Meeting My Son’s Other Family

I love the people who have kept my son alive.

Meeting sons LGBTQ family alessandrobiascioli | Canva

When I’m standing in my kitchen cooking dinner, I’m never sure who may walk in. Gangly teenagers come through, all nervous smiles and polite, sometimes mumbled, greetings. My kids are loud and boisterous, slap them on the back and tell them, “It’s OK, my mom is cool.

I greet them with a smile, repeat the name they’ve told me to make sure I’ve got it right, ask their pronouns if they haven’t offered them up, make them a plate, and pull up another chair to the table.


I’m always down to meet other members of my kids’ families.

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The lonely days

My son first told me that he felt that he may be gay when he was in middle school. At the time, he still presented as a female but had shorter hair. He was still battling immensely with himself, and it displayed as angry outbursts and even fights at school. To be honest, at least for this child, COVID was a bit of a relief — no more nasty altercations at school. I could keep an eye on him, and his mental health.


It wasn’t pretty. He descended into such a deep depression I began to be afraid he would never emerge. Most of our kids had issues with depression during the COVID lockdowns, but his was profound. Therapy helped, medication helped, but then we found a local LGBTQIA+ youth group. That is where the magic happened.

I remember dropping him off the first time. It was in the next city over, so a bit of a drive, and the meeting was held in the upstairs of a local community church’s building in a sometimes-sketchy touristy area. To be honest, I didn’t even drive home — I hung out around the block, yes for a couple of hours, to ensure that if he needed to leave quickly I could be there. But the time for the conclusion of the meeting came and went, and as the last few participants trickled out of the building, there was my son, with a couple of new friends, laughing and smiling as he descended the stairs outside

I instantly felt tears prick my eyes. It had been so long since I’d seen him that relaxed and happy with others. It was clear that he had found his people. He got in the car beaming and chattered away the entire way home about the meeting, the people he met, and how happy he was to have found the group. My heart healed as his did.

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The rebuilding years

Those kids became his core group of friends for the next couple of years. We made the drive out every few weeks and then dozens of drives in between to birthday parties, hangouts, and sleepovers. They all came over, dressed to the nines, and I shuttled them to their first Gay Prom.

In time, he outgrew the meetings, and eventually, as we all do, some of those friendships. Although my son was battling his way through mental health struggles, his transition, and the return to public education, the core group of friends he made at that meeting sustained him through some dark and challenging times and provided him with a normal social outlet that all adolescents crave. They were his safe space.

So naturally, when they came over and he introduced them, I greeted them with all the warmth and gratitude I could display without seeming weird. I gave them hugs (with consent). I couldn’t exactly express how grateful I was for their support of my son, so I cooked for them, and drove them to the beach, the movies, or the mall.

I made sure our home was always a safe space for them, where their names and pronouns were respected and they were treated kindly. There were tearful arguments and bickering among the friend group, all of which I watched from a mindful distance, but my son learned to navigate complicated relationships with astounding maturity and clarity as he aged. Some of those friends ended up being a bit unhealthy for him, and he stepped back from those relationships. Some of them have stuck around through thick and thin, supported him at his lowest, and celebrated his accomplishments. Those friends are his chosen family, and I deeply respect and cherish that.


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Chosen family

I’ve always known our family is only the launching pad for our children. Throughout their lives, they will choose friends who will become their chosen families, people who will share heartache and laughter of which we, the parents, may never hear a whisper.

They will know my children’s secrets. They will hold them while they cry over something I could never understand. Their chosen families are precious to me, and I have always sought to express that to them and to make them feel as welcome in our home as any of our kids.

I have cobbled together my own chosen family over the years. From my dearest sister-friends to our neighbor Aunties, who help me tame my wild child four-year-old and commiserate with my adolescents’ sometimes questionable choices, my chosen family has had my back in more ways than I can count.


I know the value of those relationships, so I am careful to nurture the people my children bring to me and introduce them in those roles. If they are important to my child, they are important to me. 

Encouraging our children to establish a network of close friends outside of our family circle is one of the best ways we can support them into their adult lives. Not only will their chosen families emotionally support them in ways we just can’t, but those friendships can survive decades and will, fingers crossed, survive me. 

You see, those chosen families will last longer than I will. One day, I won’t be around for my son to call, but his closest friends will. Even before that day, there will be people he will call before me because I am cis and hetero and I just cannot understand some of what he goes through — but they can.


Validating your kids’ choice of friends, being a mindful satellite during those formative years to keep an eye on those relationships, and intervening only when we can see through the filter of life and experience when someone is genuinely not a positive influence in their lives, this is how we help our children form a network that will sustain them past us. It’s how our extended family tree grows. It’s how we multiply love, exponentially.

I have found that ‘family’ holds a much different meaning within the LGBTQIA+ community. Many of my older LGBTQIA+ friends were unfortunately summarily ousted from their families of birth upon coming out, and over the decades have formed their own families with whom they share holidays, birthdays, celebrations, and sorrows, and those families are sometimes more close-knit, respectful, and kind than some biological families I know.

I know my children will have those families, and instead of seeing them as competition or a threat to ours, I open my arms and heart a little wider to welcome them all. There’s always room for love, and there’s always room for more love.


So when my kids bring over one of their chosen family, I say this: scootch on over, pull a folding chair in, and bring another plate. Welcome to the family, friend. We are so glad you’re here.

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Melissa Corrigan (she/her) is a writer, mom, adoptee, veteran, friend, advocate, and ally living in coastal Virginia. Her online work can be found at The Examiner, Navy Times, Medium, UniteWomen, and more, as well as a newly released guided journal on Amazon.