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Quarterlife Queer

A never ending story

This weekend I went to visit my 4 month old nephew for the first time. He really isn’t my nephew in the genetic sense, his mother isn’t my sister in the genetic sense. But she is my sister in the extra extended sense. I’ve known her since I was 3 or 4 and we actually look so much alike that we have a hard time telling the difference between the two of us in childhood pictures and video… Her ex even thought we were sisters for 3+ years before he found out the truth. I also went to my other non-genetic sisters (my best friend) house for a bbq this weekend. I’ve know her since 3rd grade and we have been close ever since. She was one of the first people to find out I was gay in highschool and I was the first person to find out she was gay before she left for bootcamp. She is one of the people I can honestly say I would do almost anything for.

All of these family gatherings recently ( I had a family reunion the weekend before last) made me think about the family structure of non-European people. I have two half siblings, one sister and one brother (ok..we think its just 3 of us but the verdict is still out. I suspect at my dads funeral we will find a few more) I have more “sisters” than I can count, I have a friend I call my mother ( which is funny because she is barely 30 and looks the same age as me), I have a teacher from highschool I always called my “step-mom” and a gay couple in administration that I call my parents. I feel like making a family from whatever people are around you is some inherant trait for me and the people around me. How many of us have godparents, godsibilings, half siblings, step sibilings, the cousins that your parents raised, the neighborhood kids that called your grandparents theirs even though they weren’t really? To this day I am not sure how many people on my grandfather’s side of the family I am “really” related to because my great-grandmother took in everyone that needed a place to stay, ecspecially if they were from Mississippi. And don’t get me started about the small town in Mississippi that are my cousins… the entire town!

At first I thought it was a “black” phenomenon stemming from the destruction of a family structure during slavery, causing older people to become the parents and grandparents of people whose family had been separated.  But then I realized that everyone I know with brown skin had an extended family that was sometimes confusing but always understood. My girlfriends family is the same way ( she is from the Philippines) , everyone takes care of everyone, babies generally get reassigned to other family members when parents can’t take care of them, and there seems to be a few question marks on why the girl down the street looks just like you but nobody says anything so you just keep So I had to think further back to what I know of traditional African family structures, to the concept of every adult being a parent and the taking on of responsibilities when a family member passes away and children are left orphaned. I guess its roots are in “tribal” communities. Unlike societies that where trying to figure out how to set up property rights the communities in the world taking responsibility for everyone in the group, making sure everyone had enough to eat and a place to lay their head have passed that on to their distant descendants.

Just think about what happens when brown people lose family in the U.S… they make a family. You have brown people in the LGBT community who are shunned by their families and they make new families or find new families in “Houses”. Or you have the brown people that have no one to look up to that instinctually seek that out and find gangs and cliques to fill in that place. Even children on the playground away from their families will establish “play mothers” and “play siblings” to take care of them and interact with them.

I can only speak from what I know, and personally I don’t know too many non-brown people that went to majority non-brown elementary schools that had those types of relationships and in the few instances of houses I have known there haven’t been any non-brown members.  But of course that is my limited knowledge.

I love having a non-genetic extended family. I love all my sisters ( my “real” sister,my twin, my best friend, my long lost sis in DC, my Starlet in LA..etc), and all my mothers, and all my “play” cousins, god brothers and sisters, and Aunts and Uncles (who are really just my mom’s friends) They all play important parts in who I am and I can’t wait to raise our kids in that same family system!



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