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Is blood thicker than water? A look into LGBTQ+ friendships

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Photo by Polina Tankilevitch / Pexels
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch / Pexels

It's the holiday season, and all across the country, people are planning out just how they'll celebrate — and survive — the next couple of months with family. For many, the idea of sharing a hot meal and reminiscing about childhood memories with loved ones is sacred, but for others, the next few months can feel like a special section of hell, especially for LGBTQ+ people who may feel disconnected from the families of their birth.

While holidays are a great way to celebrate families and traditions, it is important to remember this time of year that blood is not what makes a family, and that there can be plenty of love to go around for found families and friend groups looking to share this time of year.

Science proves that LGBTQ+ friendships are special
Being able to travel home and spend time with loved ones who accept and reaffirm one's identity is a luxury often not afforded to LGBTQ+ people. A shocking survey by the Pew Research center found that 39% of Queer adults have faced rejection by their birth families after coming out.

Family is vital to a young person's development, not only emotionally but financially as well. The UCLA Williams Institute found that 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+, and that this is a factor that contributes to their status as unhoused.

The holidays can make loneliness feel magnified for those who are unable to spend time with loved ones and can even serve as a reminder of what has been lost. However, for Queer people living in safe spaces like Seattle, opportunities to form pseudo-families or "found families" have given many a place to celebrate in an environment of love and acceptance.

Queer friendship is a magical thing, a phenomenon that social scientists have recently begun studying, to try to understand what it is that makes LGBTQ+ friend groups feel more like found families. In the study "Homophily, Close Friendship, and Life Satisfaction Among Gay, Lesbian, Heterosexual, and Bisexual Men and Women," researcher Brian Gillespie found that "gay men and lesbians, in particular, receive more substantial social support from friends than heterosexual men and women."

In his study, Gillespie theorized that the reason LGBTQ+ friendships are so strong is related to minority stress theory. "Minority stress theory proposes that GLB individuals are likely to experience rejection as a result of their marginalized sexual orientation and must learn to cope and adapt to a potentially 'inhospitable social environment,'" he explained.

Gillespie also found that friendship is vital for LGBTQ+ people in forming their identities and sense of self, and concluded that "sexual minorities may not only want more friends but need more friends compared to their heterosexual counterparts."

A rich history of LGBTQ+ friendships
While social experiments may not be required to understand that friendship is important to LGBTQ+ people, that sentiment is confirmed time and time again, both by recounts of personal stories and examinations from research studies.

Historians have also discovered that the phenomenon of Queer friendships date back centuries, although these close relationships were often not seen as Queer at the time. Author Maria Popova described the idea of "romantic friendships" of the last century as "that strange, wonderful, and often messy neverland between the two and the inevitable discombobulation of our neatly organized relationship structures that happens when romantic love and friendship converge."

Although it can be difficult for historians to distinguish which friendships of the past were Queer, because society tended to be more homosocial, the consensus is that such close friendships have always been important to people. Romantic sentiments have been tied to friendship in texts dating as far back as the Bible, in which a verse claims "the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself... then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself."

English literature is riddled with examples of close male friendships, and physical acts of adoration blurring the lines between romantic and platonic. However, as the study of sexology and laws regarding homosexuality became more prominent, acts of affection between same-sex friends became rarer and rarer, especially for male-identifying people. Perhaps it is the rarity of platonic same-sex affection that makes the phenomenon so special and enduring to this day.

Friendship for LGBTQ+ people is as vital as familial bonds. Friends are often the people there to reassure and comfort, and celebrate life's big events with those living far from the ones who raised them. Close friends keep us grounded, the community gives us life, and platonic intimacy is sometimes just what a person needs on cold winter nights.

So, this holiday season, if you don't have a birth family to travel home to, don't be afraid to reach out to your LGBTQ+ friend group for a Friendsgiving feast, and remind those close to you just how much you love them.