Sunday, October 30, 2011

"The Girls Who Went Away" Makes Top 100 Feminist Non-Fiction List (and Why This is SO Important)

By Amanda

Ms. Magazine has named "The Girls Who Went Away: the Hidden History of Women who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade" by Ann Fessler, among the Top 100 Feminist Non-Fiction books.  Fessler is an adult adoptee who collected the narratives of mothers who surrendered to adoption in the post-war pre-Roe v. Wade period and recorded their stories of social stigma, societal scorn, and experiences of coercion and pressure to surrender their babies to adoption because they were pregnant and unmarried.

I am extremely glad that this book is being considered one of the most important feminist books because often times I feel like feminism has forgotten adoption or fails to see how feminist values ought to play a role in adoption.  My fellow adoptee and friend, Joy, and I discussed this a while back as how we often see adoption come into play in feminism is when it is divided by class.  I mention Joy because she put the concept of middle class vs. lower income class in feminism and adoption so eloquently (and I probably won't do what she said justice in my summary of the conversation here).  Too often when adoption meets feminism is when the middle class woman who perhaps put off childbearing to complete her education and advance in her career is now at a place in life where she would like to have children but is unable to.  She opts for adoption which will indeed enable her to become a mother.  This is where feminism forgets that this is often at the expense of a mother of lesser economic means, who did not have opportunities to advance in life, and who cannot find sufficient support to provide for herself and nurture her child because of patriarchy and sexism in society that hinders the enactment of more progressive and adequate laws and support systems based on the idea that all women on welfare make a career out of having babies simply to gather more government "hand-outs."

I'm no fool; I understand that not everyone who has a baby and surrenders to adoption wanted to parent.  However, the fact of the matter remains that adoption has not served all women well; certainly not the ones who would had chosen differently have they been given a chance and certainly not the adopted women whose identities are amended and sealed.  Adoption did not and does not serve women, adoptive, surrendering, and adopted alike, well, when it is used as a method of redeeming women for "illicit" sex and "extra-marital" childbearing.

Because feminists must know these facts, because feminists cannot forget adoption in women's history, thank you to Ms. for adding Fessler's book to this list.

"My mother came and got me and let me stay at home for a few weeks.  I was three months pregnant.  She said 'you don't look it now but you will soon as I want you out of this house.'  And she said, 'if you keep your baby, you can never come back."  --a surrendering mother on Fessler's film "A Girl Like Her."  See the trailer here.

Friday, October 28, 2011

COLD AS ICE: My Top Five Personality Changes as an Adoptee

cold as ice (icy photo by Trace)
1 – CONFUSION - As a child I was terribly confused about being adopted. My adoptive parent’s lack of an explanation as to how or why I became an orphan only made it worse. I wanted to feel sure there was nothing wrong with me but I could only guess. My a-parents never bothered to share pertinent details with me, like it wasn’t important - but it was.  My identity and the truth meant everything to me. All I knew was I was abandoned, made an orphan and placed with strangers who legally became my parents. I had questions no one wanted to answer or could answer. I lived in a confused fog until I was 22, until I opened my adoption. Then confusion faded away.

2- BLAME – I did blame my adoptive parents for my situation. They had adopted me yet seemed clueless to my inner grief and torment.  I recall how Edie my adoptive mom would say, “You act like you don’t like me.” I don’t remember exactly how I acted but I do remember her words. I am haunted by her words. Yes, I had a rebellious attitude in my teens but I didn’t act it out. I had decided to open my adoption, no matter what. Blaming my adoptive parents for my situation went on silently for years.  I blamed them for birth pain they didn’t create; of course now this makes me feel guilty and terrible but I do understand why!

