Thanksgivings are busy for Twiggy Pucci Garcon. Over the last five years, they've been a multi-day process in Washington D.C. of laughing, drinking, and communion. At its pinnacle is Thanksgiving dinner, which has recently boasted at least 20 members of Garcon's extended, blended family — a combination of those both blood-related as well as those who she has chosen. But the center of it all is the kitchen, where Garcon's parents, both chosen and biological mix and intermingle, swapping stories and managing the execution of recipes. For Garcon — known to many for her work on Pose as cameo actress, choreographer, and consultant; some for her work as the co-writer on the 2017 film Kiki; more still, as the Chief Program Officer of True Colors United; and to the ballroom community, for her role as the overall overseer of the House of Comme Des Garcon — it's all just a showing of love, for the family she's built.
"[In my family] there's been generations of bringing people together over breaking bread," Garcon says, referring to her biological family which has roots throughout the South. "It's the way that I show them I love them."
The idea of chosen family isn't new, but to Garcon it came at an important time back in 2004. Then, still living with her biological family in Virginia, she had her first introduction to the ballroom scene. There, a friend introduced her to the man who would become her first gay father, Antonio G.
"To me chosen family is this idea that we have the autonomy to decide who is our family and who we get to call family, biological, surrogate, or otherwise," the 2019 Out100 honoree says. Antonio was more than a mentor, becoming a protective force for her at a time where she had been asked to leave her church as a result of her burgeoning queerness. "How I've come to define family today has been through the lenses of my experiences with my chosen family to be honest. They've always been the most caring, and the most supportive, and the most loving. And that's not to say that my biological family has not been that in some moments but it's been much more consistently unconditional from my chosen family."
That family grew in the years to come. In 2007, Garcon met Michael Roberson as well as Dominique Jackson, a star of Pose, who both would soon become her parents as well. Shortly thereafter came Shannon Garcon.
"I didn't find Twiggy, Twiggy found me," he says. At the time the pair were both in ballroom's House of Miyake-Mugler but connected over an interest in politics, structure, and organizing — Twiggy had met Roberson through his organizing, and later Jackson as they both walked runway in the ballroom community. They all became close and remain so to this day.
These chosen parents, as well as a growing group of chosen siblings and even children ("I was a young mother," Twiggy confesses), provided invaluable emotional support and stability. This family stretched well outside of ballroom including those in Twiggy's professional life, as well as her work in activism.
"I am a person who occupies many spaces, so as many spaces that I occupy, I'm allowed to make family," she says. All have at some point or another been, undoubtedly, treated to Twiggy's almost infamous cooking — she hosts game nights or just meals for those she loves, periodically — and all have helped to form systems of support. Enough support, in fact, that Twiggy felt confident living on her own terms. In 2009 she gave her biological parents an ultimatum telling them that either they needed to be able to accept her in both gender presentation and sexuality fully, or the relationship would end.
"I came to terms with the fact that the universe has blessed me with people in my life who are supportive and protective of me in the way that I always wanted," she recalls. "That's all I needed and I decided if my biological family couldn't do the same, I was good on them." Her biological mother decided that she was ready to accept and try to understand while her father declined.
"I'm not here to replace biological parents," Shannon says. Shannon also has a cadre of chosen children, and works to maintain a relationship with the biological parents of each. "It's never been about replacing; I'm here to help. The way I look at it, there's a bridge that I have to connect between the parent and where the [child or person] is now. For me, I pick up where the biological parent can't pick up because they don't know or don't have the resources to." That process happens in real-time at Thanksgiving.
Since 2010, Twiggy and her biological mother have made Thanksgiving an affair, first switching off between traveling to NYC and Virginia for one or the other to host. But in 2015 this changed, they settled on meeting in Washington D.C. at Shannon's home, making a new tradition. In this new order, the house bustles with family both biological and chosen, both in ballroom and not. Shannon and Mother White, as Twiggy's biological mother is known, swap stories and reflect on the person they've both contributed in helping to raise. And Twiggy, checking the oven for whatever dish she's cooked up, or texting someone who happens to be running late but is bringing drinks, continues to show her love and gratitude wordlessly, breaking bread with the community she has built.