I walked into college convinced that I was hetero, completely submerged in heteronormativity, and the unfortunate repression of my own liberation, due to self-hate. Of course, the thoughts had crossed my mind countless times as a preteen and in my early adolescence that I might be queer, but homophobia is more normalized than open queerness. So, I shut those thoughts out. I repeatedly closed the door on one axis of my own identity.
Coming from a religious home that “doesn’t judge but doesn’t support”, there was no room for open discussion about queerness. When I stayed in a predominantly white neighborhood, where everyone was entirely too comfortable in their anti-Blackness, I was given no room to love my melanin. When I stayed in a predominantly Black neighborhood, where homophobia runs rampant, there was no tolerance for me to even step out of my assigned societal gender role, let alone be gay. Wherever I went, I wasn’t allowed to be a nigga and I wasn’t allowed to be gay, God forbid I be both.
It wasn’t until I was exposed to so many unapologetic marginalized folks that I started to analyze who I really am, and separate myself from all the bullshit. It was then that I began the intentional and meticulous distribution of my love and energy. Accepting the love that, I was unfamiliar with, but that I have always deserved. I met my chosen family, and they continue to save me.
A chosen family is an unrelated group, or set of individuals, who love and support each other. This concept is very common among young adults and especially important to queer and trans youth, out or not. They are the people that you can rely on. The people that encourage you, but still give you enough space to heal and grow with yourself. These may be people who you run to when your biological family has pushed you away. They’re a place to stay, a resource, they’re people that love you. People you sincerely feel you can relate to. Full offense, but none of my healing has come from discussing my queer issues with cishets.
I met these folks when I still considered myself hetero. I found myself drawn to this support group on my campus that was a space specific for queer and trans people of color (QTPoC). I have no idea why they allowed my sexually confused, supposedly “straight” ass in their space (I suspect it was the gay-dometer), but I’m glad they did. As time passed I started to question why all my friends were QTPoC, and why I felt so comfortable with them. Obviously, I realized that I’m queer as well, and I began the very intense process of unearthing myself. A process of unlearning all the self-hate, the boring heteronormativity/cis-normativity, constricting gender roles, toxic anti-Blackness, etc. This was a process that was supported and encouraged by my chosen family.
As we grew in our love, more people came out, there were more name changes, more identity terminology changes, more expansion of our own self-awareness, and of course, endless acceptance, all while being some of the best friends I’ve ever had.
Endless jokes, family dinners, cuddle sessions, and twerk sessions.
Bonding through music and memes, fear and success.
Protesting the blatant displays of white supremacy shown on and off our campus.
Holding each other accountable when speaking from a place of privilege.
Simply holding each other when Trump took office.
All things I couldn’t have relied on anyone else to do with and for me.
The collective fuels one another as we come out to biological family members and friends from our hometowns. Being supportive whatever the outcome is, giving them room to validate their experience, and always reassuring one another that we will always have a home with each other.
When I came out to my mother, she cried. I tried to convince myself that it was because she was fearful for my safety as a queer Black femme. However, I’ve concluded that it was internalized homophobia. No amount of preparation could’ve stopped my chest from aching the way it did that day, but my chosen family was with me the whole time, sending me messages of love and support. It was their arms that I fell into, and they will forevermore have a place in mine.
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