3- ANGER – There is no simple way to express anger or articulate the stress of adoption when you are a child. I blocked my emotions splitting into different people… I taught myself how to act. It was not safe to show real emotions. I was cold as ice. I imagined if I acted angry, I could end up kicked out, sent to live someplace else.  This is a very difficult and dangerous proposition for a child… when you are forced to pretend you’re happy and ok… Fantasy is normal but normal kids do outgrow it. Adoptees are not treated like normal people, forced to accept adoption as permanent…closed, no discussion. Today, I have healthy anger. What makes me angriest is how no one checked on my brother and me when we were placed. The social workers missed the fact that my adoptive dad was a raging alcoholic and their marriage was tettering on disaster after Edie’s miscarriages. I am angry that adoption records in too many states are sealed and lawmakers ignore adoptees and don’t ask us how this can affect us our entire life!

4- LOW SELF ESTEEM – Healthy self-esteem was not taught at home or at my school - just the opposite. I was a child who measured self-worth on crazy notions of wealth, prestige (nice clothes and cars) and high grades. Attending Catholic School, life was about morality, hell and sin. Was I the bastard child of an illegitimate pregnancy? What did people think of me? I questioned if I was good enough, smart enough, or pretty enough. Adoption and religion crushed my self-esteem. I could have worn a sign that said, “Don’t get too close or I’ll run!” I was unsure of who I was. I fled good people and bad situations and didn’t stand up for myself.  After I opened my adoption and met my dad and knew my ancestry, my self-esteem started to bloom.

5- HOPELESS – Too many adoptees live in a state of hopelessness. In my 20s I knew my situation was hopeless when I learned adoption records were sealed in Wisconsin. I hoped to find my parents and meet them but it looked hopeless. Then I met a judge who respected my right to know my identity. He let me read my adoption file. Not every adoptee has had this happen. Unless laws change in North America, adoptees are forced to live in a hopeless fantasy, forced to accept that we’ll never know, and forced to accept laws and secrecy. Feeling hopeless is a lot like feeling helpless. This destroys self-esteem, healthy emotions and our ability to trust and love.  Many adoptees I know cannot handle close relationships because of the trauma of being abandoned, left to guess what happened. This stress does not heal until adoptees meet relatives and hear the truth.  Until then, hope seems only a dream. I hope for the day we are no longer hopeless...
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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Lost - Stranger In The Dark

I went off on a tangent last week for hours.  I found an actress who was the exact size, hair and eye color, and grew up near where I was relinquished for adoption.  So, logistics fit too.  My biological mother is only 4' 10" tall so that is a very defining piece of identifying information.  However, after thirteen years of serious searching and even having the best searchers attempt to navigate with the minor tidbits of information I have, and without my biological parents releasing their identities and with no names, cities, or states to go on, I gave up and put my energy into helping others and adoption reform.

But, the searching never goes away and is usually ongoing in some capacity.  I will always search faces in crowds, my heart will always skip a beat when I hear "You look just like someone I know", or like what happened last week's brief frantic attempt to "find".  I will always feel the power that not knowing my biological family has over me that will never go away.  I can not "get over it", I can not leave it in the past it IS my past I need to move on to the future.  And, I still feel like a stranger is looking back at me in the mirror.

Stranger In The Dark

Sometimes it seems so close and yet I stand so far away.
I seek the signs along the road to help me find my way.
Long distances I have traveled yet so many miles to go.
Against all odds I search around these obstacles that grow.
Traversing unknown territory I pray someday I'll find.
Solutions to enigmas that will easy my burdened mind.
Like Alice through the looking glass I strive to comprehend.
These mysteries that unravel in this unfamiliar land.
Clues are few no indications pointing to an end.
Lost track of all the hours and the time that has been spent.
Revealing truths in this life journey upon which I embark.
To unearth secrets that keep me a stranger in the dark.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ask an Adoptee: What Should our Daughters' Names be?

By Amanda

An Adoptive Parent asks....

