turbo town is:
abbey + eva + beth
ghey revival is:
eliana + tess + gaib
this book is
dedicated to them,
and to everyone else
who has made me feel
part of something.
protect trans kids
We all know each other, or have known each other, in one way or another.
I knew of Eliana and Tess at school before we ever spoke, and my group of
friends and their group of friends sat next to each other at lunch, on the concrete
behind the 800 building. I left that group in sophomore year during my first
tumble into mental illness, which caused me to withdraw from most human
I met Eliana officially that year. We first spoke in chemistry class, where we sat
next to each other. She was one of the few people who forced contact on me
during that time. We met outside of school for the first time the week before
junior year started. We sat next to each in any other classes we shared for the
next two years of high school. I can credit Eliana with pulling me out of some of
my deepest and darkest moments, solely by being there to ground me. She has
never let up this quality, even when I learned I could stand on my own two feet.
It was through her I met Tess, and we also became closer on our trip up the coast
to look at in-state colleges. Eliana was rooming with another group she was
friends with, and Tess and I only really knew each other in the group on that class
trip, so we decided to stick it out together. (The two of them had been friends
since the start of high school, but at the time weren’t the closest.) We got pizza
together in the tiny town of Calipatria, and picked flowers in the hills of Santa
Cruz. She made me feel valued and helped me see the beauty in even the tiniest
Gaib and I met on and off at the start of my junior year as well. We went to the
same concerts and knew some of the same people. Our first real time hanging
out was the leap they made to invite me to their sixteenth birthday party. I didn’t
know anyone, not even Gaib really. We met up almost every other weekend
after that, when they were on their biweekly trips to San Diego to stay with their
mom. I pulled them through heart wrenching losses of love and innocence, and
they pushed me along a road to recovery that I still walk.
It wasn’t until senior year though that we all joined forces, in a way, against
some of the people we knew mutually who weren’t treating us with the greatest
of kindness. With my school friends, it ironically came to a head on the very trip
on which Tess and I first bonded, and Eliana split from the group who she had
originally spent most of her time with. Gaib and I leaned on each other in the
face of our own problems, and I brought them into a circle where I also found
support. We’ve all been involved in the same group chat for over four years
now (Tess and Eliana in the first version, then Gaib being added some time in
my freshman year of college), from our four corners of the globe: Gaib in San
Diego, Tess in Portland, Eliana in New York City, myself in Leeds.
We all hold each other up in the face of the world and whatever it throws at us.
I met Abbey on a dating app shortly after my break-up around the winter
holidays during my first year at university. We went on one date before I started
seeing my current partner, and somehow were able to stay in touch and become
closer as friends over the years. We bonded over our similar music tastes and
traveled between our houses often to attend concerts in each other’s cities. She
was the first close friend I made upon moving to the UK, and I am ever grateful
for her taking the time to stick with me over the years. We may not talk all the
time, but I’m always confident she’s there to speak when I need it.
I found a circle similar to the one I built with my own friends with Abbey and her
gals from Scotland. Even from a distance, even from short encounters, she retains
those friends and those relationships. She supports them, and they support her,
with closeness not rivalled by many. They’ve always had to deal with distance,
both physical and in those strange rifts caused by intermingling friendships but
are now concentrated into the circle that works best for them.
Becca was the first very close friend I made during my gap year in New York.
We bonded over my cold hands; at work, I complained once to them, and they
held my hands in theirs to warm them. We continued this ritual until the weather
warmed and grew closer over those months. The platonic intimacy was special
to me, and something I’ll always associated with queer relationships – we can
transcend the heteronormative ideas of what it means to touch and hug and love
your friends. Some people still ask if we’re dating. We’re planning on moving in
TL;DR: Eliana and Tess knew each other from high school -- where I also knew
them from -- and I knew Gaib through friends outside of school; Eliana and
Becca met through me because we all lived in New York at the same time; Becca
met the gals -- Abbey, Eva, and Beth -- during our group trip to Scotland. While
we all experience different levels of closeness with each other, one can see a
web of relationships being built out of a wealth of shared experience and a
desire for human interaction.
In an interlude in Gender Outlaws, Kris Gebhart wrote, “Us queers, we have to
write our own scripts… Take comfort in creating chaos and know that we thank
you.” It’s always been apparent to me that platonic intimacy is maybe not unique
to the queer community, but definitely more widely accepted therein. We’ve
written our own scripts, in a way, changing the way the story is told.
My third cousin once removed is a divorce lawyer. He was talking to
my mom about it, and was like, being a divorce lawyer I find easier
to deal with relationship-wise than family law, because divorce law
is, at one point, you chose each other. Maybe for reasons you don’t
feel like anymore, at one point you did feel a lot of love towards this
person, and you chose to feel that way. Whereas family, it’s not a
choice, so it’s more difficult and more complicated. It’s just different.
He finds it easier to deal with people who choose each other than
family, which I thought was interesting.
