Belonging: Reimaging the family tree


be· long· ing | \ bi-ˈlȯŋ-iŋ, bē- \

  • a feeling of being happy or comfortable as part of a particular group
    and having a good relationship with the other members of the group
    because they welcome you and accept you:
    • A sense of belonging is one of humanity’s most basic needs.
    • It’s a book about humanity, loyalty, and belonging, and about the ties
      that bind us to places and to each other
    • Cambridge Dictionary

Belonging is intrinsic to the human experience, but unfortunately all too often for communities that have systematically been marginalized and “othered”, belonging is not a given; it’s a privilege. This privilege is worth pursuing at all cost and often indeed costs queer youth in particular everything. Isolation, ridicule, abuse and judgment are often the catalyst to leave behind one’s home in search for family.

Many LGBTQIA folx have to build their own chosen family trees in the face of rejection from their biological ones. In such chosen families, friends or groups act as stand-in parents for those who have been rejected or have difficult relationships with their families of origin. Chosen families are essential in forming bonds not only to escape homophobic ideologies but also to find pleasure and communion with others.

BeLONGING explores the journey of identity and belonging through the lens of self-identified southern queer photographers, iconic images of ball culture and excerpts from James Ijames’ Pulitzer Prize winning play, Fat Ham.

With the continuous assault we are seeing on sexual orientation and gender identity today, branching out to create new family trees is more than just an act of survival but one of resistance, restoration and liberations!

We hope that this digital dramaturgical exhibit awakens a deep sense of care and awareness for how we belong to ourselves but most importantly to each other.

This dramaturgical exhibition is part of National Black Theatre’s holistic producing pedagogy which is spearheaded by the Alternative Learning & Social Impact department.


Of the United States LGBTQ population lives in the south

The South

Is home to:

53%of all black people
36%of all Hispanic or Latino people
36%of all non-Hispanic white people
32%of all multiracial people
31%of all Native Americans
21%of all Asian People

In the United States

U.S. Census Bureau. 2018 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.


have been taunted or mocked by family for being LGBTQ


say they can “definitely” be themselves at home


had family get involved in the larger LGBTQ community
(attending pride events, advocating for LGBTQ inclusion in their workplaces, or learning about LGBTQ identities and experiences)

” I want to be soft.
I want to arch my back.
I want to bless somebody with how soft I can be.
I want to lay me head in your lap…”



of Black LGBTQ youth who reported high levels of support from at least one person reported attempting suicide compared to

24% who did not

“Can I
be your


Chosen Family

also known as found families — friends or groups act as stand-in parents for those who have been rejected or have difficult relationships with their families of origin.

NBC NEWS: How the Black Queer Community is Re-imagining The Family Tree, 2022


of Black LGBTQ youth have experienced homelessness, been kicked out, or run away

Resource Guide

Download BeLonging PDF

Ali Forney Center
Black Trans Liberation
Brooklyn Community Pride Center
Campaign for Southern Equality
The Center
The Door
Hetrick-Martin Institute
Human Rights Campaign Foundation
Queer Food Fund
Son of a Southern Chef
The Trevor Project