"We are an American family who recently came back from living in Africa for 4 1/2 years. During our time there we adopted twin girls. We are very fortunate to know some of their family.. When we met the girls at the orphanage they hadn't been given names. We had the opportunity to ask their family about names they would like us to give them, or ways we could try to incorporate family names from their family with names from our family. They actually didn't want to help name the girls because they said they are ours now, and we should name them. We took a long time to explain that they are not just ours that they will always be a part of their family too and we want to honor them and connect them to their family. Finally they told us names of various family members and we chose their paternal grandmother's name for one of their middle names and their mother's name (who died at birth) for the other's middle name. We then chose names that were french (as we lived in a french speaking African country) and that were also names of well known African women who fought for independence in various ways. So, both girls have first names that we chose but that are significant African women which are easily pronounced and familiar in their country and also middle names of their family (of origin/birth). And then they have our last name. I have been reading more and more adult adoptee literature I have read a few posts about adoptees trying to incorporate their family name (of origin/birth) into their current names or change their name altogether. We have a chance to change their names before they get readopted in the U.S. My question is this, should we consider adding to their middle names by adding the last name of their father as a second middle name? So they would have their current first names, the next name would be a family (birth) members names, and then the next name would be the same for both of them and would be their father's (birth) last name, and then our family last name. I will be honest in saying that there is some painful hard past with their father, but I still think I want to consider it. (My father failed me in many personal ways growing up, to the point of abandonment, but I still kept his last name as a middle name when a I got married, I still wanted the connection.)"

First of all, I think the amount of thoughtfulness you put into naming your daughters is wonderful.  There's a small part of me that believes that names are meaningful and powerful to the individuals they are bestowed upon.  I purposely named my sons after family members that I admire; my adoptive father, my adoptive grandfather, my husband, and my father in law.  As I am one of the adoptees who will be changing my legal name to incorporate my maternal and paternal original surnames into my middle name, I thought I would respond to this question.

It sounds to me like this is something you want to consider and if you think it is the right thing to do, perhaps it is something to consider.  I can't answer as to what you should do.  But I can speak from my own thoughts about my own pending name change in hopes that it might help you.

The connectedness is important to me too.  This is why I am choosing to incorporate my original surnames into my middle name.  My biological father was not a particularly nice person and I did worry that me adding his name to mine would make it look like I wanted to honor him in some way.  I have to remind myself that is not why I am doing it.  I am taking it back because it is mine.  The heritage is mine.  His ancestors are my ancestors.  My paternal family members are also wonderful people who can't be labeled by the things that he did.  I won't deny my rich heritage because of the bad things he has done.  And believe me, the man was despicable.  My name change is about me, not him.

Are they old enough to express what they would like their names to be?  Is this something they would be able to change later if they decide they do not want the name included any longer?

If it is of any solace to you, I will tell you that I am not changing my name because I think my adoptive parents did a bad job.  It is a cultural norm in U.S. society to change a child's name upon decree of adoption.  My parents had a name already picked out and were excited to give me this name that was packed with meaning.  They did not know my original name; they were not permitted to.  And perhaps, even if they did know my original name, they would have chosen not to keep it.  Not out of disrespect to my original mother who named me so carefully and thoughtfully, but because that's something that goes along with adoption, I guess.  I had three different first and last names before my first birthday.  It sort of symbolizes the blank slate everyone in the 1980's still thought I must have been.  My parents had no way of foreseeing what names I would want.  My name change isn't about correcting something they did wrong because they didn't do anything wrong; it's about me.

So I guess what I am simply trying to say is that whatever you choose will be meaningful and special because it was chosen by you, a person who loves and cares for your daughters.  If they choose to change something about their names later on as adults, it won't be the end of the world, and it won't be because you didn't name them with thoughtfulness, love, and care.  And that's what really matters.

Monday, October 17, 2011

How do we Mend the Hoop?

By Trace A. DeMeyer (Winyan Ohmanisa Waste La Ke)

