Why your family can include anyone you want it to
By Nathan Parin
Family structure is a complex and difficult topic for everyone, functioning family or not. We all have issues with our families, whether it be trauma-linked or just distaste for their quirky habits. Something I often heard prior to coming to college was “Well, they’re still your family.” Frankly, that ideal is very unhealthy. If people you are related to, or rather people you have forged a familial bond with are not good for you, then they don’t need to be in your family.
After coming to college, I have learned an amazingly liberating concept: chosen family. We can all choose our families, it does not have to be the people we share blood with or who raised us, although it can. We all come across people in our lives who we form connections with that exceed a mere friendship, regardless of an amazing family of origin or not.
This concept, I believe, was birthed in Queer culture. It is especially important for Queer people and other marginalized groups whose existence is rooted in a history of having conflicts with their families of origin. Although, I believe chosen family is something we all possess and maybe just haven’t known it.
It is a known and accepted thing that humans need other humans. We are just made to have people in our lives, so why not choose the people who make you the best version of you? Often times, I believe that we as humans get scared to go off the beaten path, where there are no people to appease but ourselves. Choosing to be happy and cultivate a life surrounded by people who care for you just as much as you care for them is probably one of the healthiest things one can choose to do. Investing in relationships where your needs are not met and there is resentment for the other party is super unhealthy and will only lead to more pain for you in the long run.
Creating a chosen family does not mean that you cut your family of origin out all together. They do not even have to be aware of your chosen family. A misconception is that when you have a chosen family, you must stop interacting with your family of origin. That is just not true. You can do all the same things you did before your chosen family, or you can do things completely differently; it is up to you entirely. Sometimes, it is not safe to leave your family of origin for financial reasons, emotional or other reasons, and that is okay. The groups can overlap. If you are really close with a sibling but your parents aren’t great for you, your sibling can totally be in both your chosen family and your family of origin.
No matter how you define family, at the end of the day we all deserve a group of people who we can mutually support in our endeavours.