Shauna Brock on Building Families

12719596_10154050182041499_575740594147777890_oShauna Brock shared her story of building a family through an LGBTQIA (and allies) lens in a 4-week writing workshop led by Eric Samuelsen at Art Access. She and her fellow writers were then mentored by a playwright from The Lab at Plan-B. Eric then wove their stories together into an evening of theatre, which will be performed as INTERSECTIONS II: FORGING FAMILY FROM MORE THAN DNA on April 28-29 as part of Plan-B’s Script-In-Hand Series at Art Access. Click here for details and tickets ($10 general admission, $5 students).

It’s funny when you think about it, and when you overthink it, that the theme of intersections and found family can be applied as much to a writing workshop as to the families we find and create – especially for the queer community. Strangers come together in a room and over time they work together, they bond. Stories, the histories that bind us together, are shared.

It’s scary to enter a workshop, to know that you are putting your experiences out there and know they will be judged by everyone at the table. How they are received, how they are welcomed and discussed sets the entire tone and either creates trust or destroys inspiration. Again, how similar to our family structures.

Going into this INTERSECTIONS workshop, I had no idea what story I wanted to tell. Surrounded by Mormons expressing the passion of coming out stories and tales of family ties in homeless bonds, I sat there thinking of my own family, my own bonds – because my biological ones are as tight as those I have chosen to create as family. How do I bring my stories – as important as they are – to this table? The good thing was, everyone at the table felt the same way.

intersectionsAfter all, what about our stories makes them compelling?

For four weeks, we came together, reminding each other that each and every story is compelling. Each and every moment, every tear, every laugh – all of it matters. Because for every moment sitting alone in dark hospital rooms, and crying before parents, and wandering streets – each breath in that room mattered and that family that was formed over the four weeks we worked together, we empowered each other to tell our most authentic stories.

I wrote two stories for this workshop. One full of doom and gloom and the end of one found family, the other sharing one of the strongest moments of my current one – when we faced death down and told it to find another friend that day. And mine wasn’t the only story of a family looking to move forward. Because even when the moments were dark, even when the pain was so palpable we could feel it rise from the table, all of the conversations had this bonding, this hope. Because no matter what, there was a family waiting to support us. Even for a moment. Because when the hardest stories are shared, even a moment of support is as crucial as a hug, as a promise of support and love that can last for eternity.

What has emerged from those four weeks of sitting around a table, of bonding together – even if for a fleeting moment – is something to be embraced, something to be built upon. It’s something to be absorbed and remembered. Because if there is something that gets lost in all of the media push about marriage and rainbow capitalism and everything else – it’s that we don’t need those historical, heteronormative ways to build a family. Sometimes, all we need is a table, a cup of coffee, and a conversation.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. And I hope you go home, sit down, and start to share with each other. Tell your stories. Tell them as often as you need to. Because they are the foundation of your families.

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