Years ago I was embarrassed to say I was adopted. I did not feel lucky. I did not have a clue that my adoption hurt me so badly, its tentacles reached into every aspect of my life, even as an adult. My hoop, my connection to my ancestors, was broken by my adoption.
I ached to know my own mother, the woman who created me.
One expert wrote, “Loss of the most sacred bond in life, that of a mother and child, is one of the most severe traumas and this loss will require long-term, if not lifelong, therapy.”
Really?  No one helped me with this. I had therapy twice. The counselling I received in my 20s or 30s concerned my dysfunctional childhood and yet all my issues stemmed from my adoption wound and loss. They missed it or didn't inquire or connect the dots. Why is that?
For close to 20 years, on my own I searched and simply wanted to find answers and the truth. I made calls before I showed up anywhere; I did not disrupt anyone’s life.  If I was invited to meet relatives, I went. This year alone, two cousins have filled giant gaps in my ancestry. Prayers are answered, even the unspoken ones.
I can see how adoption loss can last a lifetime. For some friends, they're stalled with sealed adoption records, not knowing which tribe, and suffer greatly with grief and depression.
For them, I wrote my book as a journalist and adoptee and now I write a blog for other American Indian adoptees, raised by non-Indians.
For those who attempt to open their own adoption, or simply want to understand, I explain many stages, steps I had taken: some good, some hard. 
Sharing stories is how we heal, how we mend the hoop.
Even now there is persistent rampant poverty in Indian Country. Even now it isn’t easy being Indian, on and off the reserves. But it is definitely better to know who you are, which tribe, and not live in a mystery. Someone needs to build a bridge for these adoptees. Open records will accomplish this.
It's hard to admit but adoptees with Indian blood find out soon enough their reservations are closed to strangers. Without proof, without documents, you’re suspect.
We don’t always get our proof since state laws prevent it.  Just one Minnesota tribe, White Earth, decided to call out to its lost children/adoptees; this made news in 2007.  Just a few adoptees showed up. Why? Adoption records are still sealed in Minnesota.
America’s Indian Adoption Project was not publicized or well known, just like a few more secrets I found out. Congress heard Indian leaders complain in 1974, “In Minnesota, 90 percent of the adopted Indian children are placed in non-Indian homes.”
I was born in Minnesota.
For any adoptee going back to their tribe, this requires a special kind of courage. Adoptees know this. Rhonda, a Bay Mills Tribal member, an adoptee friend of mine, was told early on – be happy, be white.  Ask yourself, how would you react?
When did Indian Country become such a bad place to be from? When did this happen? How did this happen?
My mission is to find these answers and build new bridges... it is time to mend the hoop for all adoptees.

The Hoop symbolizes the never ending circle of life which starts with birth, then goes to maturity, then to old age and death with the completion of the hoop in rebirth here or in the spiritual world. The individual who has his life in order stands in the center of the hoop to see, to understand, and to be guided by the various paths of life around him. The best compliment one can pay an individual is to say that he stands in the center of the hoop of life or that he lives on the correct path of life.
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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Stand With Adoptees

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Women In My Life

(Photo Credit Danio_16 on stock.xchng)
Growing up, I had several female role models in my life.  These women helped to shape me into the woman I am today.  They helped teach me right from wrong, how to be a good person, and how to love.  These women were a powerful force in my life and continue to do so.

For starters, my adoptive mother is one of the best people I've ever met.  She is one of the most kind, caring, and compassionate people I know.  She consistently puts her family first, never complains when things don't go her way, and has always been there for me.  We differ a lot when it comes to personality.  She's serene and gentle where I'm all over the place like the energizer bunny.  I could see how some people would have a problem with that, but she's always loved me for who I am.  She has her faults for sure, but she's always been my biggest fan and without her in my life, I don't think I'd be the strong and independent woman I am today.  She taught me so much about how to stand up for myself with grace and dignity.  There's still a lot left for her to teach me.  I feel lucky to have her as my mom.  I could have ended up with anyone, and I got her.

My grandmothers are two very different people.  One is like my mother, quiet and steady, while the other is more like me (aka all over the place).  Both have taught me a thing or two.  From my maternal grandmother, I've learned that sometimes it's best to sit back and listen.  I've learned the value of listening from her and taking the time to really hear what the other person is saying.  My grandmother knows everything that's going on because she pays attention to detail and reads between the lines.  It's a good skill to have.  My other grandmother is always happy.  She's always baking something yummy and would talk your ear off if you'd let her.  Because she's more like me, I always valued time I spent with her.  I learned the value of surrounding yourself with good people from her.  I learned that sometimes you need to speak up for yourself and advocate for yourself.  And I learned that the best way to win a person over is to give them a homemade cookie.  It works like a charm!

