Chosen Family: Rethinking the Holidays

Is it really news to anybody that the holidays are stressful? For real. Do you, the person who is reading this, need us to tell you that this time of year can feel like it’s laced with more emotional landmines than nuts in a fruitcake? We thought not. The travel alone is enough to make a person balk, while the expectation to visit far-flung family members can feel emotionally and financially draining. So this year we’re encouraging you to do things a little differently and spend some time with your chosen family--folx who may or may not be tied to you by blood, but who you make an intentional choice to spend time with during the holidays.

First, let us just say that there are plenty of really solid reasons why you might not want to travel home for the holidays. Maybe you’re working retail and you can’t take a single day off between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Or perhaps your bio-fam lives so far away that it is simply impractical, or financially prohibitive, to visit during the holidays. Or maybe you are queer or trans and going home for the holidays means getting berated by your racist and transphobic uncle Hubert who just won’t accept that gay people are people. Whatever the reason, know that if you, a real-life adult, decide that going home for the holidays isn’t going to work for you then we support you. Not only that, we think it’s great! You know yourself and your needs best and don’t need permission from nobody to take care of yourself. (And just in case you do need permission, here it is, we’re giving you permission, take care of yourself babe.)

A tradition like visiting your bio-fam for the holidays is a lot like any tradition--it’s only worth keeping so long as it’s serving you. So this year and every year after we would like to propose a reworking of what the holidays mean.

The holidays should be about surrounding yourself with those who love you, no matter how those folx came into your life. The holidays should be about celebrating the past year and looking forward to new experiences and adventures in the coming year. The holidays should be filled with light, laughter and love, and ditching expectations, outdated traditions, and anyone who isn’t supporting and loving you as you live your best life. Let’s make 2019 the year we embrace the chosen family, both literally and metaphorically.

The idea of chosen family was founded in the queer community and maintains strong roots there to this day. The really sad truth is that many queer people find themselves ousted by their bio-fam after coming out. We know, it seems totally wild to us too that in 2019 people still wouldn’t be on board with the queer community, but that’s the sad truth. Furthermore, prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage all long-term partners were living as chosen family without the legal protection afforded to heterosexual couples. Today the queer community is full of strong, familial groups who are committed to looking out for and supporting each other.

While the queer community is best known for popularizing the idea of the chosen family the idea has spread to include everybody. A chosen family is any group of people who are committed to being in each others lives and fulfilling the role that a bio-fam would traditionally fulfill. Whether your chosen family consists of a bunch of transplants to a new city, long-term friends, or community members, the practice is here to stay. While you can celebrate your chosen family any time of the year (and we think you should), the holidays are an especially important time to cherish those who are closest to you. Even though it may only be one single night, there is something powerful in dedicating time to spend with one another. On top of that, spending time with your chosen family can serve as a respite, an island of calm in the whirlwind of the holidays. A chance to be around people who fully accept you, aren’t trying to change you, and will love you no matter what.

We hope each and every one of the tomboys reading this will take some time to hang with their chosen family. From all of us at TomboyX to you: happy holidays, hang onto the ones who love you, and take care of yourself.