Our family can be one of our strongest support networks: At their best, they are the people we grow alongside, come home to, and celebrate with. Traditionally, we think of “family” as referring to blood or legal relatives, but our closest relationships aren’t always dictated by lineage. A found family is a group of people often unrelated by blood, but who offer each other the kind of unconditional love and safety we expect from a family.
Found, or chosen, families are ever-present in the stories we absorb in popular culture: In Roald Dahl’s 1988 book “Matilda,” the titular character escapes her abusive family to live with her kind teacher. In FX’s 2018 television show “Pose,” LGBTQ+ people of color come together to form Houses that not only compete for ballroom titles, but also function as families, sharing meals and supporting each other in tough moments.
Though the origin of the term “found family” isn’t well-documented, it’s generally agreed that it arose within the LGBTQ+ community. It reaches as far back as the 1860s and the inception of the Harlem Drag Balls, where queer and transgender people of color gathered together in secret. Many LGBTQ+ people (according to a 2018 study from the Human Rights Campaign, almost half of LGBTQ+ youth in the U.S.) face rejection from their families of origin, and found families can rise to fill that gap. “We’ve all done this — created our mix-and-match families, our homemade safety nets,” wrote LGBTQ+ author David Levithan in his book “Two Boys Kissing.”
Beyond the LGBTQ+ community, found families can also be important lifelines for abuse survivors, immigrants, and refugees — those for whom “family” may be more nuanced than the conventional concept. Here, we’ve gathered quotes that emphasize the support and comfort of found families, reminding us that our closest relationships are ours to choose.
The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other.
— Richard Bach, author
When push comes to shove, you always know who to turn to. That being a family isn’t a social construct but an instinct.
— Jodi Picoult, author
Family isn’t something that’s supposed to be static, or set… It’s always evolving, turning into something else.
― Sarah Dessen, author
I live in a constellation of intimates, and the shape of us is a family.
— S. Bear Bergman, author and artist
A home isn’t always the house we live in. It’s also the people we choose to surround ourselves with.
— T.J. Klune, author
Many of us learn as children that friendship should never be seen as just as important as family ties. However, friendship is the place in which a great majority of us have our first glimpse of redemptive love and caring community.
— bell hooks, author and activist
There were times when I needed to find an outlet for me to understand my people and my own journey, and I found that through my chosen family.
— MJ Rodriguez, actress
[It] feels like everything that has gone missing in my life, joy and love and laughter and companionship, all flooding back into me at once. This is home. This is what I've been searching for.
— Marie Lu, author
Family is anyone who loves you unconditionally.
When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching — they are your family.
— Jim Butcher, author
The sense of family comes from the commitment we make to each other to work through the hard times so we can enjoy the good ones. It comes from the love that binds us; that’s what makes a family.
— Zach Wahls, Iowa state senator
Blood does not family make. Those are relatives. Family are those with whom you share your good, bad, and ugly, and still love one another in the end. Those are the ones you select.
— Hector Xtravaganza, activist and ballroom figure
These are the people I consider family. They are the people who have been in my corner cheering me on. They support me and are genuinely happy when good things happen in my career. They are also the people who have been with me when things aren't going well. They're all so loving and I know that I [can] count on them.
— Ruben Marquez, visual artist
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