By Nathan Abraha and Carter Roy
A group of MPPs held a news conference in Queens Park on Wednesday to propose “Chosen Family Day,” for those who categorize within the 2SLGBTQIA community.
Kristyn Wong-Tam, member of Provincial Parliament for Toronto Centre said she knows all the pain that family rejection can bring, something that once brought them to being unsheltered, making Chosen Family Day such a meaningful fight.
“At the age of 16 I came out to my family and found myself homeless. My assigned family wasn’t standing with me at that time, but I was able to build this network of friends and chosen family who carried me through the most difficult and dark times of my days,” said Wong-Tam.
Wong-Tam was joined by fellow NDP colleagues Jill Andrew and Mitzie Hunter to announce a bill honouring chosen families, made of individuals who may not be biologically related to one another, but still consider each other family.
“I’m very proud today to stand with all my friends and colleagues and today we’re going to be introducing a new private member’s bill Chosen Family Day act,” Wong-Tam said.
“I had the privilege of standing with Friends of Ruby at that time, and I’m happy and proud to stand with them in solidarity again and this is to be ushered in across Ontario. I know that for our community, this is a very important bill,” Wong-Tam said.
Chosen Family Day will be on Feb. 22 and will be a national observance of the significant relationships among those in the 2SLGBTQ+ community, whose relationships with their own biological family have been strained because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The speakers at the Wednesday media event in Toronto said these kinds of families are important — especially as some of the individuals within them have been rejected by their assigned biological family.
“Chosen family grew out of the ballroom culture within Black communities, which historically and to this day provide spaces of belonging for many racialized members of the 2SLGBTQIA community,” said Jill Andrew, Member of Provincial Parliament of Ontario in Toronto St. Paul’s.
Andrew shared how proud she is to be Black and Queer and how Feb. 22 will provide social, emotion and cultural support to fight homophobia, transphobia and bi-phobia against 2SLGBTQ Black youth in Ontario.
“Its fitting as a province to recognize chosen family day annually during Black History Month moving forward,” Andrew said.
Joining the NDP members was Grace Kolawole, housing manager at Friends of Ruby, a Toronto-based organization that serves as a welcoming space and hub for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth to find counselling, community, housing and healthcare.
Friends of Ruby opened its doors in 2020 in the heat of the pandemic, at a moment where family mattered most.
“Chosen families provide a necessary sense of belonging. Chosen families provide unconditional love and acceptance and children families provide practical and emotional support that is critical to the mental health and wellbeing of 2SLQBTQ+,” Kolawole said.
“This is very important for the youth that have been rejected by their families.”