Thursday, April 22, 2021

The Importance of Found Family

 As a child of divorce, I’ve always known that family is a strange thing. Society teaches us that its the most important bond we can have with other people, while also reserving it almost exclusively for those we’re biologically related to. “Blood is thicker than water,” some say, while others espouse that “family is forever” or some similarly contrived platitude. Certainly, those connections can be important. I’m very close to my biological family, in my own way. We’re the very definition of a tight-knit clan, and even though I’m caught squarely in the middle of two families that don’t really exist to the other because of divorce shenanigans, I like to think of myself as having a good relationship with both halves of my genetic material.

That’s not what I want to talk about today though. Because the thing of it is? There’s another kind of family that I’ve come to cherish as much as – if not more than – my biological one. Found family. It’s a concept that has its roots in the LGBTQ community, where oppression and stigma would often push unrelated people together for mutual support and connection in a world where their biological relations wanted nothing to do with them (or at best, didn’t understand them).

I may not be gay, but I do understand this super well in my own way. And I think that’s true for a lot of people. My parents, bless their hearts, are upper-middle class, and my family as a whole cares a lot more about keeping up appearances than I ever have. They also don’t tend to understand my intense interest in nerdy things, my love of the simple life, and my tendency to not care about clothing and fashion. I’m almost certain that these things all stem from the fact that I’m multiply neurodivergent, but even still, I’ve always felt that there’s a whole side of me that my bio fam just doesn’t get. That’s not to say they don’t get me in their own way – of course they do – its just…different?

My found family understands me in a way no one else does. Part of that is because life circumstances have brought us together and made our bonds stronger through countless trials and tribulations (in some cases stretching back decades). I suspect in some other way, though, its because we’re all outcasts in our own ways. My favourite people in the world are poly, LGBTQ, neurodivergent, hippy, witchy, or otherwise exist outside the bounds of what society considers ‘normal.’ And you know what? I LOVE that. Because normal is a setting on a dishwasher, not a metric of validity for human life experiences. There’s just something beautiful to me about people with intersecting identities from all of these groups coming together and realizing that they WANT to be family. Making that intentional choice to love and support each other. It makes my heart happy that I get to experience that in this world, and not a day goes by that I don’t reflect on how lucky I am.

My found family includes (but is not limited to) my gay best friend of over 20 years, my poly, witchy, pot-smoking, LGBTQ, neurodivergent sisters from other parental units, their partners, and the various offspring they’ve produced (to whom I get to be Uncle Adam, which is so cool!). It’s a diverse, eclectic group of weirdos I’ve collected over my many years on this planet. They’ve all helped me find my place in this world in ways I can’t even begin to fully express.

And I can’t imagine my life without any of them.

As always, yours in diversity,

Adam Michael

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