I was asked to write a piece for work as part of our celebration of LGBTQ+ History Month. Various topics were thrown out as a brainstorm of possibilities and I found that the concept of Found Family resonated quite a lot. So here it is, for a wider audience:
When my nephew came out last year, I was delighted to be one of the first people he shared his truth with. It’s very easy to fall back on cliched responses in the moment when given news like that. There is the immediate pressure to make some glib but accepting statement, but instead I welcomed him to a life of discovering found family.
To some degree we all experience this phenomenon of meeting people who you click with and who are there for you through thick and thin over the years. It is, however, particularly resonant for anyone in the LGBTQ+ community. As we discover and embrace who we are, we are often drawn away from familiar orbits and into unfamiliar places and experiences. Heteronormative society has a script for life that includes how dating should go, a relationship escalator through to marriage, making a new household, raising a family and so on. This script does not always chime with or serve people in the LGBTQ+ community well.
This unease can range from who is offered the bill at a restaurant to assumptions of who someone’s next of kin should be. It begins to feel better, however, as we meet other people who are on similar journeys. It isn’t a matter of whether someone’s biological family is accepting of who we are, but of the similarities of lived experience that we encounter and draw strength and confidence from. Shared experience leads to jokes and commiseration in equal part. The nuances of how we talk about things, or approach situations have an extra resonance that is hard to quantify at first, but it can and does develop into strong friendships that are only half-jokingly referred to as our found family.
We didn’t know we were missing the light and support of these people from our lives, but they come to be as important to us as those we were born alongside. The LGBTQ+ Community thrives on these unconventional connections for support and validation, in the same way that people might expect of their own families. There are just as many disagreements and discussions along the way – that’s just being human. The custom families that we build and cherish are a bulwark against a world and society that can often feel deeply divisive and hurtful towards the most vulnerable people among us.
My experience of this has led to meeting amazing people and feeling safe enough to relax in their presence within minutes – sometimes in the most unlikely of settings and contexts. My hope for my nephew is that alongside the support he gets from us, he also finds his own people and grows and flourishes. I hope he finds love and relationships in whatever configurations work for him. I hope he will find people who cherish and look after him in ways that may not mean anything to anyone else. I hope that we all may be so lucky.
We descended on boy s at the new flat today to eat, socialise and play D&D along with Mx W and Lady B who were staying the weekend there too. We were enticed there by the offer of a roast dinner, as if we needed any real excuse to go catch up.
Roast gammon, potatoes, parsnips, broccoli, cauliflower, pigs in blankets and Yorkshire puddings all featured – and with boy s finally having induction pots and pans he was able to whip up a grand feast while we nattered in the other room and I toyed with Syrinscape software to cue up a soundboard for the game.
I’ve subscribed to the site so have access to all the sound packs, and still feel like I’m only just scratching the surface of it. I happily recommend it for DMs looking for some extra atmosphere for sessions.
And what a session – heavy on the roleplay as the group attended the university’s winter fair and interacted with various oddballs and situations before finding that a sage was present who could help with their missing memories from their first adventure – if they could find him as he seemed to have disappeared from inside a locked room in the library’s guest house.
Well, one thing led to another, and now they’re trapped inside a mansion in an extradimensional pocket searching for clues for a keyword to unlock the doors and get home. So far they’ve fought a swarm of animated books, been surprised by a cat, and greeted by homonculi housekeepers. They also split up, and are scattered throughout the mansion. Normally this wouldn’t be a too much of a challenge but they were at a social event and so don’t have most of their adventuring equipment or weapons.
As a result, they’re a little jumpy. I’ve not even started playing spooky music. That said four pickled hands just scrambled out of a jar to attack the dwarf at the end of the session so here’s to the next time we all get together…
It’s something of a trope to call queer gatherings and especially polyamorous groupings as a Found Family and its a concept that appeals to me, even if I have no intention or desire to replace the perfectly wonderful and odd family I was born into. I’m lucky in that respect as I haven’t suffered the rejections so many other queer people have experienced, and so my Found Family is an addition to my life, not an alternative.
At the same time it still came as a surprise yesterday to be called Dad by the cub – not in a casual slip of the tongue way, but as a deliberate statement while we were discussing our Christmas plans for this year:
We will be going up to visit my parents and taking over the spare bungalow in the process. The thought of having five adults around was a bit daunting for the cub until we told him there were two houses side by side and it was while we explored that with him that he explicitly acknowledged that he saw Lady M and I as parents alongside his dad: that he sees Lady M as mum and myself as a dad.
And then he asked, with the perfect timing of a child, if he could have ice cream for dessert.
I’m still processing it, having dropped him off to school this morning. It’s one thing to have that warm affection for a child grow into a fierce, if sometimes exasperated, love – and still quite another to hear it returned, expressed, and said outright by that child. I think I lost sight that I wasn’t the only person recognising and building a found family in this new unit.