A lot of it is based off of kindness and showing heart, and then
usually it matches up with political views which is helpful. I find that
my entire chosen family are all gay, which seems to work out, but isn’t
I do think me caring about the political views of someone has
changed, because it’s now a lot more important to me. Part of it is
what I do for outside of work, which is activism. I’m actively fighting
for queer rights, so if you’re not aligned with me on a lot of my
political views, it’s hard to be friends with people. That’s changed, but
it’s always been there. I think they’ve just become more important as
I’ve grown up.
I had a very nice childhood, and I’m really close with my family. I
think the only thing that I’ve found is that me and my siblings grew
apart in high school, so I feel like I find a lot of those relationships I
get with other people are sibling bonds. I feel like a lot of the friends
I become friends with end up feeling like a sibling, mostly. Thinking
on it, it’s probably what I was craving as a high schooler. I’m close to
some of them, but I’m not as close with them as other people are with
their siblings. It’s a bummer, but I have my chosen family. They’re cute.
Part of it is I can probably count on one hand the amount of close
straight friends I have. I’m just friends with gay people. Also, I never
have to explain things to them, which is helpful, or if I do it’s easily
explained. It’s just a large part of my life, and it’s a large part of
theirs, so it works out. Much better. Actually, I don’t think I have any
straight friends right now.
Chosen family is historically and currently still viewed as not the
same as biological family, but I know in queer circles it’s much more
important, which may be another reason why I’m inherently closer
with queer people. We don’t view relationships in the same way, like
that. Even though I’m close with my family, it doesn’t take away from
the fact that I grew up in spaces that are queer and value chosen
and a gals tattoo
How did you all meet?
We became friends on a Facebook
I was friends with Carlyn, then she
moved to Aberdeen.
[Eva & Beth know each other from
the school she moved to]
How do you feel your friendship has
changed since then?
[to Be th] We’re a lot closer than I
thought we’d be, than when we first
It’s a bit mad, thinking that we’re
pals at all.
The odds were stacked against us.
Stacked against all of us.
Yeah, you’re right actually.
Do you have any traditions you
Putting on either “Deceptacon,”
“Rebel Girl,” or - what’s the Kate
Are you sure?
The girl one. [singing tune]
Yeah, and just absolutely battering
each other whenever it comes on.
Traveling to see each other.
I mean, me and you.
Any comments on being a family outside your biological relatives?
I think when the squad was
more active, it felt like a
family. A fucking dysfunctional
family, but I did feel like
there was that point where -
it’s sad, but - you guys were
my closest friends, even though
it was so far away.
It’s weird thinking that I
wasn’t in that group chat to
start with, because I wasn’t
“gay” enough or whatever. And
then, me and you were the
I just don’t even
know how that fucking
How that came to be?
Yeah, like how we
became really close.
Because I remember
we met at Belladon,
got on, and then met
again, got along.
I think it was Gals Weekender,
because that was quite a monumental
It really defined the family...
But I feel the chat really helped
When there was a gals weekender, it
was us three to start with, but we
weren’t that close.
I was a bit of a stand-in.
We weren’t really even going to
this gig, and then I think because
so much happened that weekend,
that none of us expected or even
asked for, it just kind of happened
that that maybe brought us closer
together, because we had to deal with
the repercussions of, ‘what the fuck
was that?’ You know what I mean?
What was that game going on?
I think it is also because we’ve made
efforts that other people haven’t.
Just, off to see Abbey in England!
Why not? Got a week off, off I pop.
I just think it’s so weird how it
I think it’s funny how our little
group chat was full of completely
random people who we didn’t know at
all. Can’t remember or don’t know.
Every single time I get a girlfriend,
chuck em in. Throw em in the deep
Like, hello, nice to meet you. Really
Yeah, introduce us to the family! Get
in the group chat.
Which now lays inactive.
I wonder if anyone’s still in it.
Oh yeah, people are still in it. I’m
sure Lucy messaged it a few months
ago -- like my little sister Lucy.
So the group chat still exists, it
But no one uses it.
I honestly think it was Lucy that
last used it, and then I feel she was
[Abbey passes around a meme Lucy
sent in 2019 about Beth setting up
the LGBT society at her school]
That is how it ended.
And then I sent that
Had a few too many turbo shandies
[They check who’s still in the group
chat - includes people they knew at
their respective colleges, Abbey’s
current girlfriend and sister, and
so m e o thers]
What else happened? It would chime up
every Christmas with people saying
“Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!”
How long did that go on for?
Two years, three years.
And every day.
Literally every day, chatting.
I actually got to the point where I’d
be like, I don’t know who’s talking,
or I don’t know what the situation
is. Just gotta chat.
It was like having a completely
separate social media to tend.
There’d be two hundred unread
Send it to squad. Send it to squad.
Macaroni pie? Send it to squad.
That would’ve gone viral in squad.
Two thumbs down.
I hold people that I’m friends with to a different standard than my family, like my chosen family
and then my actual family. I think, for me, it’s more of a feeling. It’ll get to a point in the friendship
where I just feel so completely comfortable with people. I’ll feel like they’re there for whatever,
and I’m there for them for whatever. I think it’s a feeling, but it’s also the changes. I’ve definitely
gone through a lot of changes in the past few years, and the people who have stuck by me with
that I would consider my family.
