Thicker Than Water

Everyone needs a house to live in, but a supportive family is what builds a home. Family can translate into a thousand different meanings, ideas, terms, and descriptions. I have been searching for a definition that translates for youth from the queer walk of life. Throughout this project I’ve explored the connections I’ve built with people through this journey called my life. That journey has shaped me into who I am, but most importantly I’ve found and built a family that supports me because, before them, a safe home was never available to me. 

It sounds harsh, but I’ve come to believe that family is more than blood and who puts a roof over your head. Your biological family can treat you as if family isn’t what you are. My family isn’t perfect, in fact, they are far from that. The things I’ve overheard about me, what has been said straight to my face, the backhanded compliments in my native tongue--all of this haunts me. The “yuh nah no sense mi nuh kno weh yuh mada get yuh fram''--speaking about me not living up to the quality of perfection they want me to be--hurts to hear. 

The connections I have built and the family that I’ve created has taught me that I am more than enough. My best friend Markice and I grew closer during quarantine and created an essential bond. My brother Ty and I met in the 10th grade. People said we looked alike and now we live in the same apartment and I can’t imagine life without him there. Although my partner Ace is a recent addition to my family, they show up for me. Even though we are long distance, their family has included me as a part of their family.  Carolan and Ashley are my friends that remind me to reflect and that the road of life is more than just work. We have built a strong relationship. My queer youth family has motivated me to work hard and to not let obstacles stand in my path. Yes, we are not blood and we are separate as individuals, but we are a part of the same community that bonds us together in understanding the journey. Finding those who refuse to judge you and support you is my reflection of what family is.

“Family is a bond created between a group of people and these people may not be related through blood but instead related through love.” - Ty

My brother, father and I live together in a small apartment where we rent out the rooms. Things can get stuffy so the fire escape never fails to save the day.

This is my home in New York. It signifies work, struggle and maturity. I’m often working with different organizations to create an equitable high school system with opportunities, meaning Zoom calls all day, but it’s worth it because I love what I do. Work, eat and sleep are all in one location. 

“Family is a community where you can act like yourself. You don't gotta pretend who you are. You can show up and be vulnerable also without judgement. Someone you can really trust in.” - Carolan

Carolan, a friend from middle school, and I became close throughout the pandemic. I would be at their house or they would be at mine. They showed me that life isn’t always about rushing. You can slow down and get just as much done at your own pace. Carolan has been the shoulder I cry on when things get tough. They are always there with open arms.

This is Wakefield, a neighborhood on the outskirts of The Bronx. The neighborhood is so far you have to leave an hour before if you want to be early to your destination. These houses represent their own communities inside because it’s not just a house, it’s a story.

“Family is when you feel at home, safe, supported, protected, loved, and to create a family is to find people in your life who inspire you and who drive you, family is all about having people who truly love you around you.” - Markice

Markice is an important part of my queer youth family. He teaches me that not everyone leaves and not everyone is perfect. He loves me unconditionally. We went out to eat because it had been a while since we had seen each other. Everytime we link up we spend days together.

Early mornings when the sun rises behind the trains, I hear New York wake up. I live on the first stop, Wakefield-241st. All I hear in my neighborhood is honking and chugging of the train cars.

“Family is a permanent commitment , to care, love and support the ones that surround you. Blood or not , it’s the strong bond shared between people that makes them feel as if they are blood related.” - Ashley

Ashley’s journey was tough, so it is hard for her to open up. We bond over relaxing in my room, watching movies and making small talk. Venting together is what keeps us sane.

All united, since forever.

My brother Ty loves to pose for me while I take photographs of him. Here he pretends he’s the main character. I call this one, “give me princess and the frog.”

Riding a Megabus over Camden Bridge. Camden, NJ.

Traveling from New York City to Camden, New Jersey is a long commute, but seeing the one I love’s face makes it worth it. I leave my family to be with the other half of my chosen family, but it is also a place I can call home.

The sunny days where Ace and I sit and make memories makes me sure that the day will be full of laughter and unpredictable outcomes. We are always finding something new to keep ourselves busy and things we want to experience together. 

“I would say [family is] having people you trust to the bone, that you can be you around and not be judged and only loved.” - Ace

Ace, my partner, plays guitar for me. Music is one of my love languages.

Putting pictures up of me everywhere is how my Ace says “I think about you everywhere I go.” Being this important to someone has been strange, but they aren’t going anywhere so I might as well get used to it.

I’ve never had a little brother and Ace’s brother, Nico, has filled that position. He says I’m the best girlfriend my partner has had and how great I am at making eggs.

Many of the activities Ace and I do are meant to create memories. Here on a sunny day we paint hand collages that represent queer relationships.

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