Finding support, acceptance outside of our biological families

James was just 16 when Mom and Dad found out he was gay. Faced with the choice of accepting his orientation, they chose not to and forced him to leave. They couldn’t tolerate his “lifestyle choice.” In the small rural town in Georgia where he lived, he became an outcast with no support system. He ended up on the streets of Atlanta, where he eventually found his chosen family, which embraced him and fulfilled his need for support, comfort, and kinship.

James’s story is hardly unique. Roughly 40% of queer adults have faced rejection from their biological families. As for homeless youth, more than 40% are LGBTQ. What happens to these queer individuals once the safety net from parents, other family members and colleagues is yanked away?

Chosen families in the queer community are a lifeline, all about belonging and filling the void left by biological families. Chosen families are inclusive. Rather than shutting people out, they provide joy, security, and protection.

A new project — The Chosen Family Project — seeks to explore this little-understood but essential part of the LGBTQ story, the idea of the chosen or “found” family.

The Chosen Family Project was born out of months of discussion in 2020 among the initial three founders, Steve Rossetti, Steven Drew Auerbach and Bruce Purdy, all gay men living in Palm Springs, Calif. These founders wanted to support the gay community through an online platform that assists gay men through the coming out process. After exploring the existing literature and organizations, they discovered there was very little about what happens after coming out. The original idea evolved into a focus on the chosen, created family.

The Chosen Family Project’s mission is to celebrate, honor, and give voice to the diverse, loving, and joyful people we in the LGBTQ community call “family.” Through

books, interviews and documentary films, The Chosen Family Project will redefine the notion of the traditional nuclear family. It will share stories from people of various age groups and regions of our country about how they found, created and nurtured their chosen family. The Project will shine a light on the many forms and combinations of these families.

Through stories, testimonials, photographs, re-imagined iconic images and select family recipes, the Project will provide a new lens for understanding the concept of family. The chosen family becomes a refuge and a source of unconditional love from the people we support and who support us.

In this way, The Chosen Family Project hopes to change the prevailing narrative that has labeled LGBTQ families as different, though in reality they are more alike than different.

These powerful stories are a part of the LGBTQ history and culture, not to be forgotten. Our goal is to highlight and counteract the long-standing adversity that the LGBTQ community has faced (and continues to face), based on whom they love. We aim to inspire compassion and community rather than divisiveness.

Revenue from The Chosen Family Project will support LGBTQ foundations and individuals that assist those moving from traumatic family circumstances toward the triumph of living authentically with the family they choose.

For more information, contact [email protected].

Bruce Purdy is a founding member of The Chosen Family Project.