What is the definition of family to you? In most basic terms, it is a group of people who share a legal or genetic bond. Within that, there are many offshoots of what that can look like. A family can be a single parent, a couple with no children, or a huge family made up of many generations. Your family is "supposed" to be a bunch of people you're related to through marriages and blood, who (ideally) love and support each other throughout their lives.
For queer people, it's sadly very common to have at least one unsupportive biological family member. Not everyone is blessed with an entire family tree full of people who understand that love is love. Maybe it's an elder member of the family who never quite made it into the modern age, an uncle whose version of faith has taught him that queer people are wrong, or even young cousins who went to schools that didn't include education about LGBTQ+ people. Maybe it's your own parents. Being queer with an unsupportive family comes with consequences, from hearing "you just haven't met the right guy yet" far too many times, to being completely kicked out and ignored by the people who are supposed to love you for who you are. The promise of "family" is too often not possible for queer people.
That's where chosen family comes in. Friends who are as close as family can blur the lines until there is really no difference. Just because they aren't related to you doesn't mean they can't fill the role of family. Your father won't walk you down the aisle at your wedding? Ask your best friend. Your family doesn't speak to you? Spend the holidays with your closest buddies who will make sure you're feeling valued and loved. I know many people (straight people included) who have aunts, uncles, and cousins who aren't related to them whatsoever!
You can also have chosen family even if your family is completely supportive. It's inherent to the queer experience. Looking back at queer history, queer people had to rely on each other for support long before coming out and living openly was okay. Alliances between queer people were often times tighter than bonds with family, because they were able to be themselves surrounded by people who felt the same way. In a community that is filled with so much heartbreak and love in its history, there is an ease and a safety in being around people who understand the parts of you that may be hardest to love when faced with adversity. Shared experiences make quick, fierce connections between people, not just within the LGBTQ+ world.
If you're queer and under 18, it can be hard to break free of family that don't have your best interests at heart. It's so difficult to keep them from affecting your mental health when you may have no choice in spending holidays and vacations with them. Find friends who will support you and love you for who you are, and focus your attention on them as often as you can. One of the best things about being an adult is being completely in charge of who you keep in your life. Once you're over 18, don't let traditional family bonds keep you from cutting out toxic family members from your life - just because they're related to you doesn't mean you need to suffer while maintaining that connection. There are so many wonderful LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ people out there for you to find who are ready to love and support you 100%.
Being queer is about making your life the way you want it to be, regardless of past traditions and expected customs. You deserve to have a family that consists of people who love you unconditionally, whether they be biological family members or chosen family members. Taking the steps to make it happen can be extremely difficult, but we (and many other queer people) can vouch that it's totally worth it.