Sunday, April 27, 2014

Adoptees Round Table Discussion - Adoptive Parents Boob Job Video

Prompt: Adoptive parents are sharing the Adoptive Family Public Service Announcement video in droves. After wading through the hundreds of comments they all seem to emote a collective "me, too!" or "I get that comment all the time!" The adult adoptees that make up The Lost Daughters had a round table discussion about the video and our comments deviate a bit from the ever present internet groupthink mentality. Take a peek into a conversation amongst a diverse group of adult adoptees. As adoptees in their adulthood struggle to be heard, perhaps you can imagine us as your adopted child in ten, fifteen, twenty years? Perhaps these are their future thoughts?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

I didn't need my biological mother--I just needed a mother

It’s hard for me to believe that I matter. To anyone. 

And I cannot help but wonder if it is in large part because of my experience as an adoptee.

Is it because the relationships that were supposed to matter the most in my life were severed and treated as though they were [are] disposable, replaceable, insignificant? Is it because I was treated as a transferable commodity--one that could be taken from one and given to another without any notable consequences? (I was supposed to never look back. I was supposed to be so grateful to have a family that losing my family was supposed to be a negligible event with very little effect on my life or identity.)

Hasn’t that been the basic premise underlying adoption for decades?

I didn't need my original mother. I just needed a mother. I didn't need my biological family. I just needed a family. Adoptive parents don’t need a biological child, they just want a child.

It’s an anomalous, difficult concept for me to grasp that people are not replaceable, because the most basic, core relationships in my life were treated as though they were replaceable--and I was treated as though I was transferable.

Adoption is built on the presumption that families are interchangeable or replaceable, that parents and children are interchangeable, and that ultimately, family has nothing to do with flesh and blood, or DNA and biology, but that it’s all about proximity, exposure, and amount of time together. (And if you feel it necessary to say that “love” is ultimately all that is needed to build a family, remember that original families love, too--and then, read this.)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The mother I never met and the mother I had

Trace's birthmother Helen
Ah, it was quite something to see some similarities between me and my birthmom Helen. I never met her but when she passed in 2007, I found an article about her in a Florida newspaper. I put the article away after reading it once but it mysteriously appeared in a file for the book I’m co-editing with Patricia Busbee.
The new anthology CALLED HOME is about Native adoptees who felt “called home” and felt the urgent need to find their first families after adoption.

Not all of us were adopted by happy people. I wrote in my memoir I felt wanted. Well, my aparents were infertile and had lost two infants of their own to miscarriage so yes, I was wanted. But looking back with an adult eye, I was meant to fill in for the children they lost. I was meant to replace them. I was meant to pretend insanity was normal. 

What that meant was no easy task.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A conversation with one of "The Disappeared": An El Salvadoran adoptee and Korean adoptee discuss adoption, reunion & identity

When I write here at Lost Daughters, I never know whether what I write will resonate with our readers. I share from my heart and experience as an adoptee hoping that someone out there will read what I write and perhaps not feel so alone as they navigate their way through the maze of adoption.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

War, displacement and international adoption

Many countries where international adoption is or has been prevalent, war and conflict have also been present. For example, South Korea, Vietnam, Russia, Ukraine, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Colombia have all been affected by some sort of war or conflict(s) within the last 50 years.

Wars often put financial strain on economies, cause damage to infrastructure and the environment, impede the proper functioning of institutions within society (not to mention causing physical, psychological and emotional damage to humans). War can also have complicated and usually complex consequences for families. In some cases, populations flee due to ongoing political violence or are sometimes displaced due to land seizures by the government or political opponents (sometimes to be re-localized into different parts of the country to avoid the formation of strong rebel movements). Often times, families are torn apart; some family members may be killed, separated, kidnapped or recruited into the armed forces (usually young boys and men), which leaves women and children even more vulnerable. Of course, these circumstances are superimposed onto other issues such as widespread poverty and cultural beliefs affecting the lower status' of women.

My point in bringing this up is that while we do hear about these stories every day in the news, we may forget how many of our own narratives take root in these political happenings. I think almost every family has been affected by war and conflict somehow, but not everyone has been separated from their birth family or flown to another continent to live with a new family, given a new name, a new family history, a new culture due to war in their birth country. That said, when the opportunity arises in conversations, I like to refer to myself as a displaced person or an immigrant by force; usually I do it in a joking manner to provoke discussion but also because it is the truth. Saying it seems to ground me here and also in Ethiopia, reminding me of where I came from and the reason why I am here.