I’ve gotten close to people that maybe I shouldn’t have been close with, and I think now that I
know myself better than I did before, I feel more comfortable to open myself up to these intense
friendships and relationships. I think it’s a lot to do with how open you are to accepting help in a
It’s especially important to people who maybe aren’t in contact with their blood family, or maybe
never ever felt that close to them. I think that idea and the ability that people have to create their
own circle, their own family who will love each other unconditionally, is an amazing thing, if you
can do it, and if you find the people.
Even my girlfriend Michelle’s family; her mum helped me get into uni. Her mum did stuff that my
mum should’ve really been doing, and just that feeling of welcomeness and warmth that I struggle
to find within my family unit.
I’m closest to my littler sister Lucy. I think it’s just because we’re similar in age and we have a lot of
the same interests and we’re both gay. I just think we, maybe not understand each other, but we
can accept each other for who we are, even all the bad stuff. We’ve been through a lot together,
and we’ve always supported each other. It’s just the way it
happened. I’m quite close with my older sister, but she doesn’t live with us anymore.
Us three sisters going through something with the divorce and stuff, it brought us close together.
We all helped each other because no one else was, you know?
In general, I tend to gravitate towards queer people, even before they know they’re queer, and
then they come to me. In general, a lot of my interests are queer, so I just find myself bonding with
those people more than with people who aren’t into the same kind of thing as me. I think it’s a
shared experience as well that you can only really have with other queer people, which I didn’t
really realize is important to me. I think it is important to me, though, just thinking back to all my
friendships and people that I’m close with.
At every turn, I seem to be faced with a question of whether or not my
behavior is ‘appropriate’ for someone I may just call a friend: can I hug
them? Kiss them? Hold their hands? Lay my head on their shoulder or
chest while I rest or sleep or cry? Tell them I love them? Or should those be
reserved for a significant other?
Every piece of community or society around me says to draw a line
between or around particular natures of relationships, sectioning them
into family, friend, lover, and outer circles and assigning appropriate
levels of contact and regard for them.
The more I grow, however, the more I want to say fuck you to the
revulsion, the confusion, the disregard many people have for platonic
intimacy. Platonic love is not any less than familial or romantic love, and
the support network I have developed has done nothing but prove this
“Behind closed doors we find many ways to feel each other, many ways
to tell each other how beloved we are, and many ways to release the
tension of living in their world beneath the weight of their assumptions.” –
Fran Varian, Daddy Gets the Big Piece of Chicken (2010)
We’re live, boys.
[Gaib burps. Everyone laughs.]
This is being recorded.
Good. I need to let people still know that I’m kind of an
asshole. A little bit.
Yeah, just a little disgusting. I can’t get too cocky. Y’all
have been hyping me up for the last ten minutes, I can’t get
too cocky. I need there to be physical evidence that I’m
That’s the thing. That little bit of asshole-ness also makes
you more attractive.
Is that fair, though? Is that fair to other people that I get
to be an asshole and it’s okay?
It happens to other people, too. Are you kidding me?
Just think of all the people you think are hot who are
assholes. It just helps.
You’re all so hot and it’s offensive.
I have no memory of it at all. Really, I
have no idea when the first time we met was.
Fran picked me up from my brother’s
teammate’s older sister’s birthday party and
took me to your birthday party because I was
having a panic attack. And it was a formal
event, and all I did was tuck my flannel in.
Was that really the first time we met? That
is so wild. I totally thought I knew you
b e f o r e t h e n.
You guys met, very briefly, at the very
first Warped Tour Eliana and I went to
together. I didn’t know Gaib at that point,
either. I went with a friend, and then my
mom was like, surprise! I bought you six
extra tickets. I was like, okay, I’m just
gonna bring whoever is able to go. So I
brought Eliana, and Gaib was also there and
you knew my friend at the time.
I have no recollection of that either,
because for me, the first time ever meeting
you was at that Frights concert. And you had
long hair. And then I just invited you to my
birthday party because I was like, Fran is
c o o l.
Yeah. And I was only gonna go because our
mutual friend was gonna go, and then she
cancelled at the last minute. So I was like,
you know what? I just showing up on time,
which was early for you guys apparently
because everyone was literally in their
underwear cooking rainbow cupcakes. I didn’t
understand what was happening.
And that’s on turning sixteen, baby.
And then your friend spat out the dumplings
that I made.
I loved those dumplings, and I think about
them every time I have hoisin sauce. They
are so good. Can we make them when you come
back? I think that was the first time I met
Eliana, was at that weirdly formal birthday
thing. And I tried to avoid you guys as much
a s p o ssi ble.
It was really great, to be honest. We went
inside for half a second so I could say hi
to Eliana. To be fair, I wasn’t supposed
to stay for the entire time anyway. I was
gonna go for a bit, just to say hi, because
I don’t think I knew Eliana very much at the
time anyway -- you invited me so I was like,
I’ll just put a dress on and go -- but Gaib
also had me pick them up because they were
dying, so I did that -- but then I also had
to go cover a concert later that night so
we also did that. It was just a really messy
Honestly, though? I think that since meeting
everybody was so chaotic, I think that’s why
we’ve been friends for so long.
