I talked about how toxic masculinity can definitely make the workplace a lot more tough to feel comfortable in, but it also goes beyond that in many occasions. Toxic relationships can start within own families and it was much more common in years past. Social climate dictates a lot of how people respond to minorities or situations different than they were raised in. Because of it, many of us learned that we didn’t need to stay within the confines of our family to find support. Once we learned there were others like us out there, we had a means of building our own family — we created our own. So let’s clear up the differences between family and relatives.
Family is defined as a basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two parents rearing their children, any various units differing from but regarded as equivalent to the traditional family, or a group of people united by certain convictions or common affiliation. A relative is defined as a person connected by blood or marriage. So it is pretty easy to see some differences here. All relatives are family but not all family are relatives. We have the ability to be able to make our own families and oftentimes this is very important for LGBTQIA people.
Families can truly be a toxic situation that needs to be escaped. LGBTQ youth can be subjagated to abuse, being kicked out of the house, cut off from support, or worse. Some of our youth arent so lucky to make a healthy escape and turn to suicide as an option. They are three times more likely to contemplate suicide and five times more likely to have attempted it. Our families often times reflect the same ideals as those of the environment they were raised in. Seeing their parents being discriminatory towards minorities becomes a common thing to them and then becomes ingrained into their own values.
We are taught that relatives are supposed to love us unconditionally. In theory this may be true, but, as LGBTQ people, we have seen the darker sides of what that is supposed to be. Parents sending us to conversion therapy, disowning us because we dont fit their ideals of what we should be, abuse, abandonment, and worse. Relatives can be the source of who we are and great love but it is also the source of some of the greatest pain and suffering. When we are younger, we often do not have the ability to change our situations easily. For many running away becomes their only option and it leads to larger problems as well. Our personal safety should always be a consideration and unfortunately our community often does not rally around those that are left without homes, very well. This becomes why registering to vote and voting is so important, this allows officials to see how many of us are in a given population and how to assign the needed dollars for support.
Being able to choose our own family helps us create a support system for ourselves. We can surround ourselves with people who understand where we are coming from, the trials we have to endure, and help us when we need. It is important for our growth to have that support system. It gives us the ability to decompress and have someone we can relate to. 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ and 39% of LGBTQ adults have experienced rejection from a family member. Sure we have gained more in the way of acceptance and rights, but these numbers remind us that we still have a long way to go to battle personal homophobia and abuse. These chosen families become our source for support and love when we cannot turn to those we were born into.
We are seeing legislation change to include our chosen families, as well. It is reported that roughly 64% of LGBTQ baby boomers say they have their own chosen family and three cities, New York CIty, Los Angeles, and Chicago all have legislation that will allow us to use paid time off to care for our chosen families. These chosen families become equally important for our LGBTQ youth. They can provide real time support and safety from the world. It creates a place and network that can be depended on to keep them safe from harm. I am reminded of the days of Houses during the high point of ball culture in NYC. The houses worked closely with the homeless youth, gave them a purpose, a set of rules to live by, and ability to have a place to stay and food to eat.
Being able to create our families comes in many places and forms, thankfully we are seeing a growing trend of GSA (Gay Student Alliances) in schools. This gives LGBTQ youth a place to find a support system as well as a safe place to be who they are without judgement. Unfortunately, so many schools are against the very idea of having a LGBTQ group. They often times feel this will be more dangerous to the education of others than the support it may cause a smaller segment of the school population. We need to be advocating for the creation of these organizations and making sure that our youth and adults have places to turn for support and safety when they need it.
If you have a family that has been supportive of you, thank them for their understanding. If you have friends that come from households that aren’t as accepting, reach out to your own parents for help in how to assist your friends. We should be creating safe spaces of ALL of our LGBTQ people. Our own mental health is dependent on having that kind of safety and support. If you are in a place where you need help, there are places you can turn to for that help. Please visit my links section for access to crisis hotlines or resources, both here in Cleveland, Ohio and country wide. Remember that taking time to help one person could be enough to change their course of action and provide them with the help they may be needing at that moment. We are all family to someone, we just have to reach out and let them know we are there and can help where we can.