Jan 15, 2012

[Technicolor Musings] The Need For Gay Families

Okay, this is not a post about gay marriage, just to get that out of the way. Not that I have anything against gay marriage - in fact it's something I want for me and Tobie more than anything (except maybe a house), but I just wanted to clarify at the onset that this post will discuss something completely different and yet still related.

by Rafael Perez (paintings2011) via Flickr
Now given we are in point in history when gay marriage is not fully accepted around the world (and sometimes terms a threat to future of humanity) and the challenges many members of the LGBT community face in terms of getting their own families to accept their true nature, it's interesting to look at what we do to adapt to the lack of such options. As much as we all want to find a relationship for ourselves, there's still that need for that sort of support structure that families provide to help us through life.

Thus it's interesting how many gay men tend to somewhat organize their friendships and peer relationships into hierarchies that resemble the family structure. And this is all just a fancy way of describing how gay men can have their "drag mothers" or their "gay sisters" or whatever other relationships in reference to their friends. It's an interesting practice that I've seen quite often and it's an interesting way of responding to the needs of the individual for support and reassurance.

I first encountered this sort of thing when I was initially introduced to the friends of my ex-boyfriend. Given I was still in the closet at the time and dealing with how pretty amazing and overwhelming the gay community is, it was pretty surprising that they had gone through such lengths. You see, that group had formally "organized" themselves as a family including how everyone had a different female name specific to the family and an established pecking order in terms of this particular matriarchy.

Of course being a newcomer to group (and admittedly not all that keen on getting a female name), I was essentially an in-law, and thus exempt from the naming convention. But beyond the forms of the family, what was more interesting to note was how the family structure reflected the close bonds of friendship in the group and the general level of support they provided one another. And for a young gay man with a foot still in Narnia, this kind of a thing was certainly empowering and highly encouraging.

by Graham Coreil-Allen via Flickr
And that's the main value in this sort of thing. When you're not 100% comfortable with sharing the queer side of your life with your family and are not in a position to have an "official" family of your own in the eyes of the law, we find ourselves still needing that kind of unconditional support from our friends. And while these alternative family groups aren't quite perfect analogs for their traditional counterparts, they do go fairly far in keeping the community supported. And in a world where gay teens opt for suicide when things seem hopeless, we really need all the help that we can get.

Coincidentally enough, I recently wrote about my own adoptive family over on Baduy Pride, the mushy co-blog I write with my partner. And while it's still a fairly loose and rather limited structure at this point, it's still an interesting second family that I care for wholeheartedly. Given it is primarily me, Tobie and our "son" Nico, things are rather limited at this point. But already we're starting to deal with a new potential "in-law" right now and who knows what lies in store for us in the future?

by Raphael Perez (painter1) via Flickr

I like the notion of these gay "families". They're the people that you run to when you're not sure if the situation is one your parents can handle given you're still in the closet or they're just not totally on board with the whole queer life just yet. These are the people we end up telling our secrets too, just like friends. But beyond friends, these are the people that we feel we can most be ourselves and thus we drop all of our masks, leave the wigs behind and be precisely the people who we know ourselves to be instead of what we expect everyone to be comfortable with. And that's really what family is - a place to run to when things go beyond bad and at the same time the very people you want at your side when you celebrate the greatest moments of your life.

This aspect to our gay lives is probably one of the most interesting at the same time one of the most powerful. Since so many societal rules seem to be against us and try to close their doors in our faces, we're left to our own devices to create a new path for ourselves. It's true culture building with a lot of rainbow flair and a great opportunity to try and create something better than what is already there. We strive to leave behind the discriminatory mistakes of the past and pave a new shining path for ourselves into the brighter future ahead.
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  1. Ahem ahem. You, your son Nico and Tobie? It ends there?! AHEM. I gave BIRTH to you! AHEEEEEEEM.

  2. Mahar, perhaps not. :-)

  3. Haha, well I wasn't sure if you wanted to be named in a Geeky Guide post just yet.

  4. Clearly it doesn't - families grow all the time after all.