Chosen Family

Published Categorized as News

Inspired by Voces Gaudii‘s performance at our recent concert, Various Voices Rising, Sing Out member Kit reflects on the idea of chosen family.

Sing Out Brussels!, Voces Gaudii and DynamiQ Voices on stage together at Various Voices Rising

Where do I belong?

These words open Rina Sawayama and Elton John’s Chosen Family. It’s is a question that so many people who belong to our community grapple with throughout their lives. We often grow up feeling so different to the others and bending ourselves to try and fit in – before eventually, slowly discovering who we are and working hard to find acceptance. The rest of the song, it seems, answers the question.

Let me set the scene. The CCU auditorium is buzzing with anticipation as Voces Gaudii arrives on stage. Various Voices Rising has just been opened by DynamiQ Voices, who blew us away with their vibrant queerness, their gentle vocal harmonies and their daring visibility. DynamiQ’s singers quietly enter the auditorium and take their seats behind us. This is no ordinary concert!

Voces Gaudii is larger than DynamiQ Voices.  They are experienced, confident, relaxed – a well-oiled machine. Their set covers a broad spectrum of music, singing numbers from pop to folk in English and Polish, upbeat with choreo and gentle without. After a few songs, their conductor steps forward to introduce the next two songs – pieces, he says, that have helped them persevere and deal with the upheaval of life as LGBTQI+ people living in Poland in recent years. One of them is Chosen Family.

Tell me your story and I’ll tell you mine

I’m all ears, take your time, we got all night

They sing these words softly, taking care of each note. The tempo is slow, leaving time for the meaning to be listened to, understood and considered. My mind takes me back to the reconnection weekend Sing Out spent together in the autumn. Discussion groups where I felt safe and knew there was no judgement – I remember sharing my views spontaneously and candidly, without thinking, for once, about how I might be perceived. I remember learning more about the people I sing next to, realising we shared experiences – or on the contrary, that our experiences couldn’t be more different – but we all listened with friendship and respect. I found myself thinking of other moments of connection with the choir, too – sharing a meal or walking next to each other in Hastière, working together as part of a Joy Team… I consider how these short moments of connection, sharing stories and learning about each other, whether organised with that in mind or not, are a big part of our community.

Show me the rivers crossed, the mountains scaled

Show me who made you walk all the way here

Settle down, put your bags down

You’re alright now

I think of being on the stage in front of me almost exactly a year ago, microphone in hand, with tenor C. on my left and alto A. on my right. I remember how vulnerable I felt, my voice shaking as I recounted my experience of secondary school as a gay kid. I remember how relieved I was that the stage lights were bright enough to hide the faces in the audience. But I also remember how it felt not to be alone, facing my fear with two allies by my side and almost 60 more right behind me. I remember being taken seriously when I confided in tenor J. how worried I was that my story ‘wasn’t bad or serious enough’ to be shared on stage, and how he listened and reassured me, explaining what my story meant to him and helping me to see another perspective.

We don’t need to be related to relate

We don’t need to share genes or a surname

You are, you are

My chosen, chosen family

I think of some of those I am closest to in the choir and how different we are on the surface. We come from different countries and we’ve lived different lives. We have different identities as queer people and as individuals. We experience the world differently. We have different opinions and beliefs. But I deeply cherish their friendship. I realise they are my brothers, my sisters and my siblings. For the first time, I start to feel connected to the idea of a ‘chosen family’.

So what if we don’t look the same?

We been going through the same thing

Yeah, you are, you are

My chosen, chosen family

I think of other members of our community. Those I have less in common with and don’t speak to quite as often. Our lives feel further apart, perhaps because of age, background or section within the choir… I consider how fond of them I am all the same, even if we don’t always have the same opinion, or aren’t always interested in the same things. I realise some are almost like parents – or grandparents, even! These are the ones who are there to answer WhatsApp pleas for advice when I, or someone else, locks themself out. I realise there are aunts, uncles and auncles, too. And cousins – so many cousins!!

As I sit and listen to these powerful words, with tenor C. on my left and soprano C. on my right, I am suddenly overwhelmed by all the things I feel towards my community: friendship, care, responsibility, solidarity, love… And what I feel from them: support, backup, validation, gratitude, unconditional acceptance. And I think I can speak for all of Sing Out Brussels! and DynamiQ Voices, if not for the whole auditorium, when I say that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Voces Gaudii first came across the song through interaction with London-based LGBT+ community choir Pink Singers, who recently released this music video of the song.