Being raised Mormon, I was always taught that family is important--that family is eternal.  In fact, that the family is the only societal unit which perpetuates beyond the grave (how God's going to pull that off in the next life was never explained to me, and I really didn't think about it that much either).  Families are forever.   That's what we're taught.

This was actually one teaching that caused me to feel guilt on many different occasions.  I fought with my family.  I think I fought with every single member of my family--from time to time.  I even fought with my oldest brother who's 9 years my senior and whom I did't interact with very closely.  But I think that's normal.  I think fights happen in many relationships.  What I really felt guilty about was the fact that I so often preferred the company of other people to that of my own family.  I enjoyed going over to my friends' houses and spending time with their families.  One time, I believe it was shortly after a big fight with my parents, I went over to a friend's house down the road and just sat in their entryway sulking.  I don't think my friends (three brothers, I was friends with all of them) were home, just their mom was.  I let myself in the house, as I often did by then, and just sat there.

There were many families that I thoroughly enjoyed being around.  In high school, my favorite family was Karen's.  With 12 children, there was always something going on at their house and it was usually fun (not in the typical play video games kind of way, but more of the pull weeds in the garden kind of way--yes, that can be fun).  In college, one of my roommates had a friend that would often spend the night (they were friends from high school) and I became acquainted with him and his family.  For years after that, I would visit his family as often as occasion would permit.  I loved being with them.

This was a big dilemma for me.  If I'm supposed to love and value my own family to such a degree that I'll want to be with them for eternity, why did I prefer to be around other people so much?  Why was it so hard for me to enjoy my own family.  (The truth is, it wasn't really that hard, but that's the way I perceived it.)  I never talked to anyone about it because I thought it was a sin.  I figured I was supposed to love my own family more than anyone else, so I didn't dare voice these concerns or feelings.

But over the last couple years, I have come to the conclusion that I simply don't see a reason to distinguish between blood relatives and other people.  To me, "family" means all of the people that are important to me and to whom I am important.  The most important person in my life is my dear fiancé.  Other important people in my life include a friend I made at Pride last year, a friend and colleague from the math department, a lady that I helped convert to Mormonism several years ago, and many many other people who have touched my life in a profound way and continue to be a positive influence in my life.

I see in my own family and out of my own family people who are good and kind, who care for me and I care for them, and people who are inconsiderate and self-serving, who show either a lack of concern or a desire to control.  I see no significant difference between the general populace and my own family. Therefore, I have redefined what "family" means to me.  Just as government officials redefine boundaries for precincts and districts, I have redrawn the boundaries for what I consider "family".  It includes some immediate family members, some extended family members, and many friends.

I don't wish to give the impression that I feel like I'm disowning my family, or that I wish to cut off ties with any particular family members.  Merely that I will look at them the same way I do any acquaintance with whom I share no common blood.  What matters to me is not whose DNA most closely matches my own, but who is the most interested in being a part of my life, who is interested in me and wishes for me to interested in em.

Will you be my family?