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  • Dan Apus Monoceros

Where we belong

Family of choice is where we feel comfortable

by Dan Apus Monoceros


Every year: the season of family celebrations is upon us. Some will probably drive across the country to see their relatives, eat with them, exchange gifts and have a good time. Some will certainly argue with them, because just because you share a few genes doesn't mean you have the same values and world views.


But not everyone has family or can and/or wants to visit them. Maybe some have broken with their relatives, maybe they are just too far away and some have never had any or met them. Especially in the LGBTQ world, this seems to happen a bit more often than in some other settings.


But there is not only the family we were born into, but also the family we look for and build ourselves over time. And it is with this family that I would like to share with you in this article.


In preparation for this article, I have started a small, non-representative survey, and the results will be included here. In this article I would also like to

  1. define and understand the (chosen) family

  2. shed light on different aspects of families of choice

  3. compare the family of choice with our genetic family

  4. question why the aspect of choice is so important

  5. Look at the other side of the coin

  6. And ask ourselves how to make a choice family successful


The survey

I myself have been living in a choice family for several years. However, as I do not want to draw conclusions or generalise from myself to others, I started a small, non-representative survey to which I received 28 responses.


I distributed the survey in the network and environment of the gay-BDSM.club. Accordingly, no conclusions can be drawn here for the population as a whole.


This was also confirmed in the survey, where 78.6% of the participants stated that they were male and only 14.3% female (7.2% had a different gender). In addition, only 7.1% said they were heterosexual. 67.9% said they were kinky. 42.9% of the participants described themselves as non-monogamous. 32.1% of the participants were up to 24 years old. An equal proportion were between 25 and 34 years old. And an again correspondingly equal proportion were over 35.


Of all participants, 46.4% said they were currently living or had lived in an chosen family in the past. 32.1% would like to be in one and the rest are undecided or think they would rather not live in one. Those who already have experience with an chosen family filled out a detailed questionnaire. The others came to a few general questions.


What is a chosen family?

Deviating from our genetic family, in the course of our lives there are always networks of people to whom we feel we belong, sometimes even more than those where we come from. By this I do not mean the partner:in, but an association of people who do not necessarily also have sexual contact, but who love each other in their own way.

Results from our survey:

We asked those who were currently or in the past in an chosen family how happy they were at this. All were "always'' or "most of the time'' "very happy''!

One possible definition

There are a variety of definitions, with quite a few focusing on the affiliation of parents and children, and only a few understanding families as an abstract model of unrelated people.

The following is my definition:

In more abstract terms, a chosen family can be said to consist of several people who feel a sense of belonging to each other, regularly interact with each other and support each other, regardless of situational sympathy.

What I am trying to express here is that there is a higher construct behind what is more than friendship, mutual benefit or sympathy. If you fall out with a friend, you can find a new one. Family, on the other hand, is not so easy to choose.

This is also true of a chosen family. You can choose it, but once you have joined a family, you are bound to it. You can leave it again, but it is usually difficult to do so. Individual members, on the other hand, cannot be chosen. It is a kind of obligation to which you submit, even if it doesn't suit you at the moment.

Commitment on several levels

Often they share resources, take on protective or supportive functions for each other and stand up for each other. They virtually commit themselves to the family and thus to all members of the family. The values merge into one another.

In principle, they pursue common values and ideas, but they do not have to agree in detail. Disagreements are part of it and can enrich the family and give the family new perspectives and values... or they can also divide the family. Thus, a family is not a fixed construct, but develops over time. The individual members can also interact with non-family members, whereby these external interactions are to be understood as less lasting than the bond within the family, unless an equally strong bond develops with the external, who then also becomes part of the family, kinship.

Because of the high level of commitment, people go through thick and thin together. You share the good things and the bad things with each other. So it's not always easy, but for the most part you are rewarded.

But this commitment is rewarded. In our survey, all respondents were "always" or "mostly very happy". Overwhelmingly nice result, which was often further confirmed to us later in the context of other surveys.


Naming, contents & commonalities

There are many names for this: this starts with typical family terms like "my (non-birth) brother/sister", "my sibling", "my [poly / rope / BDSM / kinky / leather / drag / FF / ...] family", "my pack", "House of [any name]", "my homies", etc. There are many, many names. To keep it consistent, we now call these social constructs families of choice.

But the name is not so insignificant. It often contains the central element of the family that this group of people is about. So the Leather Family probably has something to do with leather, the Rope Family with Shibari and the Pack probably with Puppies.

But there are also names that are more about a specific person, like the House of Spot, where Spot is the head of the family and this represents a kind of decision-making structure and the design framework of just Spot.

Even if there is a central theme, like in a Leather family, this does not always have to be equally strong in all members. It can also lose its importance completely over the years. The cohesion between people is what actually makes it special.

In our surveys, we asked what the fundamental commonalities of chosen families are. The most frequently mentioned elements were polyamory (8) and various kinks (7), with "being a puppy" being mentioned several times.

