On family | The LGBT+ experience

Social ostracism is perhaps the strongest tool in the arsenal of exclusionary societies. It says, “If you do this or that you can’t sit with us.”

It is an effective threat because the human need for companionship is deeply rooted – an evolutionary need that can’t be easily dismissed. The fear of social ostracism is one of – if not the biggest, fear suffered by LGBT+ persons around the world.

Toby* knows that fear personally, and thankfully he also knows the feeling of contentment that comes when one builds a community of their own from scratch to shield themselves from the loss of community that comes with living in the fullness of their humanity.

Speaking about what he calls a ‘found family’ and Turkish novelist, Elif Shafak termed ‘the water family,’ he said, “The found family is much like a blood family but this is curated just for you, to be in your corner always.” 

A blood family can be said to be accidental in that no one is given a photo album with an accompanying manilla envelope of background check to choose what family to belong to. We just find ourselves in families we didn’t choose and have to make of them what we will.

“If your blood family happens to be nice and caring you could count your lucky stars and make the most of it.” – Elif Shafak.

A lot of LGBT+ Nigerians aren’t so lucky. In truth, a lot of LGBT+ persons around the world aren’t so lucky. Hence the need for a ‘found’ or ‘water’ family.

A ‘found’ or ‘water’ family does not necessarily need to understand all your plights, Toby thinks they “most likely would not.” 

The magic is however not in their understanding, but in the fact that they would always be there for you regardless of whether or not they understand you.

“While it was true that nothing could take the place of a loving happy blood family, in the absence of one, a good water family could wash away the hurt  and pain collected inside like black soot.” – Elif Shafak

It is no secret that there is a lot of collected hurt and pain in the LGBT+ community. From judgement and reproach to outright rejection, the plight of the LGBT+ is undeniable. This is known. What many, especially in the LGBT+ community, either don’t know or are tentatively skirting around the knowledge of is that there is a way to wash away all that collected hurt and pain.

The water family may not be easy to found but it is worth the trouble.

“There is no blueprint for founding your ‘water family’, what is certain is that it takes searching for, finding and holding on to them to begin at all,” said Toby.

Go forth and search, find and make!

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