My dance teacher has always been a mentor to me.  She took me under her wing and taught me a lot.  She's very outspoken and taught me to be proud of my thoughts and opinions.  Listen to the other side of things, take it into consideration, and be educated.  But don't let people change your mind with one argument.  She taught me to stand my ground.  And she gave me an outlet for my pent up energy.  I sometimes struggle with how to express myself in the heat of the moment and she taught me how to dance it out.  For this I will always be thankful.

Finally, my first mother has been a huge influence on my life.  I knew next to nothing about her.  All I knew was that she got pregnant at 21 and gave her baby up for adoption.  You'd be amazed at how much that has affected my life.  I've made choices that I'm not sure I would have made had I not been adopted.  "Good" choices.  I was never the kind of person who thought "It'll never happen to me!" because it had happened to her.  I learned from her that sometimes things aren't black and white.  After getting to know her a little bit, I've learned to appreciate the gray.  I may not like it, but there's a lot to be said at looking at the world for various shades.

All of these women have shaped who I am today.  I wouldn't be here writing on this blog or my own had they not been in my life.  So thank you to all those who have shaped me, and to the other woman (some of whom also blog here) who are continuing to show me how to be a strong and independent woman.  I appreciate it more than you know!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Lost Hope

Recently in my personal blog I wrote about the non-id letter and 40th birthday card I received through the adoption court from my biological mother.

I waited for thirteen years clinging to these two pieces of communication from my mother.  It gave me comfort and solace while I awaited the time she could come forward and release her identity to me, and tell my siblings about my existence.  I now realize, that is probably never going to happen.  After being rejected and abandoned by two families it is truly hard to feel whole, worthy, or to have any sense of belonging or real place in the world.

I wrote this about the time I when I was twenty-two in New Orleans having a street artist sketch me.  I hung it in my bedroom and spent uncounted hours staring at it wondering where my face came from.  It's something the 'real' world can't understand.  It's the most basic human right to know our heritage and our genetics.  It will never be something I will be able to stop thinking about.  And most days, this is how I feel:


Sketches of this person here can't illustrate my inner fears.
I pose afraid the artist sees just how this picture is incomplete.
But what is missing, what is gone, can't be seen, it can't be drawn.
No shades can show the gaping holes left in my heart, deep in my soul.
The pallet holds no color near, nor tint, or shade of hidden tears.
For what was lost taken away, the pain a brush stroke can't portray.
No pencil either lends a clue.
No crayon, chalk, will show the hue.
Of this facade on which I depend, because I know not who I am.
Perhaps someday I will reveal these deep held emotions that I feel.
The fragments of myself not shown.
Searching for family never known.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What's a Sister Anyway?

My parents tried to conceive for something like 10 years by the time I was adopted.  By the time they would have had money to adopt more, I suspect that it would have been at a time in their lives where they weren't in the baby-phase or expanding the family phase.  Though, they did keep trying to conceive after I was adopted; my mother had a miscarriage when I was four.  I was raised an only child but always wondered if I had brothers or sisters somewhere out there.  I was delighted to find out upon reunion that I have three brothers; two are younger than me, one is older than me.  Then the thought crossed my mind....I have no idea what being a sister really means.

I ran through the relationships that are kind of close:

Cousins: a cousin, to me, was always someone who lived far away.  Who I was related to but didn't know anything about.  We shared the same grandparents.  Our parents were brothers and sisters.  No, my friends who had brothers and sisters seemed closer to their siblings than how I had been with my cousins.

Friends: I have close friends I would do just about anything for.  Our families are close, but as close as siblings?  I'm not sure.  My friends seem closer to their siblings than they are to me.  No, being siblings seems more meaningful on some level than being friends.

Well, I'm a mother but being an older sister isn't really like being a mother.  They have a mother.  We share a mother.  I'm protective of them but I'm not responsible for their care nor am I in charge.

