MY CHOSEN FAMILY
A chosen family is made up of people who have intentionally chosen to support and love one another. It’s about being there, no matter what, and celebrating who you are, no matter who you love. Meet the LGBTQIA+ families who choose each other.
Reeta Loi + Tori West + Jamie Windust + Sakeema Peng Crook
This family of activists, writers and creators are tied together by their hopes and dreams for tomorrow.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR DYNAMIC.
Jamie: Reeta is the self-confessed dad! Aren’t you?
Reeta: I’m the dad! There's a lot of big dad energy over here.
Jamie: What am I? The big question. Mum, no?
Reeta: I thought you wanted to be mum, but then I wasn’t feeling mum.
Jamie: Weird auntie? Who’s not related, but just your mum’s friend.
Reeta: Mum’s special friend.
Jamie: There are no roles, but there are definitely personality markers. For example, Dad... you call yourself the dad of the group, Reeta. Can you explain why, Daddie?
Reeta: Power-dad, that’s how I’m sitting.
Jamie: Sakeema is like a chic model-poet auntie.
Sakeema: I’ll take it!
Reeta: We’re quite chained to each other.
Sakeema: It’s a shifting dynamic, to be honest, there are no set roles. We’re a living organism.
WHO OWNS THE NARRATIVE OF WHAT CONSTITUTES A FAMILY?
Tori: No one can, really. Only you can understand that.
Reeta: It shouldn’t be prescripted.
Jamie: People think that chosen families come from that my biological family has deserted me, so I must choose my new family because otherwise I would be alone. For some people that might be true, but for others it’s about having a stronger connection with a shared queer experience rather than a necessity for life.
Tori: It’s interesting how people see what chosen family is, and it is going back to that narrative that some people think is a pity, like, "Oh, that’s sad that you don’t have that traditional biological family”. It’s not a negative thing; it’s great having a chosen family. It’s something really, really special and unique to all of us. I don’t think it should be thought of as something to be pitied. I pity those who don’t have a chosen family.
WHAT CAN BE RECOGNISED AS FREEDOM IN 2022?
Sakeema: Freedom is selfish to me. Not making choices based on how other people might perceive me or if it might make someone else happy, or if someone thinks I’m pretty or clever.
Reeta: It was really tough when I chose to live my authentic self and walked away from my family of origin. But some years later, my brother said to me: “But you’re free”, and I was really grieving at the time, mourning that loss of culture and my family. I didn’t get it then but it really stuck with me, and it took me years of really owning that freedom. It’s been a conscious exercise for several years to not be centred around my family or a relationship or a community. Because I did all of those things, and that being enough, that’s what freedom is for me.
Sakeema, Reeta, Tori and Jamie work a lot, so when they meet, they like to relax.
"THERE ARE NO SET ROLES. WE'RE A LIVING ORGANISM."
Sakeema Peng Crook
Nash Mariah + Mavuso Mbutuma + Martin Magner +Jana Babez
The Angels fell instantly in love on the dance floor over ten years ago. They have texted each other daily ever since.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAMILY NAME, THE ANGELS.
Jana: It totally makes sense. We’re a constellation, and where do angels come from? Heaven. Synergy! Angel is something we often say, like, "Hey angel,” or, "Angel, how’s your day?” It’s just a gentle way to address someone. It’s beautiful. It makes someone feel good and wholesome.
Nash: It is also good because it can make someone do something for you.
Jana: Ohhh... now your personality really shines through.
Martin: I think we’re angels because I feel like I get constant support from my friends, and they’re always supporting me, so I won’t do anything without their bias or support. Because I do a lot of crazy things. I decided to become a pop star at 28... It’s never too late to be too much.
Martin: They were front row for my first concert.
Nash: To be fair, there was only one row, so everyone was in the front.
Jana: Nash keeps us honest…
WHAT DOES INSTANT LOVE FEEL LIKE, AND HOW DOES IT FEEL WHEN YOU'RE TOGETHER?
Jana: I have experienced instant love with all of you. We met on the dance floor many a moon ago when we were in our early 20s. I just saw a special light with these beautiful beings, and I wanted to be part of that. I was drawn to that. Seeing them being their authentic selves made me want to be my authentic self. So I think instant love is when you just feel comfortable with someone, and you feel safe and embraced.
