Family doesn’t always come in a pretty package. Building a chosen family gives somebody who might be estranged from theirs the support system they need.
- Chosen families were initially started by the LGBTQ community
- A chosen family is a group of people who choose to include each other as support systems in their lives
- Estrangement from parents is not uncommon, and chosen family can be a great solution
For many of us, it’s hard to imagine a world in which our parents are any more disapproving than a glare at a too-short skirt, or a sidelong comment about how we’re raising our children. In a perfectly sane and normal world, a parent is someone who is always there for us, who we can count on no matter what.
Of course, the world we live in is neither sane nor normal, and truth be told, is somewhat oblivious to the heartache experienced by children who have been all but abandoned by their parents.
It’s this kind of disconnection which is so catastrophic that it’s almost hard to understand. It makes those around us uncomfortable, as if something must be wrong with us.
And all the while, children of parents who are too ashamed to claim them stand at the precipice of a lonely chasm, desperately needing that connection and support, and yet loving themselves too much to subject themselves to another bout of heartache for the sake of tradition.
The Very Human, Very Vulnerable Side of People Who Cut Off Their Parents
As much as 17% of adult children have experienced estrangement from their parents.
Psychology Today cites a number of reasons why this happens, but ultimately, it comes down to a fundamental difference in values, and the communication struggles which then ensue.
This kind of isolation forces young people to adapt to life without a conventional family relationship and support system, and for many starting a chosen family becomes a path forward.
Chosen Family and the LGBT Community
A chosen family is a family that is, well, chosen by someone seeking to fulfill the supportive roles of parents and siblings. Where a more nuclear option isn’t present, more and more people are looking beyond blood relatives to choose their support systems and build their own family networks.
Chosen family originated in the LGBTQ community in response to the isolation many queer youth experienced due to their sexuality. A lack of acceptance coupled with the ensuing judgment and isolation forced gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth to seek out their own support systems.
While chosen families don’t always conform to the typical family hierarchy of parents, uncles, siblings, etc., what they do is fulfill a fundamental need for unconditional love, support, and understanding.
One 2016 story by the Washington Post reported as many as 40% of homeless youth identified as queer. A recent study found that about 64% of older LGBTQ community members depend on chosen families for their support.
How to Find Your Chosen Family
According to Dr. Jeremy Nobel, chosen family most often evolves out of a combination of friends, coworkers, and former romantic partners. Rather than looking at a chosen family as a series of new relationships you need to create, Dr. Nobel advocates for looking within your existing network for people who want the same things as you do.
Think about your values and the things that matter most to you. Then think about the people who have been there the most for you.
Having a clear picture of what your highest priority values are and what the support of a chosen family looks like for you will help you in establishing relationships with those people which are fulfilling and mutually beneficial for both of you.
Be direct and clear about what you want. Express your needs. And just know that above all else, you don’t have to go this thing alone.