So earlier today, myself and someone close to me were having a heart to heart about family and what that meant to both of us. If you go to Google and ask it for a definition, you will of course get the traditional definition of ‘parents and children’ and ‘things that are appropriate for both parents and children’ but neither of us were speaking in these narrow terms.
At one point in the conversation, he says to me “I’m at the point where some of these new gay friends I’ve been making feel more like family than my actual family, know what I mean?” I certainly knew exactly what he meant. I was overcome with emotion at some of the thoughts I was having after I read his text and was also reminded what mom said to me one day during lunch. She said that more often than not in her own experience, family wasn’t always someone that was blood. Family was whoever was there when the chips were down and still had your back. I agreed with her wholeheartedly.
To me, family is a lot more than a mom, a dad and children. Family is who’s got your back. Family is who helps you when you need it no matter what the cost is. Family is who still loves you at the end of the day no matter what you’ve done or who you are.
After reading his text, I was reminded of one episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, season 5, where Roxxxy Andrews has her breakdown on stage. Ru is wearing that weird green dress with one sleeve when she says to Roxxxy “We as gay people, we get to choose our family.” I can’t even type that sentence without getting choked up. I didn’t realize it until that moment, but that’s exactly what I’d done. I had chosen my family since my own family didn’t really want anything to do with me anymore after my parents died. Ru really hit the nail on the head and hit me right in the emotional breadbasket. When I watch the show, it makes me feel better to know there are people out there that have gone through the same emotional stuff I have. It makes me feel closer to the people on the show, hearing about their lives before they got on and what it’s been like for them. I don’t just watch the show for the fashion and the cat fights, that stuff is just a bonus. I choose who I let in my family.
We also spoke of having support when coming out. That was another point at which I was awash with emotion. I didn’t really have much in the way of support when I came out, at least it didn’t feel like support to me. Some teasing and definitely some changes in attitude from everyone I knew. In all the years I’ve talked to other gay men about their life experiences, it’s usually one of three scenarios: your biological family just straight up turns its collective back on you; your biological family already knows and they’re just waiting for you to tell them or your biological family doesn’t care and loves you anyway. I try to be supportive when I hear that someone is coming out or is on the verge of making the announcement because I remember how alone I felt afterward, how I needed someone to just tell me things were going to be ok. Support can make all the difference in the world.
Gay people, gay families, are more than just a label. We’re people with hopes, dreams, fears, needs and wants just like everyone else. We fear persecution and hatred, we need love and a place of peace to live in, we dream and hope for a better tomorrow and want our voices heard. We tend to look out for each other more than our hetero counterparts do. We know the struggle, the hardships we face, and we don’t want anyone else to fall victim to that. I’d like to think that my chosen family can count on me, that I’m definitely the type that has your back when the chips are down. When it seems like the world is against you, I’ll be your sword and shield. I’m not afraid to make more enemies, even if that means making an enemy out of a blood relation.
After all, there’s a reason we refer to each other as ‘family’