We often have preconceived notions of what a family is supposed to look like, as seen by the concept of “nuclear families”, for example. And then there are extended families, single-parent families, families with more than two parents, etc.
But what about familial bonds with people who aren’t tied to you by blood? I don’t mean families where members of it are adopted or remarried. I’m talking about considering someone who isn’t related to you in any way as part of your family because your bond is that close.
Where do found families come from?
Interestingly, the concept of a found family, also called a family of choice, is a popular trope in fiction. In these fictional scenarios, multiple characters who go through plenty of ups and downs together end up with bonds so tight that they’re pretty much like family to each other.
But found families aren’t just bound to fiction. They’re a very real concept in our lives, too. You might have friends who are so close to you that you pretty much consider them family. However, it goes deeper than that if you’re part of certain marginalized groups.
Unfortunately, too many people in this world who are part of the LGBTQ+ community face discrimination from their blood-related family members. They’re often subjected to abuse or even made homeless because they’re not accepted by their own blood.
In these cases, many LGBTQ+ people find their own families in people who love them unconditionally and support them with sincerity, no blood ties needed. Found families can provide so much warmth and guidance to people who need them, especially marginalized groups.
How do found families and blood families differ?
If you’re lucky, you can absolutely have both a blood family and found family who love and support you. The sad reality, though, is that not everyone has that luxury.
The first thought that pops into your head when you think of the word “family” might be something pleasant, a group of people you look forward to seeing. But for many people, their blood family could be a big source of distress.
We all know that toxic and abusive families exist. They don’t respect your boundaries or you, don’t support you, constantly make you feel like a failure, frequently guilt you, and the list goes on. But because of how society holds up the concept of blood relations as extra important and special, you might easily find ways to excuse their behavior.
That’s where found families come in. We’re always able to choose our families because really, a family is a source of warmth and happiness, blood ties or not. Found families are made of people whom you’ve decided to trust and love because they trust and love you back.
Blood families aren’t exempt from criticism
Honestly, the number of times I’ve heard “, but she’s my mom at the end of the day” and similar dialogue frustrates me to no end. We don’t owe our family forgiveness and understanding when they treat us badly because we share the same blood. Being disrespected and made to feel bad is not something we should have to put up with from anyone, regardless of whether we’re related to them or not.
Especially in my Arab culture, there have been plenty of times where I’ve heard (usually older) people say, “that’s your mother/father/sibling/grandparent!” as if it’s the ultimate reason to let someone get away with hurting us. Call me crazy, but I don’t see how coming out of someone’s womb makes them entitled to say and do whatever they want to you.
But of course, because of how the world works, many people are stuck in the same household as their toxic blood families for a while. That makes found families even more important to have. You can still receive the love and support you deserve from people outside your blood family. It can make things just a little more bearable.
All in all, the found family is yet another type of family dynamic, and it’s just as valid as other types. You don’t need to be related by blood to be family. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.