We Don’t Get to Choose Our Family, Do We?
Funny thing about families – they’re the people we’re supposed to love and trust the most in this world, but we don’t even get to choose who those people are.
We have no control over the family we’re born into – the parents, siblings, and extended family members we grow up with. The people who shape us in our most formative years.
Some people get lucky. Their families are accepting, loving, and even supportive as you come out as LGBTQ+, poly, kinky, or non-beans in chili individual (I will die on that bean hill, eating deliciousness). Others are less lucky. Their families are angry, judgmental, and emotionally incapable of being supportive – no matter what – which can be mentally and emotionally damaging, repeating the trauma of the past.
In either case, if you are someone who identifies as LGBTQ+, or who expresses love any differently than what is considered “typical,” family relationships can be tough. Even if you are lucky enough to have one of those loving and supportive families, sometimes it’s not enough. Your family can love you and support you, but they might not necessarily be able to understand you or know how to relate to you. Do they know how to handle it when you have two daddy’s?
You may love your family back – just as much as they love you – but you still might not want to spend holidays with them, because it’s just not enjoyable. Or, you may have a family that completely disowned you, so you couldn’t spend the holidays with them even if you wanted to.
Enter the Family of Choice
A family of choice refers to the group of people in a person’s life who satisfy the typical role of a family as a support system. These are people you want to spend time with because you enjoy their company, they support you, and perhaps they have similar interests or ways of expressing themselves, (i.e., they also identify along the same lines as you identify).
Your family of choice may be made up of friends, partners, and/or other alternative lifestyle community individuals that have come into your life, who you connect with on a more personal level. They may not actually be related to you, but they’re your family. Or at least, they feel more like family than anyone else ever has, and that’s something.
This is a community that you get to choose. They’re the people that are your inner circle. You trust them because they’ve earned your trust. You relate to them easily, you understand them, and you love them for who they are. Most importantly, they feel the same way about you.
Family of Origin or Family of Choice?
Your family of choice may be the only family you have. Or you may recognize both your family of origin and your family of choice. Or maybe you haven’t found a family of choice yet, but you hope that one day you will.
In either case, recognize that how you spend the holidays is up to you. You may choose to spend this time of year with your family of origin – be it out of love, obligation, or because it’s all you know. Or you may choose to spend it with your found family because they’re the family you got to choose and you like them better. That’s okay. And if you don’t really know what to do, that’s okay too.
You don’t have to have everything figured out right now, but if you’re feeling disheartened because of your experiences with family, know that there is hope. If you or someone you know is having trouble with family of origin relationships, fitting in, or finding a family of choice, working with an alternative lifestyle native mental health counselor could be the first step towards figuring it all out.
The holidays are a time to celebrate. Don’t spend another holiday with people who don’t make you feel like celebrating. Get started with a free, brief consultation, or schedule a virtual appointment with me today.