We also wanted to know other commonalities. Here, the elements already mentioned were repeated and expanded. Interestingly, a higher level of education in connection with sexual experimentation was mentioned several times. But there were also clusters of topics such as cuddling, cultural events, good food, nature or other leisure activities that took place outside the sexual framework. Common values were also mentioned, such as tolerance, openness, honesty, trust or understanding.

The result is not surprising, but it shows that we are on the right track and that people who like each other more than anything else can also find common ground and common themes. But it also shows that later on it's not just about one topic, but about the cohesion in this group, just like in a biological family.

A family for eternity

A family is actually defined for eternity. But an eternity is a long time. A family can develop and change. You can like it more or less and feel more or less comfortable in it. But normally they don't die out. That is, you are in the family for life, so to speak, even if you part ways later on. So I wanted to know how long the participants have been in the chosen family.

A share of 23.1% have been in a chosen family for more than 5 years. Exactly the same number, however, have been in a chosen family for less than 1 year. The majority of 53.9% have been part of a family between 1 and 3 years.

That's not an eternity and I'm really curious whether this long-term commitment will really last or whether it will soon be gone again... But when I think about how long my first gay relationships lasted, 3 years is almost an eternity ;)

A substitute for the genetic family?

Sometimes families of choice are a substitute for the genetic family, e.g. if you have left your home country or don't have a good relationship with it. So it's not surprising that in the Kink and LGBTQ world, too, families of choice are an issue. Many people experience incomprehension or even negative reactions to their coming out here at home, they are discriminated against in the village they live in or they don't feel they can develop where they were born and then move to another city, sometimes a big city.

The chosen family can help and then offers a suitable environment in which - similar to a genetic family - one can develop and evolve. But since the members are the results of a free choice, you can identify with them more, share common interests, you can be open and inspire each other and thus develop further.

In our survey, we asked you how you feel about your genetic family. In this part we only asked participants who live in a chosen family and 8 answered. When asked if they were happy with their genetic family, only two answered "yes very much". All the others were rather neutral to unhappy with their biological family. And the direct comparison between the chosen family and the genetic family was also rather sobering. For one, the comparison was not possible. All the others agreed: the chosen family is the only true one for them, or at least they would prefer it to their genetic family when in doubt.

Of course, the result is not representative. But at least for those, the decision seems clear.

The aspect of choice and other advantages

Even though the commonalities seem fundamental, there is a very important aspect to the chosen family: the family members are not randomly thrown together, they choose each other.

In most cases, a single member cannot choose all the other members. In special cases this may be so (for example, a Master can do so if he chooses his slaves and switchers among them), but mostly there are formal or informal processes for how the others are integrated. After all, the existing members are already family and only the best is wanted for the family.

In any case, the new member can always decide for himself whether he wants to become a member of the chosen family or not.

Why do people want to become members of a chosen family?

Surely everyone has their own reasons for being in a chosen family. I therefore asked you and separately contrasted those with a chosen family with those without a chosen family. Are the expectations of those who want to be in a chosen family realistic?

First, we freely asked what the most important aspects of a chosen family are. I grouped these into categories and primarily aspects of the following 3 areas were mentioned:

The aspect of having a choice! (with: 23.1% / without: 44.4%):

Acceptance and belonging as one is (with: 23.1% / without: 33.3%).

Classic family values, such as sharing information and resources, division of labour, security and support (with: 30.7% / without: 11.1%)


It is interesting to see that both groups basically agree that the points "choice" and "belonging" are among the top3 aspects. However, the most important item for those with a chosen family is "classic family values". However, this item appears only once for those who do not have a chosen family and thus seems relatively insignificant.

Perhaps this is because these people currently only know classic family values from their biological family. Perhaps their experiences there tend not to be so good and perhaps the importance has therefore rather declined. Perhaps this will change when they are in a chosen family and realise that classical family values suddenly gain in importance with the people they have chosen. But maybe such values are not (yet) so important for these people in general. Unfortunately, our survey does not give an answer to this.

When asked "how important are the following benefits of a chosen family", both groups agreed that the aspect of "being there for you when you need them!" was important or very important. For those without a chosen family, 100% were at "very important". Although this aspect is a little less important among those with experience (92.8% see this as important or very important), an overwhelming majority of 92.3% confirmed that this is "completely true" and the rest at least that this is somewhat true.

There was a very comparable result when asked if it gives one a "sense of belonging". This was characterised as important or very important by 100% of those without experience (84.6% of those with experience) and confirmed by 100% of those with experience.

Likewise, 100% of those without experience and 92.3% of those with experience stated "help with personal development" as at least "important". 86.7% of those with experience confirmed that this was also true.

The question of how important "tips and information" are was answered rather split by the group with experience and some found this "very important", others rather "so-so". Is this perhaps because some families of choice are simply very good sources of information and others perhaps less so? Be that as it may, among those without a family of choice, on the other hand, a clear majority said "important" (66.7%). Perhaps their opinion will then shift in one direction or the other, depending on which electoral family they come from.