I would say most of the people I consider chosen family are queer, with the exception of most of
my college friends and Bethany. I think most of us have that shared experience of being queer,
but I feel like my coming out was pretty tame. I don’t have a lot of bad stuff associated with it, so I
guess that’s different.
It’s super weird. Most of my friends who are queer are friends from childhood, so we were kind
of friends before we even knew what sexuality was. A lot of our friendship, when it first started,
wasn’t based around being queer because we were quite young. You know, first grade, before
you’re really thinking about that kind of stuff, and then we all just grew up to be gay. Everybody
just slowly started coming out, and of course it was really easy to come out to each other because
once the first person did, everybody was like, this is a safe place to come out.
For me, it was kind of a coincidence. I didn’t end up in a lot of queer spaces in college, and I don’t
know if that’s because I’m in computer science, which doesn’t tend to have a lot of them -- I know
they’re trying harder now, but in general. I go to a school that’s known for having a lot of queer
spaces, and I just never ended up in any of them. It was just a coincidence. I didn’t go out looking
for queer friends, and the one I have from college is the same way, where we’re kind of each
other’s only or one of each other’s only queer friends, at least from school. I didn’t go out looking,
like I’m only gonna make friends with people if they’re queer, but I also wasn’t like, I don’t want
any. I didn’t really feel super welcomed in any of the LGBTQ+ spaces I experienced at NYU, so I
just never ended up finding a place that worked for me.
They’re very accepting of my sexuality. I don’t think any of them really care very much. I can joke
about it with them, and there’s this understanding of what’s appropriate for me as a queer person
to make as a joke about queer people, and that it’s not appropriate for them to do it. It’s a really
interesting group of people where I’ve never felt weird about my sexuality around them.
It’s hard to pinpoint specific values. I think it’s more of a feeling. There’s
just a certain way that I feel around people when I have known them
for a long time, or sometimes it doesn’t even have to be a super long
time. We just really kind of... I don’t want to say people you just vibe
with because that sounds really weird, but that’s the only word I can
think of where it’s like, you feel like you can be yourself around that
person, and that person knows
maybe not everything about you, but as much about you as you’re
comfortable sharing with another person. You don’t really have to
perform around them. You can just be your authentic self, and you just
feel very comfortable doing that. I feel like that’s what makes someone
your chosen family.
For me, I’m a lot more comfortable expressing myself emotionally
around my chosen family. I find that most things, pretty much
everything, I’m more comfortable expressing or talking about with my
chosen family. I would just say that we’re just closer, and I feel safer
around the people that I’ve chosen. It’s nice. I like having it.
Tess, how the hell did we meet each other?
I met you because Lilly was like, this is my new girlfriend.
I thought you were too cool for me and was super intimidated
because I was like, her eyeliner is so good. I was just
learning how to do eyeliner and I was like, oh my god, am I
I remember that Lilly introduced us, I just didn’t remember
exactly how we met.
It took us a long time to have a normal conversation without
a buffer, just because I was so awkward.
Oh, same. And I definitely remember being intimidated by
you. I don’t necessarily remember exactly when we met, but I
remember being intimidated by you and just being like, she’s
way too cool for me.
You also had already dated someone and I was like, oh my god.
I’m fourteen. Am I gay? I’ve never dated anybody. It was a
lot of things to come to terms with for one person.
That’s the gay experience.
That’s wild just to know that because I remember meeting you
and being like, you’re so easily beautiful. I know you said
you were awkward, but to me I just remember you being very
socially competent and that really scared me.
My first introduction to Eliana was in chemistry
class. I don’t remember the conversation whatsoever
but you really wanted to be friends with me.
We totally wanted to be friends with you. If you had
incorporated into our general group of people, we
totally would have accepted you.
We were deeply depressed, so desperate for friendship
that we were just bringing people down with us.
I totally agree with Tess. We wanted to find people
who totally understood us.
That’s the thing with me, though. When I was thinking
about hanging out with you guys, during that time in
my life, I was self-isolating. I really was just like,
no one can help me, no one can understand what I’m
feeling. So I kind of went the opposite direction,
where I was like, I don’t wanna have any friends. I
don’t want to deal with anyone trying to judge me for
this kind of thing, so I can’t speak to anyone. For
basically the entirety of sophomore year, I just didn’t
talk to anyone. I didn’t make any friends. I just
completely cut myself off from everyone else.
Those are the two directions you can go when you’re
like, oh man! This is really bad, and a lot of people
probably don’t feel like this!
And honestly, that whole sophomore year, I think we
caught a lot of that, and a lot of that we translated
into being able to hit it with a lot of people who
I didn’t hit that until junior year, when I started to
open myself up to other people.
I can’t tell if I’m truly a bad friend or if I just
choose people who are terrible to be friends with,
because I feel like senior year, again, my friend group
I feel like that happens a lot. In senior year, friend
groups implode for a lot of reasons. We ended up
staying friends for a lot of really wild reasons. Like,
why are we still friends again? I love you guys, but
how did we do that.
