Embracing Queer Family – Nia and Katie Chiaramonte

Embracing Queer Family: Learning to Live Authentically in Our Families and Communities by Nia Chiaramonte, Katie J. Chiaramonte
Published by Broadleaf Books on May 14, 2024
Genres: LGBTQ+, Non-Fiction, Memoir
Buy on Amazon

Embrace the Queerness of your family, take ownership of your journey, and use your voice to bring light to your communities. When Nia Chiaramonte came out as a trans woman to her wife Katie, she knew she would be met with a loving response. But she was less sure where this would leave their relationship, their marriage, and their family. Even murkier was what would happen when they began to bring their extended family, friends, and broader community alongside them on their journey of identity formation as a Queer family. They needed a guide for what lay ahead. Now, drawing on their own experiences as well as their expertise in psychology, spirituality, and family systems, Nia and Katie Chiaramonte offer the tools they wish they'd had for their journey. Embracing Queer Family is a guidebook for Queer families on how to live into their true selves and strengthen their communities through radical love, acceptance, and mutual healing. With hands-on tools for learning and reflection in each chapter, this needed resource tackles issues of inclusion and acceptance and offers practical advice for how individuals and families can honor themselves and find transformation for their whole community through love. Whether you are a Queer person on the journey of self-awareness, an ally looking for resources, or a family member seeking advice for how to navigate a loved one's coming-out process, this book is for you.

In July 2018, Nia Chiaramonte came out at transgender to her wife, Katie, after years of marriage and five children. It sounds like a marriage death knell, doesn’t it? How does one remain married to someone who is undergoing such a radical and drastic change? How do you tell the kids? How do you tell your parents? How do you navigate such a seismic shift in the relationship?

The truth is that many relationships don’t make it. Studies are limited (in fact, there’s only been *one* in total), but suggest that only about half of romantic relationships survive gender transition (Meier et. al. 2013), whether due to the transition or factors that may stem from it. But Nia and Katie have made it. They’ve done the difficult work, navigated the choppy waters, moved slowly from being out to each other, to family, and then publicly. Embracing Queer Family is a book for those navigating similar changes—whether to a spouse, child, or other relative. It’s the Chiaramonte’s story, but so much more than that. It’s a guide for finding happiness, wholeness, and safety throughout difficult process of finding and redefining oneself and one’s family.

Embracing Queer Family is structured to be a slow progression outward. First, it begins with the self, the individual journey in. Nia and Katie write about the difficulty of understanding and accepting one’s own Queer identity, particularly when that understanding of one’s identity comes later in life and/or stands in contrast to one’s social/religious beliefs. From there, they move to a chapter on letting loved ones in and how to approach coming out with thoughtfulness and clarity. The Chiaramontes found that, for them, this didn’t start with their closest friends (who might have strong emotional reactions to the news) but a friend who was more detached from their life that they knew was supportive of trans rights.

Embracing Queer Family continues the journey by moving from the “letting in” to the “coming out.” Nia and Katie offer solid and thoughtful advice for how to deliberately and carefully determine safe people and safe communities. Most of this advice in common-sense, but having it written down by someone who has gone through the same thing successfully as a resource to return to is an invaluable resource. And that’s sort of the theme of this book: You don’t have to do this alone. There’s a community out here offering support and cheering you on.

Yet, Embracing Queer Family also recognizes that not everyone will be supportive or safe. While they don’t go into great detail—there’s no need to explain what so many Queer folk already know as an excruciating reality—they do offer good advice for setting boundaries and discussing queerness in a way that tries to avoid the toxic “culture war” conversation.

The book ends with a “toolkit” of practical specifics for navigating gender identity changes as both the individual and those whom they love. One thing they encourage, practice pronouns and new names! Change their contact information in your phone. When thinking about them, change their name and pronouns in our mind. When it comes to boundary keeping, the Chiaramontes offer suggested scripts that help set firm boundaries: “My position of support is not up for discussion.” “I am choosing to trust my loved one with their own identity.” Or simply, “No.” These discussions can be emotionally charged and by providing scripts, Embracing Queer Family brings a stability and groundedness that will hopefully cut through the emotions and allow clear and transparent communication.

Whether you are in the process of coming out or processing a loved one’s coming out, Embracing Queer Family is a loving and substantive reminder that relationships can adapt, endure, and thrive. Nia and Katie are living, loving examples of that. It’s not that the journey isn’t easy (if it was the book would not be necessary), but it can be done. Follow in the footsteps of those who have done it successfully. Listen to their wisdom and advice. Embrace the Queerness and take control of your journey.