Families of Choice? Exploring the Supportive Networks of Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals


  • We dedicate this article to our beloved friend and colleague, John Vincke. We will remember him as a passionate researcher and a truly exceptional human being.

Alexis Dewaele, Policy Research Centre on Equal Opportunities, University of Antwerp–Hasselt University, Lange Nieuwstraat 55, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium. E-mail: Alexis.Dewaele@UGent.be


Despite the judicial and cultural progress that has been made in Flanders (i.e., Dutch-speaking part of Belgium), lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals (LGBs) are still a stigmatized sexual minority. They are assumed to rely extensively on the support of friends to compensate for lack of familial support (i.e., family-of-choice hypothesis). In this article, we compare the support networks of 2,754 Flemish LGBs and 1,199 Flemish citizens and find convincing support for the family-of-choice hypothesis. LGBs seem to rely primarily on friends, while the average Fleming primarily relies on family for confidant support. We discuss the supportive potential captured in these friendship networks and raise the question “Are friends all a person needs?”