Tess, we went through so many similar friendship
implosions, how did we stay friends, you know?
I don’t know. Regardless, it’s too late. I feel like
there’s a point where I’m like, guys, this is it. If
you stop being friends with me, too bad. I’m gonna keep
hitting you up.
It’s not too late for me, honest to god. It’s really
not. You know me through everything.
You guys even went through that thing where you just
weren’t friends, and I had to make friends with both
of you separately. It wasn’t hard for me, I just didn’t
really know what was happening.
Tess and I had to go through each other’s individual
I feel like we’ve talked about this, but it was
probably for the best that we were like, okay.
Splitting up for a while.
Exactly. We needed to work out our own problems until
we came back to being friends.
I think that people who are my chosen family care about other people and tend to be more
empathetic or thoughtful of others, and also just generally not being a shit person. You know,
basic politeness and all that kind of stuff. They are interested in other people and try not to make
communities and the world worse, at the very least.
I feel like it’s changed, maybe not intentionally. Now, I just have a few people in my life that I’m
really close to and really care about, as opposed to, I used to be more interested in having a lot
of people in my life. I just had superficial friends or people that I thought were cool, and now I’m
like, do I love you? Are you a good person? Do we vibe? And if those are ticked, then, yes.
There’s a lot of things that, certainly for myself and I’m sure other people, that you can’t share with
your family, and is harder to connect with them about, particularly identity or even political views.
I think that people who share those kinds of values and also just make you feel cared for. Family
is hard, and I think chosen family is a lot easier in a lot of ways. Like, ugh, hey, maybe this hurt my
feelings. And they’re like, oh shit, my bad, instead of it being an argument.
I feel like I love the idea of a shared queer experience, and I’m happy that people can do that, I
just feel like sometimes I have a hard time connecting with other people about that because I sort
of flip-flop around, and it’s kind of a big question mark who I am and how I feel. I also do know
that I have a somewhat unique experience in that I know I always have people who will support
me regardless of what I’m feeling like or what my current experience is. That’s something that is
shared in a sense, even if it’s not exactly a queer experience, that blanket term.
I think that it’s special, and I think that everyone has some kind of chosen family, but maybe that’s
not the word you use to describe it. I feel like especially adults, you don’t see your blood family
as much and the people in your life are for sure your family. And even pets, you know? Not that
I have any right now, but the day I can have one, I will have my son and he will be so cute --
unspecified gender and animal but hopefully a cat.
It’s fun and it feels good to have people love you. That’s what everyone’s chosen family is.
I just remember being added into
your guys’ group chat and being
like, these are my friends now. At
first, I was really uncomfortable
because I obviously haven’t known
Eliana and Tess as long as you guys
have all known each other. I slowly
worked my way into being comfortable
talking to you guys and feeling
confident in that. And a beautiful
little friendship came out of it.
Tess and I weren’t friends for a
while, and then on college trip we
started talking and hanging out a
little bit again. College trip junior
year was the start of this thing
that went into senior year, where
my brain started separating people
who I had genuine friendships with
from people who I had convenience
friendships with. Like, we’re friends
because we go to school together,
or we’re friends because we have
to spend all this time together.
Versus these people are people who
I can genuinely be myself around and
people I’m actually friends with.
A lot of it was that one New Year’s we spent
on Kellogg’s. I didn’t know you guys that well
before that, but there was something lifechanging
about peeing with Tess in a bush in
front of somebody’s house, and walking up that
mile-long hill and talking about Capri-Sun in
a box. That was definitely the turning point
for me in terms of feeling comfortable with
you guys. I didn’t feel embarrassed at all
around you guys. That’s such a big thing for
me. Meeting new people, I always feel like I
have to tone it down a little bit, or tone it
up a little bit, depending on who I’m with. I
always feel really uncomfortable, but that was
the turning point for me, because I just felt
so comfortable with the both of you.
I feel like peeing with anybody is just such a
moment. I need to pee every twenty minutes, so
it works out really well.
I had never done that before, so being able
to experience that with people that I knew
wouldn’t necessarily talk shit about me, about
it, was nice. That’s a big thing for me. I
don’t really trust people, or I don’t really
like talking to people I don’t know that well
because I don’t know if they’re gonna say
things behind my back. I knew Fran was a good
judge of character, so if Fran was close enough
with you guys, I knew that you guys weren’t
that type of people.
That is just growing up in San Diego.
A lot of our shared experiences do have
to do with our queer identities, but for
me specifically, I don’t think of it as
supplementing for my family. When it comes
to actually talking about those experiences
and stuff, though, I definitely prefer
talking about it with you guys than them,
so in that sense I would say I’m closer
with you guys.
I definitely find myself having a lot of
friends that are queer or part of the
community in their own way. I don’t think
I try to supplement my family with those
friends. It’s more so that I feel like
I can relate and that these friends can
relate to me in a specific way that maybe
my mom can’t, or maybe my brother can’t,
and so on and so forth. Of course, I’m
friends with them because they’re good
people. I just think it’s more so based
around the fact that they understand
me as a person, and I understand them
as a person, and that’s what makes our
And it just so happens that they’re queer.
