I think the assertions in this piece are based on the older versions of friendship. These days, many younger LGBTQ people (like, under 60) have built "chosen family" systems that are impressively tightknit. I also know others who have small families but are very close to certain friends and see them frequently as a support group. We don't yet have stats for the ways that these chosen families will support their peers. I'd also look to certain church groups (Unitarian, Quaker, Episcopal) and the networks they create. I agree that we have to think ahead, and staying close to family isn't a bad idea if they are kind to others in their family, and that it can help (in some cases) if we see family frequently and are less often in touch with them at a distance. But it's important to note these other, emerging networks, I'd say.

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Love this comment. Gonna ramble here. I think these emerging networks are fascinating. I have friends who are sort of on the cutting edge of the chosen family concept, and it's pretty interesting stuff. But I think the age issue still applies; virtually everyone I know in a chosen family situation has built that group with people more or less their same age (within a 10 yr or so range). Again, I think these are really interesting groups and do a lot of great stuff. I'm all in favor of them. But a) they're very untested over the long term, and b) they're not going to be a ton of help when you have six people or whatever who are all in their 80s and 90s. Those people will still need someone else, who is much younger, to take care of them.

Another challenge is the finances. How do you fund the care of a chosen family? Who foots the bill? I know a few groups who have moved to formalize things like property ownership for the group. It's been complicated but interesting. But what happens when a second generation comes along? Who gets the resources and decides how to spend them? You basically have to set up a family corporation. But therein lies another problem: You need growth a la a regular corporation. If you have a chosen family of four people, they're probably going to need to have eight or more kids in order to support them.

I personally know polygamous families who have been doing this since the 1800s, but it's not clear to me how this will work in a more experimental setting. That's not to say it can't work, just that the most important details — money, formal responsibilities, etc — lack standardization right now.

I think the other issue is how this works at scale. Most people are not going to end up in polyamorous communes. Again, I'm genuinely happy for those who do end up finding happiness in unconventional situations. Truly, no hate. But I'm most curious about solutions that have the potential to be more broadly applied. To use an analogy, there were a lot of experiments with alternative family arrangements in the 1960s (as well as w/ other earlier groups such as the Transcendentalists). Setting aside the track record of these experiments, most people living contemporaneously with these experiments still lived pretty conventional lives. The hippies, the transcendentalists, various other utopians never rose to become more than a statistically insignificant percentage of the population. So, the question in my mind is what are some solutions that might have broader appeal?

Interestingly, b/c you mentioned religion, one utopian/alt family movement that did kind of work was the Mormon pioneers. I could get into a whole thing about that, but one thing that stands out to me about that experiment is that there was a clear organizational structure.

Overall I think religion is underrated as a way to organize care for people. Historically, if you had no family to take care of you, religion filled that role. For better or worse, though, religion is losing its appeal. In the same way that most people won't end up living on communes, they're also not interested in becoming Quakers.

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The problem with choosing family, is that you can unchoose them.

We take care of grandma, she lives with us, not because we like her, but because she is family.

We would have chosen a better grandma if it was up to us. But family is not a preference, it’s a duty.

Replacing duty with preference is just another way in which individualistic capitalism has commodified every aspect of traditional society.

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agreed. I've seen more and more people using terms like "coerced care" for things I would have described as "duty." With the the implication of this terminology being that you should only care for people if it contributes to your own journey of self actualization etc. But just from a practical perspective, that seems hopelessly short sighted bc the proponents of this new terminology are not going to have anyone to care for them.

I have another blog post going live in about 10 min that touches on a sense of family obligation. Basically, I guy I interviewed said his grandma instilled in the family a sense that everyone was obliged to care for everyone else. When he said that, it really jumped out to me how at odds that idea is with most people's world views.

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