BY Viva Tataqawa
For decades ”family” has been defined as having a father figure, a mother figure and children in the picture. As we move forward and accept changes that occur with time, this definition begins to expand and so too, does the analysis behind the term family.
The 21st century showcases a variety of family units which differ in their composition. Today, children are raised in single parent homes, by grandparents, or by homosexual parents. Some families opt to have no children, or cannot have children due to some medical or emotional barrier. Also, the idea that parents and children make a family is a basic, more traditional definition. But, in order to accurately acknowledge other family structures, a broader definition is necessary. In addition to a more traditional definition of family, there are also plenty of people who consider a group of friends to be family, and adults who consider pets as defining members of the family unit.
These types of family units, while untraditional, can be just as close, if not closer, than a traditional structure. The friends an individual chooses to associate with may be more special or important than the family a person was born into. In addition, some people who have supportive families also have an extensive network of friends who they consider to be a second family or as additions to their blood or legal relatives.
My family is the people I am related to by blood, but also people with which I build my life with everyday. I can have several families in my lifetime. I can even have several families at once depending on what I am doing with my work at the time and where I am located . Regardless of how you choose to define your family unit, whether it is traditional or unique, your definition of what constitutes a family unit should really be about what works for you. As the saying goes, “Family is what you make it.”
Whether made of blood relatives, friends, or pets, or a combination of these, your families are the ones that offer you the support, respect,patience,understanding,acceptance and accompaniment you need to thrive. For me these are also my friends, my work colleagues, the communities I work with and the networks that I work closely with in solidarity.
At times, being in a homosexual relationship makes me question my space or place in my nuclear family, and this sometimes has an impact on my life because of rejection and how my sexual identity is perceived. Family is a single word, with many different meanings. People have many ways of defining a family and what being part of a family means to them, which leads them to go out and define units they build with because they are able to find that sense of BELONGING and that genuine love, care and understanding that they long for,which they fail to feel in their nuclear family.
In my conception, families should not just be defined along economic, cultural, social, sexual or religious terms but rather along lines of mutual respect, regardless of who makes up the family.