Mavuso: Instant love has become a more long-lasting love as well because as we have seen each other grow and become these amazing individuals and conquered certain things in life, we are always reaching for each other no matter what. That’s very beautiful and the ultimate love for me.
WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF CHOSEN FAMILY IN SOCIETY?
Jana: Chosen family helped me become myself at a time when I really needed it and to take it into my life. From the moment you have that core, and you know who you can be vulnerable with, you can fly.
Nash: Things are changing so much, and everyone needs a safety net, and for me, that’s what these three people represent, and I can only wish for people to have what we have.
Martin: I think it all comes down to love. Everyone deserves to be loved. And you can find that love like this.
For Nash, Jana, Martin and Mavuso, the pre-party is like their family meeting.
"I CAN ONLY WISH FOR PEOPLE TO HAVE WHAT WE HAVE."
Lola & Los Javis
Lola Rodríguez + Javier Calvo + Javier Ambrossi
After being lovers for a decade, directors Javier and Javier — also known as Los Javis — met Lola while filming a TV series. Now, the three of them are a family.
WHAT DO YOU GET FROM EACH OTHER THAT YOU DON'T GET FROM ANYONE ELSE?
Javier C: I think we understand each other, we feel warm when we are together, we feel safe and confident, and we encourage each other to be better.
Javier A: Working with Javier is a joy. He gives me power and creativity, and it’s super easy. He always smiles, and he’s always in a good mood.
Javier C: Lola has made me a better director, and now that she’s my friend, a better human being because I’m like, ”I have to be better for Lola, I have to listen more”, and she’s a very good listener.
Javier A: She lives in the present, she feels everything, and I admire that about her. She enjoys life and the moment, and that’s beautiful!
Lola: I love you so much! You give me so much power. You give me so much strength. I can conquer things with you. I was lost before you, and now I’m an actress. I think I can do anything in my life thanks to you!
HOW WAS IT FOR YOU GROWING UP IN SPAIN?
Javier A: I guess I had great moments as a child and as a teenager, but I never had the chance to fall in love, and I never had the chance to be who I was. I never had the chance to have friends to talk to about what I was struggling with. I had good moments, but I’m finding myself now at 37. So I guess something was wrong!
Lola: I remember my childhood in a beautiful way because I want to remember it that way. Of course, it was hard because I was trying to find myself, and I didn’t have all the information on how to be myself. Thanks to the internet, I found transwomen, and I found myself in them and started my transition after that. Of course, it was hard, but also it had a lot of good moments, and I’m Lola thanks to all those moments.
WHAT'S THE IMPORTANCE OF CHOSEN FAMILIES IN SOCIETY?
Javier C: In the LGBTQ community, we grow up and feel like we’re going to be alone for the rest of our lives, but then at some point, you’ll realise that is not true. You’re going to find people that are equal to you, and they are going to understand you and love you and you’re going to feel safe around them. That’s the importance of chosen families, because with our chosen family we can be ourselves; we can grow, we can laugh, we can love, we can live.
WHAT DOES CHOSEN FAMILY MEAN TO YOU?
Javier A: My chosen family means the world to me because they healed everything that was damaged inside of me. My relationship with Javi — we have been together for 11 or 12 years — saved me. I see in his eyes that I’m okay. And I see in Lola’s eyes that I’m okay. I guess that my chosen family say to me: You’re perfect.
Lola: Yes, you are!
Javier A: And suddenly you’re recovering, and at some point, you will be okay!
Lola: Chosen family means the world to me because I can be myself, and it’s okay.
WHO DO YOU THINK IS TRULY CHANGING THE WAY GENDER IS SEEN?
Javier C: I think the generation that is coming now is really changing the rules. The young generation, they have more freedom and more information, and they’re brave, and they are making great steps.
Javier A: It’s super important to have references. We want to create them — that’s why I write or why I direct. And that’s why the new generation is freer, because they have more references.
Javier C, Lola and Javier A love to cook together in Los Javis’ apartment in Madrid.
"THEY HEALED EVERYTHING THAT WAS DAMAGED INSIDE OF ME."