Pets are part of any family – the bonds that we form with our furry companions are as special and as loving as the ones we make with our children, our siblings, our parents. But for some members of the LGBTQIA+ community, the concept of family is a little more complicated.
Despite significant steps towards greater acceptance of queer people, many still face prejudice from family members – leaving little choice but to forge a new route outside of traditional family structures.
This means that many LGBTQIA+ people look to create new communities – ones that embrace, love, and nurture a person’s whole self (regardless of orientation or gender). This is the queer concept of chosen family: a group of people to whom you are emotionally close and consider ‘family’ even though you are not biologically or legally related.
ManyPets wanted to add to the conversation about the importance of chosen families in queer communities – so we made a film to celebrate this, and the relationship between the LGBTQIA+ community and their pets.
The video explores the bonds that queer people form with our furry companions, and is underpinned by fresh research which highlights the positive impact pets can have on the LGBTQIA+ experiences.
Pets – an important part of every family
We know that pets are always there to help us – we even ran a whole advertising campaign shining a light on just how they improve our lives. They're an important part of any family unit – sharing a loving bond in a similar way you would with a child or a sibling.
So how does this change when looking at queer chosen families? How do pets fit in?
We asked 350 LGBTQIA+ pet parents about their attitudes to their cat or dog, and the results gave us an insight into how important pets are to queer people and their chosen family units.
The data revealed that:
95.7% felt that their pet was a part of their family;
Eight out of 10 LGBTQIA+ pet parents (82%) felt closer to their pet than some members of their family;
Three quarters (74.3%) feel their pet has helped them get through LGBTQ-related stressors (including anxiety, rejection, bias discrimination, microaggressions from family and peers).
Most interestingly, three out of five respondents said that their pet helped them find friends, connections or partners, meaning that their community grew as a direct result of being a pet parent.
“When I first came out, not everyone was that accepting,” says Liam Madle, ManyPets UK claim handler. “My cat Ozzy was the runt of the litter, so I saw my younger self reflected in him. I couldn’t wait to be his cat dad. I wanted to give him the support I feel I missed out on in my younger years.”
It’s these real life stories that demonstrate why 91.8% of LGBTQIA+ people say that their pet helped them get over a difficult time, whilst 86.8% said that their pet gave them a sense of purpose.
Chosen families - what’s that?
According to a Stonewall report from 2018, only 46% of lesbian, gay and bi people and 47% of trans people feel able to be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity to everyone in their family. This percentage decreases even further when looking to queer people in smaller towns – with only 20% admitting their orientation to members of their family.
Chosen families – formed through shared experience – provide a much-needed network for LGBTQIA+ people to feel supported. It can be made up of friends, lovers, colleagues and even pets.
“Since coming out as trans and non-binary, I’ve experienced some disappointing reactions from family members,” says Ambz Roberts, Product Designer at ManyPets UK. “Transphobia and homophobia from relatives is not something anyone should experience when becoming their truest self.
"That’s why I'm so thankful to my chosen family – made up of queer friends, partners, and not forgetting the most important members, my dog Toby and my cat Aragorn. This support network has given me space to heal and grow as I enter my queer identity.”
“I am incredibly privileged to have a supportive biological family – though it did take a while to get there. However chosen family is so much more than blood. It’s about surrounding yourself with love and kindness,” agrees ManyPets USA customer support agent Finn Andrykowski.
The concept of chosen family is a global one. According to an American study, roughly 64% of LGBTQ baby boomers have built and continue to rely on chosen families.
RuPaul’s Drag Race UK finalist Ella Vaday - star of the ManyPets ‘We Choose Better’ campaign - also confirms that pets can help queer people find greater purpose.
“My partner and I decided to get our dog Wally after a few years of thinking about it and it’s the best decision we ever made. There’s nothing better than caring for a dog, he brings so much happiness to us every day.
"You become so tuned in to your dogs’ habits and preferences and I really feel like he understands us too.”
How ManyPets helps families
We know pets are not just things that we own – they are part of the family. Our pets may well be the best therapists, personal trainers and legal highs on the planet. They’re always there for us – that’s why we make policies that help you look after them.
We try to create plans that are a bit more than just pet insurance. Not only do our plans cover the cost of vet care with our award-winning pet insurance, but they also include free 24/7 vet video calls, a free pet sitter membership with Trusted Housesitters, and discounts on pet healthcare (like flea and worming subscriptions).