What is chosen family?
Teen Vogue describes chosen family as “part of the LGBTQ experience… inventing new social relations that provide the collective mutual aid that every individual needs for survival — a concept it only feels natural to call family.”
Although chosen families are common in the LGBTQ+ community, the concept isn’t limited to LGBTQ+ folks. For instance, many Black families and families of color add members to their families as life necessitates. These family members may have the title of “play cousin” (or just “cousin”), tio/tia, or other extended family titles. And, even though there may be no blood ties, they are treated as family and respected as such.
Why is chosen family important?
Our community’s focus on chosen families finds its root in this country’s historical ostracization and mistreatment of LGBTQ+ people.
In particular, LGBTQ+ young people turn to chosen family for social support, identity affirmation, care, stable housing, and tangible aid after their families of origin reject them. Additionally, many trans women, gay men, and drag queens of color find chosen family in the ballroom scene, known as houses. In this case, house members take on the last name of their house, live with one another, and support each other through life transitions—just like many traditional families of origin!
We know that all parents need breaks, adult conversation, and support in their parenting journey. Still, as soon-to-be parents, we don’t usually add “find community” to the top of our to-do lists. Often it’s only after we become parents that we realize our communities are not as strong as we need them to be. Because we live in a society that teaches us not to burden others, many of us struggle with asking for help when we need it.
This is doubly true for LGBTQ+ folks on the path to parenthood. Postpartum can be an isolating time in the life of any birthing parent, but especially if that parent is trans or gender expansive. And, once we realize that we need support, we often struggle to find welcoming spaces. For trans and gender expansive parents, experiencing how gendered parenting can be (including in many LGB parenting spaces) further magnifies this isolation.
How do we keep in touch in a pandemic?
You may have noticed a pandemic happening all around us, which has disproportionately affected LGBTQ youth. It’s also thrown a wrench in chosen families. Because of this, many of us are having a hard time figuring out how we can connect with our chosen family members when we can’t see them in person. Here are 5 ways you can connect with chosen family during a pandemic.
Here are some resources that can be helpful for LGBTQ families building community. Of course, all organizations listed below are QTPOC (queer and trans people of color) or LGBTQ-led. We noted free resources.
- Virtual LGBTQ TTC/parenting support groups
- Register for Kuluntu RJC’s 2022 Queer and Trans Trying to Conceive discussion groups (free)
- Born Collective SF monthly support groups for new parents (<6 months) and queer families (free)
- LGBTQ-inclusive birth preparation resources
- Find a queer or trans birthworker at Queer Doula Network or Birth Advocacy Doula Training (BADT) directory
- Moss the Doula’s All Genders Birth Class
- Other queer and trans birth-related stuff!
- Queer and Pregnant Pregnancy Journal by JB of Love over Fear Wellness
- Love Over Fear Wellness’s free pronoun signs/digital downloads or sign up to receive pronoun cards in the mail (both free)
- “Not all pregnant people are women” merch from Lucia the Doula
- 50 Years of Chosen Family (The Cut)
- Chosen Familias: LGBTQ Latinx Stories (GLBT Historical Society: Museum & Archives)
- ‘Family Friendly’ Pride Ignores the Chosen Families Pride Has Always Been Friendly To (Teen Vogue)
- For LGBTQ+ Youth, Home Might Not Be a Safe Place to Self-Isolate (NBC News)
- Maintaining Dignity: Understanding and Responding to the Challenges Facing Older LGBT Americans (AARP)
- “Parenting was never meant to be this hard. Let’s fix this.” (The Peterborough Examiner)
- “What Happens to Queer People Who Don’t have a Chosen Family?” (Bitch Media)
- “Why Do Black People Have So Many Cousins?” (The Root: The Blacker the Content, the Sweeter the Truth)
Khye Tyson (they/them) is an unapologetic southern queer Black femme who enjoys yoga, building community, laughing, subverting the gender binary, and reminding people that they can fire their doctors. Khye is a sacred transition guide, entrepreneur, healer, consultant, and educator. As the founder of Kuluntu Reproductive Justice Center (founded in 2018), Khye is working toward a world in which Black women and femmes can live, thrive, and raise healthy families freely within a healthy community. Khye loves to hike, sew, thrift, create art, sing, and dream of a world in which education is intuitive and culturally responsive. They are originally from Nashville, TN and currently reside in Atlanta.