Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Go-to-Gay: Chosen Family

We're glad to have Keith Stewart back this month for his first actual Go-to-Gay column. (He started out by doing an interview with us in July.) And readers, you are in for a treat! This month, he's talking about family and what it means to him.

From My Family to Yours

“Family” is a word that is overused, overexposed, and overdone. In this day of click-bait hyperbole ("Read This Expose and You Will Never Feel the Same About Sanford & Son," "You Won’t BELIEVE What Hillary Said Now," "Click Here and Be Forever Skinny!"), the word “family” is used to describe your co-workers, friends, people who attended the same school as you, people who support the same sports team as you, and even people who have the same favorite movie as you. That is all fine and good, but does someone who loves the Savannah Bananas baseball team and the Star Wars trilogy really deserve the title “Family?”

I was born and raised in the southern Appalachian Mountains. There, family is important. Family is who you go to in times of trouble, when you want to celebrate good news, when you don’t have anywhere else to go or anything else to do, and in my personal case, when you are looking for a home cooked meal. I have a gaggle of first cousins who are so close to me I honestly feel like they are my siblings.

Family certainly doesn’t have to mean blood-kin. Chosen family is often the best kind. They are the ones you picked to be your “people.” If we are being honest, these family members are the ones you’d prefer to go on vacations with instead of some of those blood relatives you are usually stuck in a small condo at Gulf Shores with for a week each summer.

For gay and lesbians, chosen family is crucial. So many of us are ostracized or completely disowned by our blood-related families when we come out of the closet. We are suddenly in the world with no family at all—a terrifying and soul-crushing experience for someone used to those close familial ties. Thankfully, I never had to go through that myself, but I know many who have, and I always make a point to include them in any family event I may be hosting or attending. Aside from the fact that it is an awesome song with a beat that will NOT allow you sit still and NOT dance to it, this is probably why Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” has always been a gay anthem.

I think family boils to down to two characteristics: undying loyalty, and, of course, love.

Face it, members of the “Dairy Queen Oreo Blizzard Family” are not going to be very loyal to you when something inconvenient comes along, say a fist fight at a funeral. When someone throws a punch at you at the burial service of a loved one, it takes undying loyalty from someone to jump into the fray in their best suit and tie and fight off the people who are attacking you. What? This has never happened to you? Just my family? Well, maybe not the most relatable example then, but my family IS a little odd. The point is being loyal means doing things you don’t necessarily want to do, but if a family member needs it done, you at least try.

When a member of my chosen family was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of years ago, the first thing another family member and I did was make plans to get to Houston, Texas, where she lived, as fast as possible. Neither or us knew anything about caretaking someone undergoing chemotherapy, and I pass out at the sight of blood, but someone we loved was in need, and all other issues fell away until we got there. Of course, I ended up clogging her kitchen sink so bad it flooded her kitchen had to call in a professional plumber, then spilled a large glass of red wine on her brand-new white arm chair (which she thankfully had already had Scotch- guarded), but I was there, helping in my own way. No members of the “Celine Dion Fan Family” made an appearance.

Since my book was published earlier this spring, I am so thankful to have family to share my experiences with along the way. You know when you get a really good compliment or review, you can’t just tell everyone about it without looking like a braggart. With family, I can just say, “Oh my God! Look at what so-and-so posted about my book!” without fear of eye rolls and knives in the back. The same when I get bad reviews or rejected for some event. I know I am safe complaining to them, and I know they will sympathize and join in the mutual griping to make me feel better.

Back to the hyperbole click bait, I should have titled this CLICK HERE TO SEE WHY I AM THE MOST BLESSED MAN ALIVE! I really do feel this way. I have a large, extended family of blood relatives that I am close to and genuinely adore. They accept me for who I am and let me be who I want to be. I have a group of chosen family members who I love and care for as if they were my siblings. I never feel alone in this world because of them.

I’m curious, ChickLit Central family, what characteristics do you think define the word “family?”

Keith Stewart is the author of Bernadette Peters Hates Me – True Tales of a Delusional Man. A native of Appalachia, he splits his time between his hometown of Hyden and nearby Lexington, Kentucky. His blog is . You can find him on Twitter at @Shiglyogly and Facebook at @AMSCOT (A Strong Man’s Cup of Tea). He is a regular contributor to and the He lives with his husband, Andy, and their two dogs, Duke and Dudley.


Anonymous said...

Absolutely love it!

Keith S. said...

Thank you!

Janine said...

I really enjoyed this post and you hit it spot on. My family has never been close. I honestly don't even know if I have cousins. As children we were always put up against each other in kind of a battle for attention and only one would get it at a time. To me my family are also my closest friends. I consider my best friend to be family because we share everything and when one of us has a problem or needs to talk, we are there for each other. And this one confuses a lot of people, but I consider my ex to be one of my best friends to me he will always be family. I talk and email him almost every day. I also have my book girl family who we share our love of different books and the discussions are always so much fun. I guess I am not as lonely as I sometimes feel. Maybe I do have a lot of family (even if they are the chosen kind).

jo Ann Kells old first cousin said...

I love it. As blood relative we sure come through when it is needed

Michelle smith baker from your home town said...

This is so true about you keith I have known you most of my life . so proud of you. Love u

Unknown said...

Tracy Miller: Young, hot cousin: Family is everything, and I'm so glad you're mine!