Fast approaching are the gathering holidays. The times when many people come together to reconnect, eat and look to enjoy each other’s company. Around this time of year, and all year for many of us, there are many conversations about the importance of family. But what is family? And what does it mean to be part of a family? These are often difficult questions to consider for many people, but especially for QPOC.
To me, a family is what we create it to be, and the families we are raised in or born into may not always be our forever families. For some of us, our families are made up of one or two people, for others a family may be made up of a large group of people. And whether these people are genetically related is inconsequential. What matters is how they support one another and come together for each other. A family is a shared story, a shared community, a person or people you can turn to when things get rough, and who cheer for you when times are good. A family can be made of people who are related, or it can be made of friends who have come together, and anything in between.
These holiday gatherings can be difficult for those in our communities that must or choose to spend time with “family” members who may not respect them. From deadnaming and misgendering, to homophobic and racist comments, many people experience violence against them during these gathering times. We often feel that the families we are raised in or born into inherently carry more weight and meaning, and that our relationships to that family should matter more to us. Often times these family members can leave lasting impacts as we grow and develop, whether those impacts are positive or negative, but that does not mean that these relationships should be inherently more important to us than others. These family members may claim to have a bond to you, but does not inherently make them more worthy of being family than others. This claim to family and the pressure and expectation to connect with the family you are raised in or born into can lead to people staying in unhealthy and often times abusive familial relationships long after they would have normally left. A family is more than just how long a person has been in your life or to whom they may be related to. It’s about the bonds that we form with others and the importance and strength of those bonds. Only you can decide in the end what these bonds mean to you, what type of family you want to create, and who gets to be part of that family. At the same time we must recognize that, for some of us, the decision to leave certain relationships is not always possible. Whether for monetary, medical, or safety reasons, the choice to leave behind problematic family is not one that is available to everyone. In these instances the connections with community and others become all the more important and can be a place where a person finds the attachment and support they need.
Navigating the world between the family you are raised in or born into and the family you choose to be a part of can often be a difficult and hard process. The decision on whether or not to leave behind the family we are raised in or born into can be a difficult one, and it is a choice that many QPOC encounter at some point in our lives. Some of us choose to leave behind certain members and to accept other members into our family of choice. Others may choose to leave behind the whole group and surround themselves fully with a family of choice. And still others will decide not to leave behind the family they are raised in or born into. There is no law or rule that says that you must choose one or the other. You can be part of many families, and each family can provide you with something that the others cannot — that is ok. The gathering holidays offer a chance for us to come together with the people we care about, and to reaffirm our connections with each other. The sharing of food and space is a tradition that spans many diverse people, and has been a means of forming powerful and lasting connections. Let’s use these times to form and strengthen the bonds between us, to have open and honest conversations about our lives and experience, and to reaffirm to each other the light and power within us.
And join us at allgo Wednesday October 25th at 6pm for our community discussion Healing at Home: Recipes, Remedies, and Practices for Healing as we come together to share and discuss the ways we heal, and prioritize healing.