Right. I mean, that helps. I’m not saying
that people in the community aren’t
transphobic or biphobic, but it helps that
I have people who do understand what my
experience is like, and I can understand
what their experience is like. You know I
would put someone in their place if they
said some shitty stuff. I think it’s more a
‘nature of our relationship’ type of deal.
I just feel more comfortable discussing
stuff like that with you guys.
I wonder if it’s half got to do a maturity
level, and half got to do with, maybe not
even a shared experience thing but a shared
treatment of experience?
Or maybe just an underlying understanding
I know we don’t deal with the same kind
of experiences that the other person
does. We’re all met with the same kind of
dilemma, and we’re all gonna deal with it
differently. Maybe it’s because we’ve just
dealt with each other for so long, and that
has affected how we receive feedback and
receive advice. So that’s how we do it.
Or maybe it’s just inherently within our
nature to gravitate towards people who give
advice a certain way.
I talk to my friends about things that
they can think intellectually about. I talk
to you guys about things that I think we
can have an intellectual discussion about.
And so on and so forth, with all of my
friendships. I don’t talk to my friends
about something who I don’t think that they
would understand my experience in it.
I’ve known you for so long. It is really weird. I hate it, because I hate that fact that I
existed before senior year of high school, but I think that’s a really big factor for me: friends that
I’ve had for a very long time, I consider family. I’ve just known you guys for so long, and honestly
that’s not the only reason, but that’s definitely a big factor in it. People who I’ve known for over a
year, I’m like, okay, I’m adopting you, or you’re adopting me. This is happening. We’re basically
I think it’s just a mutual understanding and respect for one another. I’m not saying that I have
friends that don’t respect me, because obviously I wouldn’t be friends with them if they didn’t, but I
think it’s something you have to feel. Like I said, I have friends that I respect, and that they respect
me, and it’s mutual, but it doesn’t feel... there’s a certain closeness that you have. It’s like when
you have a best friend in the fourth grade. That person is your world and you tell them everything.
I’m not saying you have to tell
anybody anything that you don’t want to in order to be considered family; for me, it’s that
level of closeness and understanding of character. Not free of judgment because if we’re close
enough, you’re gonna tell me when I fuck up, and I’m gonna tell you when you fuck up, but an
understanding of who you are as a person, and the things that you stand for on a deeper level.
Obviously, being a support system in the decisions and choices that you make in order to further
your life. I think it’s really important. You can have friends that aren’t supportive, but I think to
have a family, especially a chosen family, that’s supportive, that makes things a little easier day to
It just happens naturally along the way. There are going to be people that I prefer to hang out
with over others, like you. When you came to town, I spent all of my time with you and none of my
time with my other friends, because to me that was a priority. There are just people that I prioritize
sometimes because those are the people that I want to hang out with. I know we’ve talked about
this before, but I can hang out with you forever and it doesn’t drain me at all, but if I were to
hang out with -- I’m not dropping names here -- some of my other friends, after six hours, I’m like,
okay. Either leave my house, or I’m gonna go home and be alone. Kind of like when you crave
something to eat, it’s what you’re in the mood for. I have friends that I consider my chosen family,
but they can also need to come in small doses. Just like a normal family, in the sense that we
function as if it is one, but under different circumstances. Also, I’ve kind of gotten over the whole ‘I
need friends to survive’ thing as well, so I just kind of vibe, and then if people talk to me, I’m like,
I feel like I’ve definitely gotten way more careful with who I hang out with and when I cut them off.
I feel like I’m really harsh when it comes to the friends that I have. You really have to fucking mine
for my compassion sometimes. With new people, I really could give a fuck. I’m sorry. I don’t know
you. I will respect you as a person, but if you’re going to talk to me, you have to do it in a certain
way, otherwise right off the bat, I’m gonna be like, uh-uh. This is not it.
When I was younger, I think coming from the family that I did, I just wanted anybody who would
take me, or wanted anybody who would care about me, which led to hanging out with and dating
some really, really bad people. Now, I have, not way more self-respect, but enough self-respect
to be like, I’m tired of being your emotional punching bag. I don’t let anybody get close to me if I
don’t feel like they could reciprocate the care that I give, or at least the respect that I give, because
obviously, there are people that we both know who fucked that up consistently.
That was definitely a big turning point in my life, just not stopping people from thinking they could
use me in that way, or thinking that I’ll always be there so they could treat me like shit because
they knew I wouldn’t leave. I think that has resulted in me meeting some really awesome people.
I’ve known people from before I went through that, but like Chainé. I don’t think I would’ve had
the self-respect to be like, oh, Chainé is a very kind-hearted person. I want to be really good
friends with them, you know? When I was younger, that obviously put a lot of strain on my ideas
of what having that chosen family could mean, because I started to hold it to such a high expectation.
After going to therapy and stuff, I think I just seek out people now who have similar
morals to me, or that we can build a relationship where we feed off of each other and we’re never
draining each other. It’s just an equal sense of... I don’t want to say power because there should
never be a power dynamic, but you know, we’re equal. No one is above the other person.
