The Beauty of Chosen Family

Miracle Jones. Photo by Emmai Alaquiva.

The holidays are often thought of as being filled with love and care, but for many in the community, it is a reminder of how necessary it is to have a chosen family that affirms and uplifts your existence. Chosen family refers often to the people we have picked to be in our circle of care to fill the void left by and often created by our biological families. For many, the first instances of homophobia and transphobia are not from the outside world but from the utterance of a parent who instead of being the balm of healing became the catalyst of hurt and self-doubt.

As such, the chosen family is an integral part of the queer experience because it is here the people the world has tried to erase are able to find a community to love them unconditionally, who are able to teach them about the world, and who can assist them in their development without preying on them or causing them further harm and pain. Chosen family sometimes starts off as friends and colleagues who invite us over for breakfast the day after a holiday, who check in on us on our birthdays because they know our moms and dads and siblings will pretend we no longer exist, they send us funny memes to brighten up our day and make sure we are ok. They are the ones who cheer the loudest at our graduation ceremonies. They are the ones who ensure we have the resources we need to apply for jobs or for graduate school, and they are the ones who will do whatever it takes to make sure this cruel, violent world does not lay claim to us.

Over the past few years, chosen the family has expanded to organizations that feed us on holidays, that become shelters for us in the winter months, that allow us to have a place to safely lay our heads, after we’ve been pushed out and abandoned by our family members. A chosen family is a place where we are able to be ourselves, our full selves our authentic selves and are able to find unconditional love and return. It is the place where we are rewarded most for doing the least.

Chosen family is one of the most integral and necessary entities in our existence and for the most part goes systemically unnoticed and unsupported. Our chosen family are often caregivers, but we cannot claim them on government forms. Our chosen family are often left to figure out how to bury us with dignity but cannot claim any type of benefit in doing so. Our chosen family picks up the pieces that have been broken and crushed by our familial systems and builds us back bit by bit, but cannot take credit for our care nor can they be awarded and recognized as a caretaker. Our chosen family feeds us, clothes us, empowers us, holds us, loves us, and makes sure we are able to make it through the day, but risk being ignored and overlooked if they have to show up in a time of medical crisis. Our most trusted caregivers have no rights to fight for us nor care for us but they love us all the same and do everything in their power to make sure that we have a life full of love and dignity and care.

This and every holiday season, it is our chosen family that reminds us of the hope that we have for the future and the beauty that has been shaped by our past. It is our chosen family that invites us to gather around and decorate whatever holiday we serve. It is our chosen family that is going to ensure that the next few weeks are bearable. It is our chosen family that has brought us this far. It is our chosen family that is the best gift to us all.

Miracle Jones is a community organizer and queer activist who works in the Pittsburgh area to advocate for equity along the intersections of gender, race, and class.Her work focuses on implementing abolition based principles and transformative justice through writing, policy, and advocacy.  Headshot by Emmai Alaquiva.