On International Day of Families we celebrate LGBT+ people who have made a family with their friends

On IDF 2020, there’s no better time to celebrate those relationships that mean the most to us.

A large group of happy people standing in a garden
Image: Mattia Pelizzari

You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family, as the saying goes, but for some LGBT+ people that isn’t necessarily true. On International Day of Families, we celebrate some of the LGBT+ people and the friends they consider kin.

Your friends give you a sense of belonging, so they are your family in that way.”

Despite moving house a few times, Nick Costello and his husband Stu have been living in Stoneybatter for years. Coincidentally many of his closest friends live almost on his doorstep.

“It’s very much a village,” he says, “For this group, it’s a neighbourhood thing. They’re a combination of people that I worked with who became friends, some of their friends and family, and some of my husband’s friends, who are also my friends. I suppose community is another word for family.”

Nick describes what a positive impact their support has made on him: “Something that your friends give you, particularly if you’re from the same neighbourhood, is a sense of belonging. So they are your family in that way. And it’s not just because you’re of a similar opinion, because we don’t always have similar opinions, but there’s a sense of security. And also a really fun social group.

“Many of my friends don’t have children, and this might be a thing about gay men and women anyway, that we have an extended social life.”

Nick considers their family of friends to be instrumental in making their community the welcoming space it is. “They give me a sense of kinship,” he says, “and I hope they get the same from me.”

“You can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends, and I think that’s true for a lot of gay people.”

Three women sit on the grass in a park

Emma, Siobhán and Kiara have turned their friendship into art. All members of the Undercurrent cabaret troupe, Emma and Siobhán bonded many years ago over a mutual love of Dr Who and Strictly Come Dancing, while Kiara went the more direct route of marrying Emma.

Their friendship and the Undercurrent gang are both built around creativity and support for each other. As Emma says: “There’s that quote you can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends and I think that’s true for a lot of LGBT+ people.

“I’m very lucky in that I come from a supportive family, and Undercurrent is very much a family as well. It’s like a house where we look after our little drag babies. We’re a community of artistic friends.”

Kiara and Emma set up the group seven years ago as a means for people to work collaboratively on live cabaret shows, but never expected they would all become so close. As Kiara describes: “There’s like 30 of us now, people who used to be part of the troupe and don’t really perform anymore but are still very much in the friend group.”

Siobhán sums the gang up succinctly: “Our motto is – we’re here, we’re queer and there’s feckin’ loads of us.”

“We’ve been through so much and I know I can ask anything of them.”

A group of friends in fancy dress wearing silver clothes pose on a Dublin Street

Sharon, Peter, Joe, Christina, Elaine, Albert, Paul and Shell have dazzled Pride with their group outfits year on year.

Although all our featured groups are close, these friends have gotten a little closer than most. As Elaine explains: “With stitching and sewing, sequins and sequences, routines and blusher, I have seen enough of their bits to do me a lifetime.”

In scenes which would be familiar to all really close clans, they “fight like cats and dogs, yet when the time comes, we all rock up as one to Pride, all glittered beards and bums. Just your average Irish family.”

Joe couldn’t imagine life without his gang: “They mean the world to me, we’ve been through so much and I know I can ask anything of them, except for cash it seems, but I will keep chipping away.” 

With so many outfits and so many adventures, there’s enough memories for the gang to write a book, as Elaine describes: “I remember trying to cross Dame St as the Wizard of Oz. Glinda was standing in the middle of the road waving her wand and giving out to the Wicked Witch of the West. while the tin man, lion and scarecrow directed traffic around them. Surreal.”

To all our LGBT+ community on International Day of Families, have a great day with friends and family, no matter the combination!

© 2020 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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