Chosen families are such crazy dynamics, because you can get anybody from any age. For me,
in my chosen family, everybody except for Chainé is the same age, but you know how people
are like, ‘you’re mature for your age’. I’ve gotten that a lot, and I do have a lot of friends who are
older, and I know that’s common for a lot of people who are
twenty or twenty-one, but I think that’s really cool. Especially because not everybody needs to
know each other.
Obviously, a lot of them have crossed paths or know each other -- like Chainé and Ingrid are
friends, and Chainé and Katherine are friends, and that’s cool -- but a lot of them have just
crossed paths with each other and not really known it. And I think there’s
something interesting about that, because everybody’s chosen family is different, just like a normal
family, but it’s very specific to each person. My chosen family can be very
different from Sav’s chosen family, or Kai’s, or Chainé’s, or Ingrid’s, you know? And I think that’s
kind of cool, because it gets really boring in a normal family, and it’s cool that you get to pick who
you let in, instead of having to be stuck with the same very boring people for the rest of your life.
It’s really important that we’ve all
gotten to know each other, and develop the
friendship that we have. I think it’s very
special and unique to us as a group. I’m
really grateful for that.
I totally feel the same way. You guys are
very important to me and you’re a very
essential pillar of support in my life.
It just baffles me that if I hadn’t invited
Fran to my birthday party on that whim, I
wouldn’t have met you or Tess, and I wouldn’t
have become really good friends with Fran.
I probably would have missed out on so many
opportunities in my life, and I wouldn’t be
who I am today.
We’re far back enough of friends that, how
I’ve been impacted is experiences I’ve had
and things I’ve had that have shaped me, has
been because I know you.
It’s the same for me. That was really my
first foray into knowing who I am, and
knowing exactly what I want, and accepting
myself for who I was, despite the fact that
it kind forced me into a really big toxic
part of my life.
Some of it came at a cost, obviously.
It absolutely did. And it could have still
gone this way if I hadn’t made bad choices,
but it still definitely made me grow.
Right, but also knowing that after all of
that, we’re all still here to back each
o t h e r u p.
I went where I did and experienced what I
did because I got that bolstered confidence
of, if I go to this place, I’m still gonna
have connections from back where I came
from. Coming full circle, I think that’s
what you expect out of a family. You want
your roots somewhere. You have a back-up
plan if whatever you decide doesn’t work,
and choosing a family that is so spread out
across so many places that you actually love
kind of gives you even more of a security.
If I don’t wanna move back in with my
parents, I have this city where I know these
people that I actually enjoy living in, and
therefore it’s not as difficult to move there
and not know anyone. Even saying that, I got
roots in San Diego. There are still moments
where I’m like, I would move back to San
Diego just because I know Gaib lives there.
At least I got one person, you know?
I’m not the kind of person who would move
there because my biological family lives
there, but would based on the idea of moving
somewhere where I have my close friends.
I’m not saying that having a chosen family
is superior to having a biological family.
It’s just a different connection because y o u
choose these people. You invest so much of
yourself into these people, and vice versa,
that you know no matter what, they’ll have
It’s important that people aren’t always selfish, I think that’s something that makes me feel really
uncomfortable. I feel like you can see it from within a person from a mile away, but people who just
seem to genuinely care about themselves and others.
It’s changed, without a doubt. I remember when I was little I just wanted friends. I was like, fuck that,
I don’t care if you’re an awful person. I just want friends. But then you end up getting screwed up or
around. So good riddance.
It isn’t necessarily important, but I feel like it’s definitely inevitable. Not that everybody has the same
experience in being queer, but I think that it’s really easy to find similarities, or at least to connect. But
it’s not really important to me. As long as they respect other people.
My chosen family definitely makes up for a lot of emotional vulnerability. Growing up, none of my
siblings were really ever taught that they could be emotionally vulnerable, so if you start crying,
it’s a ‘shut up, stop crying’ or you have to kind of go walk away because it’s so uncomfortable for
our family to see us crying. I do not give two shits about what my chosen family sees me doing, so I
think it’s been really rewarding to be able to be super, without a bound, emotionally available and
vulnerable with my chosen family.
For a long time, I thought my strength lay in an ability for
adventure, risk-taking, charting into new and unknown lands – I
travelled away from home often, for long periods of time, and
usually alone, before graduating high school. University was an
experiment into just how far away I could get from the city where
I grew up, and many credited me with being brave for going to
an entirely new country to do just that. Since then, I’ve realized
that I didn’t need bravery so much as a solid support network to
All of our languages of love translate differently, but I can
now recognize my own as a need for a sense of comfort, or
familiarity, or home, in strange and new places. We create
homes of our own where we seek comfort from things familiar.
