As the saying goes, you don’t choose your family. However, Mickaël Albert and Alrick Magnin have seen certain people in their respective circles become the equivalent of a father, a brother, a sister or a mother. Their “chosen” families fulfilled many needs created by immigration and their LGBTQ realities.
Mickaël Albert chose his first family in Paris, after leaving Toulouse more than a decade ago. “The fact that I am gay has not been accepted at all in my home and I have not had a relationship with my parents for almost 20 years,” he explains. I still have ties with my sisters, but as I moved away geographically from them, I felt the need to find a family environment. »
Gradually, he formed relationships with people of all ages that go beyond friendship. “I have a caring relationship with a very paternalistic side. People who share their life experiences with me and who give me advice. When he moved to Montreal, he felt the need to forge other strong ties.
For Alrick Magnin, the opposite path took place. Her chosen family was born seven years ago, when she moved from France to Quebec. Three years later, her gender transition has prompted her to strengthen her ties with a few people essential to her life.
Sociologist Francine Descarries says the phenomenon is particularly prevalent among people who are sexually diverse and gender plural. “When you don’t correspond to the dominant heteronormative current, it is obvious that you have to create new models and rebuild new ties,” she emphasizes. We could call ourselves a group of friends, but family comes to mind because it is a place of support, mutual aid and learning that comforts us and seems more permanent. »
She specifies that the families chosen are not necessarily the result of rejection by the family of origin.
The one who is also a professor at UQAM recalls that the traditional nuclear family has not been the only model for a long time. “Since I started practicing sociology, there have been so many changes. The chosen family is the one in which we decide to live. She can be chosen by adoption. We can also talk about a group of friends who decide to live together. »
Alrick Magnin does not live with members of her chosen family, but she shows a great sense of community. “We can count on each other,” she said. From the outside, it may look like a friendly dynamic, but I have ties with certain relatives that resemble those I have with my blood family. Since we start from a common reality, it allows me to have what I could not have only with good friends. »
Same goes for Michaël Albert’s Montreal family. “These are people from Quebec or from immigration with whom I have a completely fraternal relationship. We share everything. We spend a lot of time together. »
Mickaël and Alrick celebrate the end of year celebrations and birthdays with their chosen brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers.
Francine Descarries recalls that at the time when sexual diversity and the plurality of genders were still subject to criminal conviction, many queer people often gathered underground. “They needed to be together to share and not live in denial of themselves 24 hours a day.”
Chosen family is not a concept uniquely associated with queer communities. Some individuals consider members of their choir, dance troupe or sports group like a second family. On this subject, the sociologist prefers to nuance. “It’s definitely a social connection and a place to belong, but I tend to associate the term ‘family’ with structures that have a certain duration over time. »
Alrick Magnin sees his chosen family members as pillars of his existence. “We went through some major life changes together,” she said. We can stay for a while and help each other. These people have been in my life for seven years and I could hardly imagine losing them overnight. »
Mickaël Albert is convinced that the members of his chosen families are there for life. “The fact of being able to choose them has a lot to do with it,” he says. At 40, I have a better experience of life, I know better what I want and what I don’t want anymore in my surroundings, so these people correspond 100% to my current values. I know it will last. »