Why Building a Chosen Family Is So Important for LGBTQIA+ Parents
LGBTQIA+ culture was built on the challenges we face individually and collectively as a community. Many of these everyday struggles stem from a lack of acceptance from birth families. Fortunately, this feeling of abandonment doesn’t prevent you from enjoying close relationships with people you love. That’s where chosen family comes into play. A chosen family is a group of people who have actively decided to embrace, nurture and support each other—just as a traditional blood-related family would.
The concept of chosen or found family was born from the collective desire for deeper connections to people who understand and care about the LGBTQIA+ experience. And, yes, connection and community are two of the most important pillars of the LGBTQIA+ community.
While a chosen family can benefit individuals on their unique paths, it can also support new LGBTQIA+ parents as the rollercoaster journey of childrearing begins. Thinking about growing your own chosen family? Here’s what to know.
There are many reasons to consider choosing your own family. (No, you’re not bound to blood relations only.) You can decide who you want to let into your life. And as you welcome kids, there are even more benefits to widening your inner circle.
- Symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationships. For starters, if you didn’t have a positive relationship with your own parents, a chosen family can provide the opportunity to create the dynamic you always wanted. And by emulating positive familial relationships, you can create a supportive network for yourself and your children.
- Finding role models for your kids. You can choose what kinds of role models will be close to your children, ensuring that their support community is made up of people who will instill good values and maintain a space that fosters strong mental and emotional health. Many LGBTQIA+ parents want to shield their children from the type of rejection they experienced as kids growing up, and a chosen family is innately accepting, welcoming and empathetic.
- A built-in support system. A chosen family can be an invaluable resource for busy parents. By creating a system of help within a chosen family, you can ensure that you always have someone to turn to for help—whether that means babysitting, meal prepping or being a shoulder for you and your kids to lean on in times of need.
- A dynamic that works for you. There’s the opportunity to create a unique family structure and dynamic that works for you and your situation. You can bring together people from all walks of life and create a one-of-a-kind family experience for your little people.
I moved to Los Angeles and found my chosen family among some great friends who accepted me before I could even truly accept myself. A lot of what LGBTQIA+ people experience is not taught; we are left to learn by trial and error. A chosen family can make the journey feel safer through understanding and education. The same goes for LGBTQIA+ parents who are navigating raising kids and learning along the way. Below, tips to help you find your own chosen family members.
- Start with your current friend group. Building a chosen family can be difficult, though it usually evolves from an initial friend group. The best thing to do is start with one or two friends you wish to grow closer to, and focus on strengthening the bond within those relationships.
- Reach out to old friends. If you’re looking for a new found family, don’t forget about your old friends! Just because someone isn’t part of the LGBTQIA+ community doesn’t mean they can’t be part of your group either. In fact, some of the strongest bonds are formed between people who come from different backgrounds but share common values. So reach out to your old friends, and see if they might be interested in being part of your support system.
- Meet new people organically. Historically, queer-friendly spaces have predominantly consisted of gay bars and ballroom culture. While these were at the forefront of LGBTQIA+ freedom, the scene has evolved to include coffee shops, restaurants, bookstores and more. In other words: Look for friends and connections organically while you’re living and enjoying your life. Be open to new connections. You never know who you might meet.
- Seek common ground. When trying to build your chosen family, look for shared interests. This could be anything from participating in the same hobby to working towards similar goals. When you share a similar mindset with someone else, it can be easier to form a deep connection with them.
- Tap your community. While you’re at it, get involved in your local LGBTQIA+ community. There are often events and meetups happening in cities across the country that can help you connect with like-minded individuals. You can also check out online forums or social media groups dedicated to LGBTQIA+ topics—these can be great places to find new friends that eventually become family. Publicly Private is an example of one platform working to build an online community of support.
- Be patient. Building a chosen family doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and commitment. You can take an active role in building your chosen family, but you’ll also need to exercise patience and understand that there will be some give and take. It’ll happen. Enjoy the process while you and your children form and strengthen relationships with friends and loved ones.
About the author:
Kollyn Conrad is the founder and executive director of Publicly Private, a nonprofit organization that offers supplies, support and empowerment to the LGBTQIA+ community. Publicly Private was inspired by Conrad’s personal journey of growing up as a gay man in the south. Committed to helping and befriending underserved individuals, he uses his passion and experience to help LGBTQIA+ individuals on their lifelong journeys.
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