No matter the distance, physical or otherwise, we always find
Albert Camus said ‘never stop waiting for signs of tenderness’,
and I never have.
special thanks to
who stuck with me through
this project and all the
times i second-guessed
m y s e lf.
all images by francesca tirpak
Cover Gaib flares, Bombay
Beach, CA, January 2019
Page 2 Kath & crew at the WTC
mall, New York City, NY, March
Page 8-9 Becca at Jacob Riis
Beach, Brooklyn, NY, July 2019
Page 10-11 Becca in Boston, MA,
Page 12-13 Becca, Glasgow,
Scotland, February 2020
Page 14 Becca in the
underground, Glasgow, Scotland,
Page 14-15 Trees by Loch
Lomond, Balloch, Scotland,
Page 16-17 Becca’s boots,
Glasgow, Scotland, February
Page 17 Becca up close,
Glasgow, Scotland, February
Page 34 Beth and Abbey on the
playground, Balloch, Scotland,
Page 35 Bonny bonny banks,
Balloch, Scotland, February 2020
Page 36-37 Eva and Beth playing
pool, Balloch, Scotland, February
Page 40-41 Beth slipped, Balloch,
Scotland, February 2020
Page 42 Eva on the playground,
Balloch, Scotland, February 2020
Page 43 On the way to Loch
Lomond, Balloch, Scotland,
Page 45 Beth and Abbey say
goodnight, Glasgow, Scotland,
Page 46-47 The Noguchi
Museum, Long Island City, NY,
Page 48-49 Eliana at Bombay
Beach, CA, January 2020
Page 52-53 Eliana near the
Saltan Sea, CA, January 2020
Page 66-67 Tess in the
abandoned building, Niland, CA
Page 69 Eliana and Tess on New
Years’, January 2017
Page 70-71 Tess on the sand
dunes, Saltan Sea, CA, January
Page 73 Tess near the Saltan Sea,
CA, January 2019
Page 74-75 Tess at the sand
dunes, Saltan Sea, CA, January
Page 76-77 Tess and the sunset,
Desert Shores, CA, January 2019
Page 78-79 The Guggenheim,
New York, NY, May 2019
Page 79 Tess kisses a jackfruit,
Brooklyn, NY, May 2019
Page 82-82 Tess offers Gaib a
beverage, Bombay Beach, CA,
Page 84 Gaib amongst some
scrap metal, Niland, CA, January
Page 100-101 Gaib and Kath on
the subway, New York, NY, March
Page 102-103 Gaib and Kath at
Sunset Cliffs, San Diego, CA, June
Page 104 Gaib and Kath at the
cliffs, San Diego, CA, June 2019
Page 105 Kath at the cliffs, San
Diego, CA, June 2019
Page 106-107 Kath somewhere in
Chinatown, New York, NY, March
Page 108 Skyline in Chinatown,
New York, NY, March 2019
Page 109 Kath at the WTC Mall,
New York, NY, March 2019
Page 110-111 My window,
Brooklyn, NY, May 2019
Page 112 Flowers and Polaroids
from the desert, Bombay Beach,
CA, August 2017
Page 113 Gaib on the first Sunday
Funday with flowers, San Diego,
CA, July 2017
Page 18-19 Becca’s jacket,
Glasgow, Scotland, February
Page 20-21 Becca and Abbey at
the skate park, Glasgow, Scotland,
Page 22-23 Gals tattoo,
Glasgow, Scotland, February
Page 24-25 The gals, Balloch,
Scotland, February 2020
Page 28-29 Making turbo
shandies, Glasgow, Scotland,
Page 30-31 Beth tucks Abbey
in, Glasgow, Scotland, February
Page 54 Eliana at the sand dunes,
Saltan Sea, CA, January 2019
Page 56-57 Art at the Met, New
York, NY, August 2019
Page 57 Eliana at Central Park,
New York, NY, August 2019
Page 58-59 Eliana and Tess in
the grass, San Diego, CA, August
Page 61 Eliana and Tess at
Mission Trails, San Diego, CA,
Page 62-63 Eliana and Tess with
lights, San Diego, CA, August
Page 64 Eliana and Tess on the
boat, Bombay Beach, CA, August
Page 85 Gaib at the abandoned
building, Niland, CA, January
Page 87 Gaib in Long Island City,
NY, January 2019
Page 88-89 Gaib at Bombay
Beach, CA, January 2020
Page 90-91 Gaib on some art,
Bombay Beach, CA, January
Page 92 Gaib at Mission Trails,
San Diego, CA, July 2019
Page 94-95 Gaib at Lestat’s in
Hillcrest before an Antifa rally,
San Diego, CA, August 2019
Page 98-99 Gaib in North Park,
San Diego, CA, August 2017
Page 115 Tess and Eliana in
an abandoned house, Bombay
Beach, CA, August 2017
Camus, A. (2008) Notebooks
1951-1959. Lanham, MA: Ivan R.
Gebhart, K. (2010) Interlude. In:
Bornstein, K. and Bear Borgman,
S. eds. Gender Outlaws. Berkeley,
CA: Seal Press, pp. 134.
Varian, F. (2010) Daddy Gets the
Big Piece of Chicken. In: Bornstein,
K. and Bear Borgman, S. eds.
Gender Outlaws. Berkeley, CA:
Seal Press, pp. 136-142.
signs of tenderness is an exploration into the
formation of chosen family within the queer
community, and the unique manifestation of
relationships amongst those who identify as
this book documents eight individuals within
their chosen families as they exist currently,
and how these relationships have evolved
over the course of these individuals’ lives.