We Make Our Own Family

Me and Lenny. He's a solid mentor in my life.

A quick dive into queer history will reveal countless stories of how ignorance and fear have brought wedges and conflict between LGBT folks and their families.  For as long as anyone has dared to declare their queerness, individuals have run away from, been turned out by, and generally had conflict with their biological families.

While my own story is much less tragic and dramatic than some, I still know the pain and sadness that comes from being in a family that just doesn’t understand or accept who I am.  The son of a devoutly Christian-Republican family, I’ve spent more than a decade trying to find peace with my family and I sometimes wonder if that resolution will ever come.

Don’t get me wrong, my family is awesome…and there is a lot of love in them.  But despite years of calm discussions, pleading cases, and screaming arguments, they just don’t accept me as GAY.  It’s a rough road at times and the more I become comfortable with myself and the more I create my own life, the farther they drift away from me.  They miss out on crushes, loves, break-ups…realizations, growth, fun…and I miss having them involved.  There have been too many times I’ve either been joyously happy or grossly distraught and reached for my phone to call Mom only to stop and realize that she’s not the one who wants to hear about it.  It’s those halting moments of sad realization that break my heart.

And then I scroll through my address book and instead call a “brother”…someone who’s not related by blood, but bound by spirit.  When the family I was born with can’t be there for me, I rely on the family that I’ve been blessed with.  My brothers in leather know my heart and can empathize with my pain; we know how to be there for each other and we understand the power that comes from that unity.  We make our own family.

Every LGBT person knows how profound it feels to finally find a judgment-free community of folks who understand and relate to all the things that make you different from the “norm”.  Suddenly the fact you’re a boy who likes other boys makes you one of the group instead of the freak of the group (you still may be considered a freak in other ways, of course 😉 ).  Having acceptance and a cure to loneliness make the journey in life a lot easier…and we all know how long and difficult that journey can be sometimes.

In the Leather Tribe, you always have someone to cuddle with

As I’m about to hit another birthday, I reflect on the past several years–especially the past 2 in NYC–and feel a sense of accomplishment and confidence about where I am today.  But there’s also a part of me that’s a little bit sad because I know as a result of my growth, I can’t solidly relate anymore to the world I left behind.  I feel like one of the Hobbits from Lord of the Rings…after having gone all around Middle Earth with elves, wizards, and kings, the Hobbits return home to the Shire as changed little men.  The simple, sunny life that knew before just doesn’t quite fit anymore and the friends they left behind now look at their incredible adventures as little more than strange affairs in strange lands.  Saying good-bye to home opens you up to endless possibilities, but these possibilities can change you in such a way that you can never really go home again.

So I create a new home…and men become brothers, uncles, Daddy…and together we go forth into the fray.  As Bilbo himself would say:

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
… Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.”

Maybe one day my family will come around…maybe as I’m moving forward in life, my path and theirs will solidly cross again.  Until then, I’m thankful to have my other family…the brotherhood, the tribe, the folks who teach and nurture me.  Be good to each other y’all 🙂

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3 Responses to We Make Our Own Family

  1. CB, Mr. Eagle NYC 2011 says:

    Justin, well spoken words I must say my little Leather Brother. There is a lot of meaning to “Leather Family” and there are times that those bonds are just as strong and sometmes stronger than our blood ties to family.

  2. Paula Smith says:

    Don’t forget the female gender who is here for you as well. We do not get to choose our biological families. We do create our own chosen families though. They are people who we share common bonds with, gain a degree of respect for. They are people who we would go to battle for and who will be there for us no matter what. While I realize that these bonds may be found anywhere in any community, I myself have found them to be profoundly stronger in the leather community. I have fallen down several times and when I looked up from my lowest point, there was always a member of this chosen family there with a hand extended…I have returned from hard times to open arms and an abundance of love. For this, I feel truly blessed.

    I knew there was something else that we had in common….I am a HUGE Bilbo fan as well. First read the Hobbit back in 1976..not that I am dating myself or anything.

    Much love grasshopper….

  3. Dianna says:

    I second Paula’s comment, as I was about to say the same thing. I’m not LGBT and I’m not part of the leather community, but I’ve known you longer and love you more than a lot of those New Yorkers…I’m so lucky and blessed and happy to be your sister. We’ll always have girl scout cookies in Japan 🙂

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