Nina Jackson Levin

“We Just Take Care of Each Other”: Navigating ‘Chosen Family’ in the Context of Health, Illness, and the Mutual Provision of Care amongst Queer and Transgender Young Adults


“Chosen family”—families formed outside of biological or legal (bio-legal) bonds—is a signature of the queer experience. Therefore, we address the stakes of “chosen family” for queer and transgender (Q/T) young adults in terms of health, illness and the mutual provision of care. “Chosen family” is a refuge specifically generated by and for the queer experience, so we draw upon anthropological theory to explore questions of queer kinship in terms of care. We employ a phenomenological approach to semi-structured interviews (n = 11), open coding, and thematic analysis of transcriptions to meet our aims: (1) Develop an understanding of the beliefs and values that form the definition of “chosen family” for Q/T young adults; and (2) Understand the ways in which “chosen family” functions in terms of care for health and illness. Several themes emerged, allowing us to better understand the experiences of this population in navigating the concept of “chosen family” within and beyond health care settings. Emergent themes include: (1) navigating medical systems; (2) leaning on each other; and (3) mutual aid. These findings are explored, as are the implications of findings for how health care professionals can better engage Q/T individuals and their support networks.