Figuring out how to be a sister is hard stuff.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Jamie Shares her Adoption Story

By Jamie

Jamie is a German-born adult adoptee and author of the blog Cue Your Life. 

I’ve always known that I was adopted. I don’t ever even remember being told, there was just never a time I didn’t know.  In developing this blog, one thing that I really want to keep focused on is being an open and honest writer. While there are certainly things that are off limits, there are also things that I feel like I need to share in order for you to really understand who I am, and what I could possibly have to offer.

I am here to motivate, inspire and encourage you…and to make you laugh. To do that, I feel that it is important that you see me as a person; as a woman who laughs and cries, succeeds and fails, and as a woman who struggles with her own issues…on a daily journey toward joy.  The following is part of that journey. 

I was born in Germany, to a 22-year-old woman who, for whatever reason, didn’t want to, or couldn’t, take care of me. I was  born though, so in my mind, she fulfilled her job in my life. She had me. She didn’t have to, but she did…and then she did another amazing thing.  She gave me away.  Going through the process of carrying and delivering a baby, I can tell you, it must have been agonizing for her to know I wouldn’t be going home with her. She is a good person. Her name is Debra. That is all I know.

Like I said, I’ve always known that I was adopted. It was never really a big deal to me, growing up in the Air Force all over the world, everyone looked different from everyone else anyway. There was so much diversity that it was never an issue that I wasn’t my parent’s biological child.  Adoption is so cool, because everyone’s stories are so different. My adoption was a closed adoption, which means that after the 2 month, (or so, I’m not totally sure, and this was in Germany) waiting period, my adoptive parents (Mom and Dad CYL) took me home and there was no further contact with my birth family. Not all adoptions are like that. I’ve known people who talk weekly to their birth families, people who send and receive pictures, people who were adopted out of social services, and people who were adopted from orphanages. Every story is so unique, and up until about 7 years ago, I would have told you my experience was the ideal situation for adoption.  I first remember thinking about finding my birth mother when I was in high school. I was having some serious health issues and had to undergo extensive medical testing to rule out conditions that wouldn’t have been necessary, had I known my family medical history.

The desire to find her came and went, without any real research.

The next time I had the desire to locate my birth mother was when I found out I was going to be a mother myself. Every time I went to the doctor for OB checkups, they would ask about my medical history. It confuses doctors when you say that you don’t know, even when it’s been charted 10 times the reason why. During my pregnancy, I would have liked to have a medical history…but when it came down to it, it didn’t really matter all that much.

Then something changed.

The first time I felt my tiny Bean kick in my belly, I thought about my own birth mother. She had, at one time, felt me kick inside of her. As I grew larger (and larger) I often wondered who this woman was…where she was, what she was like, what she looked like.

When my Bean was born, she looked like me. Well, after that alien-baby look faded…she looked like me. It was strange, because no one else looks like me, and I don’t look like anyone else, either. My birth mother was on my mind often those first few years.

I did a little searching every now and then. Google. Facebook. MySpace. Nothing ever came up. It’s tough when the adoption process took place in a foreign country, was completely closed, and then not researched at all  for 20 years. I began to feel something was missing in my life. An identity of my own, of sorts…just wasn’t there.

Where did I come from?  Jump forward to recent history, almost 2 years ago. I met someone who is very, very special to me. This person grew up with her biological mother, but not her biological father. When she was a teenager, her mother told her who her father was, and her step-father helped her locate where he was, as well as contact information for him. For whatever reason, this amazing young woman decided to contact her father. A relationship developed, along with relationships with all of her father’s family. She became a part of that family, as if she always had been.  Shortly after that, her father passed away suddenly, and without warning.

