences, and now a pandemic. I absolutely consider them to be more family than just simply a friend.
I’ve especially spent a lot of time reflecting on the idea of family in the last year or so. We started our conception journey with our known donor in 2019. Unfortunately, we experienced a loss with our first pregnancy in January 2020. The mixed reactions of our friends and family to both our conception journey and our loss, coupled with discussions about how we want to raise our future child have made it clear to us that we want our kid to grow up in a family that is affirming, open to learning and growth, and (above all else) loving, without conditions.
We know that no family, chosen or otherwise, can be perfect. However, I think we owe it to ourselves, and to our future kid, to surround ourselves with people who love us, respect us, share the same values and ideals as us, challenge us, and grow with us. Our kid deserves to grow up around our people so that one day they know that they can go out and find theirs.