I come from a relatively diverse family. My sister and I were both adopted from young birthmothers, and my sister is biracial. This, of course, does not make me an expert on diverse families in any matter, but I also had the pleasure of taking a sociology class my sophomore year, a class that focused on families in the 21st century. The outcome of the class was basically this: if you want it to be your family, it is.
I have found the more I write in various classes, the more the subject of family arises. I never thought I cared too much about the makeup of my family, but others seem to be interested in my adoption story, or hearing about how my sister is usually referred to as my “friend.”
Families, adoption and the makeup of the “traditional” family are hot issues right now, and I see varying degrees of offensive, neutral and supportive, credible and unfounded articles circulate across all of my social media.
These articles support antiquated view of the family, which is comprised of a married mother and father, two and a half children and a dog. All of these families live in suburban white-picket fence households with backyard barbecues and K-8 Catholic schools.
They do not account for families with divorced parents, adopted children, same-sex parents, non-married couples and multi-racial households. To some, this goes directly against “traditional” family values. The reality is, in 2015 traditional families are quickly becoming a minority. More couples are getting married later, or not married at all, children are adopted from both overseas and right in our own backyards, same-sex couples are becoming widely accepted, race is oftentimes not an issue when determining a future partner and sometimes people even want a cat.
Why, then, is this a hot-button issue? I have been incredibly lucky to grow up with loving parents, a caring sister and a society that has accepted me as an adopted white daughter to two white parents. My sister, being biracial, has a different story growing up with two white parents (there was a lot of hair products involved), but overall she’s had a generally positive view of our family and the future of diverse families. The key is love.
Most of us come to Xavier as scared little 18-year-olds, fresh out of high school with rose-colored glasses looking to expand our horizons and grow into the people who are going to set the world on fire (I would be rebuked if I did not mention the Jesuits at some point in my editorial). We leave surrounded by a new family, one built by love.
I’ve heard my friends refer to their “Xavier family” on numerous occasions and if one more person uses the hashtag “xavierfam,” my eyes may roll out of my head. But the sentiment is true. We do leave with a new sort of family, those with whom we share bonds, inside jokes, late nights and sunrises, Domino’s cheesy bread and most importantly, lots of love and understanding. These people may drive you nuts, but they’re your family.
For these reasons, it is essential for us to fight for a more nuanced understanding of what “family” means. There will always be people who might question the essence of your family, but as long as you love and feel loved, there is a place for you to feel at home, to feel celebrated and to feel valued. These are basic human rights, and we are all entitled to our form of love.
We graduate and move back to sleepy towns or big cities, or even halfway around the world, but the people we choose to be our family will always be there, a Skype conversation away. It is up to us to maintain these friendships with our mom or our roommate, our R.A. or our weird cousin who likes horses a bit too much. In this, we find love, we find happiness and we discover who we are, where we want to go and live, and that is okay with me.