Prizm News / May 17, 2018 / By Staley Jophiel Munroe
A collaborative art-reflection piece on the magical bond of chosen-family nurture roles sustaining LGBTQ folk.
Commentary by Staley Jophiel Munro
(Artist’s Note: With the Gaelic narrative in my ancestry and name, I chose to photo-illustrate my commentary with a symbolic representation of my relational journey with Sue: Finding me in the woods, teaching me to fly, then casting the spell of self-love, confidence, and power. Gaelic terms of endearment and enchantment overlay the images.
As creative director at Prizm, my hope is that moving forward we become a greater platform for the visual arts in our community to have a home, accompanying stories with profound imagery.)
With Mother’s Day recently passed and Father’s Day on the horizon, too many LGBTQ folks are faced with the sobering reminder that such holidays can ache with the void of these fundamental familial roles.
Coming out and learning to live authentically can be a volatile time for many, losing parents, immediate or extended family members due to their disapproval of our truth. Individuals are forced to forge ahead unsupported and on their own, until finally the silver lining of chosen family comes into view.
In many cases we find ourselves establishing intimate community within safe social circles. A double-edged sword, chosen family is often a means of survival, allowing friends or other family members to step into those traditionally nuclear roles. Ultimately, all humans share this interpersonal intersection, as we each know someone unrelated by blood whom we consider “part of the family” or something much deeper.
As a woman of Transgender experience, my family was not initially accepting. My mother, in particular, continues to struggle with using female pronouns or acknowledging my new life in any gender-affirming way.
While a deal-breaker for most trans folk, I’ve learned to allow her her opinions and let other equally wonderful women in my life fulfill that ever-present mother-daughter void.
The affirmation and nurturing I’ve received from dozens of women over my life and several key women in recent years helped groom me into the woman I am today, imparting to me everything from truthful soul wisdom, shared female-of-center experiences and all the wonderful little things that can only come from an unconditionally loving “mama-heart.”
This same sentiment reverbs across both sides of the friend to family adoptive spectrum.
One such mother-heart in my life is lay minister and evangelist Sue Wismar, a power voice for women’s rights and social justice…
“Chosen family, to me, is the deepest spiritual truth. God intended for our biological families to be a shadow of his unconditional love and commitment to us. But so many friends instead have felt rejection and then excluded, especially my gay, queer and trans friends. So when family fails to do that, he brings people into our lives who can be a reflection of his love, acceptance and permanent adoption. Chosen family corrects the lies of painful family or faith communities that say you are unwanted. Jesus wants you and loves you as you are to be in his chosen family. I feel so honored to be loved like that by my chosen family and that they have felt God’s love through me.”
Such a concept is nothing new or exclusive to the LGBTQ community. Even in the animal kingdom, sudden or grace-based cross-species adoptions are commonplace, and in the human parallel are no less life-saving. We see time and again that when we choose to lead with love, inclusion and compassion for the disenfranchised around us, our lives, society and even world become a much healthier place for everyone.
“My best friend Kaleigh is definitely the person I turn to when I feel my family personally can’t handle things that I’m going through involving my Trans identity,” says Melanie Birr of Columbus. “It’s really amazing how you don’t have to be blood-related to someone but still get the non-judgmental affirmation, advice and love you need. It really is possible to have family that has nothing to do with you genetically and that you’ve chosen for yourself.
Creative Director: Staley Munroe
Photographer: Marcus McDowell
Producer: Ty Talley
Hair: John Michael Mathews of Bang Studios
Makeup: J’hanna Appleby of Le Luxe Beauty Concierge
Assistant: Melanie Birr
Featuring Sue Wismar