I had heard her story before I actually met her. It broke my heart. After I met her, it made my heart melt. By choosing to be brave and find her father, she had a chance to meet him, love him and become a part of his family. It didn’t matter how much time they had, her bravery, and his love gave them time they never would have had otherwise…and a lifetime of love from his family.  All of a sudden, my own birth mother’s mortality was something that dawned on me. Until that point, I always thought I could find her whenever it made sense to me. Now, I wondered if I’d waited too long.
A thousand questions began to develop in my mind. Who is this woman who had given me away? What is she like? Am I like her in any way? Could some of my quirks be something passed down?  What color eyes does she have? Where does my mousey brown hair come from? Do I have siblings?  Would she want to know me? …or her own biological grand-daughter? If she would want to…would I be willing to let go and accept that I really have no idea what I may find? Would I be able to put myself and my daughter through that? If not, would I always regret it?  Months went by. I wasn’t sure what to do.

I talked about it, slept on it, and cried over it…and a decision was made. I'll tell you about that decision, next time.

Editor's (well one of them, Amanda, any way) note:  I hope everyone will please welcome Jamie into our online community and pose questions and responses with kindness.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Another Mother's Daughter

By Mei-Ling


It is difficult to reconcile the image of the mother who held me as an infant with the image of the mother that I met through reunion.
Having been the infant that my mother chose (planned) to get pregnant with gives her a special kind of significance. No matter how much my adoptive mom loves me, she cannot take that place - the place of intimacy between a mother and her newborn infant. Having been the daughter that my adoptive mom raised to know in an intimately familial way also gives her a certain kind of significance. No matter how much my mother nurtured me in her body and held me before giving me up, she also cannot take that place - the place of the mother who nurtured me beyond infancy.
Yet, this brings me to the question: Even if my mother has her place through the intimate connection of birth, and my mom has her place through the act of raising me, and it ended up working out - can a mother be replaced by a substitute caregiver?
Once I announced I am adopted, people don't see me as having the right to exist. If I say my adoptive mom was a good person and raised me well, I am greeted with nods. If, however, I claim my mother was also a good person, I'm told that I am just placing her on a pedestal since she didn't raise me.

Being called one name indicates I am more of one mother's daughter than another. Likewise, being called by another name insinuates I am more another mother's daughter.

"You really are both Canadian and Chinese. You choose who you want to be."

If I say I am my mother's daughter -> "Well, sure, she gave birth to you - but your adoptive mom raised you."

If I speak Chinese -> I alienate those around me whom only speak English

If I say I feel I am more Chinese at times -> "Of course you're Chinese, but don't forget, you were raised Canadian."

If I claim back my name or my blood family, or listen to Chinese music or watch Chinese dramas, or anything Canadian-Chinese mainstream, I get all sorts of not-so-lovely reminders that it's good I'm enjoying those things, I shouldn't forget I'm "really" Canadian. Why, thank you dear world, for dictating who I am. Or who I should be.


Someone once said to me in a Chinese chat: Hey, where are you from?
Me (I was using a Chinese alias): Canada.
Person: Oh? Where were you born?
Me: Asia.
Person: Cool, which country?
Me: Taiwan.
Person: Did you grow up there?
Me: ... no.
Person: How old were you when your parents immigrated with you?
Me: Um... they didn't. I was raised by white people.
Person: Oh, so you're adopted.
Me: Yes.
Person: You're not really Chinese, then. (seems to convey this air of disappointment)
Me: Er, yes, I am.
Person: No, you're not.
Me: You can't dictate who I am. I'm ethnically Chinese, and just because my parents didn't come with me doesn't mean I'm not Chinese. Nothing can change that.
Person: Sorry to disappoint you, but you're not Chinese. You were raised culturally Canadian. Your parents are white. You're not Chinese. You're just a banana. An Asian-wanna-be.
Me: ... (unable to really refute this) I'm still from Asia.
Person: Doesn't mean anything. You were raised by Caucasians, so you're not Chinese. If you really want to prove your Asian background, then why do people wear red hats on Chinese New Year? What does that mean?*
Me: ... I don't know.
Person: See? You're not Chinese.
How can someone use a Chinese name when everyone else refuses to see that person as being of that ethnic background? How can someone use a Chinese name when they're told you have to know the language/culture of origin in order to claim you're culturally of that background?

Last of all, how can someone justify "becoming" Chinese when their legally identified parents are Caucasian?
(*An actual real-life example of Chinese culture that I didn't know about)