To be continued….

photo credit: <a href="">Zoriah</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Friday, April 11, 2014

Promises Promises

I am glad that I had the mom growing up that I had.  She was amazing and one of the best moms I could have hoped for.  She did all these amazing mom things, supported me no matter what (even in reunion), and was my best friend.  She wasn't perfect, but she's was pretty spectacular.  It's something I'll always be thankful for because I want to be thankful for if (there's a difference between choosing to be thankful and being told to be thankful in case you were wondering).

That being said, I don't consider these past three years to be something that was "better" than what I was supposed to get as an adoptee.  I was supposed to get a new family, better than the one I was born to, that would raise me as if I was their own child and I'd thus go off to a more fabulous life with a pool and a pony.  We never had a pool (my dad didn't want the extra company it would entail) but we did have a summer home.  I'm petrified of horses so I was content with a family dog.  I received a great education in a town my parents admitted years later looks wonderful on paper but probably wasn't the best choice for our family.  In that sense, my adoption was successful.  I couldn't afford designer jeans, but I wouldn't call us hard pressed because my dad worked at least 60 hours a week.  It's a system of checks and balances my friends.  I grew up the way I was "supposed" to thanks to adoption to a certain extent.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Beauty Ideals

 This post may come of as a bit shallow in comparison to my regular posts. But at least you have been warned.

As you might know already, I am not only a female adult adoptee but also transracial adoptee of Asian heritage or to be more precise a KAD, Korean adoptee. Therefore the colour of my eyes are not blue or green like my mum and dad's instead they are the darkest brown. Like a lot of Asians my natural hair colour wasn't lighter brown but blackish brown, and I didn't have naturally curly hair either (like I almost fooled my natural sisters to believe. ) No I had boring straight blackish brown hair.

By november of last year I was extremely tired of my own hair colour so I decided that I wanted to colour my hair some other colour. Since my hair is naturally blackishbrown or a natural 2.0 I choose between red or blonde. I already knew I wanted the most drastic change I could achieve. (My hairdresser says I'm brave that way. ) I confess that I already was curious about possibly becoming blonde, even though I realized it might not become the exact blonde I wanted. But appearently a lot of Asians are trying to get blonde lately. So I eventually settled for blonde.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Twenty Years Ago

This evening, twenty years ago, roadblocks popped up in Kigali, just before the president of Rwanda was to land. His plane was attacked upon landing.

What followed were 100 days of roadblocks, machete killings, Interahamwe militia murders and rapes.

In the summer of 1995, I moved to Rwanda with my husband. As an American, I was naive and shocked by the sight that faced me. In a country recovering from war, I learned early that Rwandans, too, were in recovery. The Rwandans I met taught me more than I would ever learn in the US. I was humbled and much of what they taught me I have carried with me to this day.

The people. Their stories were lessons. Let me introduce a few to you.

Leon had five children, but he and his wife, Josefina, also cared for six surviving children of his wife’s sister who was murdered in the the genocide. He worked tirelessly to send them through college. In his soft-spoken way, he boasted about his children; his eldest son attended college and became a school teacher.

Francesca was a mother of two little girls. Her eldest was full of life and loved to dance. Her youngest was a product of the war. During the genocide, she was raped, but she never once felt she could give up the innocent life that came into the world as a result of the violence.

She loved both girls dearly and worked in the market as a seamstress. A few years after we left, we learned that she had died of an AIDS-related illness. Her family took up the care of her girls because in Rwanda, family bonds are everything.

This little girl won my heart. Her name was Kabébé. When I first met her, she was lifeless and quiet. She had been given up because of a heart defect. We had not yet started our family, but I wanted to love her.

I quickly understood the gift that Kabébé had. She was loved by many in the orphanage. When I returned for visits she sat on the hips of the older girls and danced with her fellow orphans. She was extremely happy in her Rwandan countryside. The sound of Rwandan music made her bounce to the beat.

Rwandans are extraordinary. They understand the importance of culture … their culture. They cherish their children … all children.

The child protection officer, Benilde UMWABABYEYI, has been quoted as saying, “We want children to remain here in Rwanda, because we want them to be Rwandan, to stay in the Rwandan culture and learn Rwandan values.”

The Rwandan standard for its children should be an international standard for all children. Make every effort to keep them in their countries of origin. Make every effort to keep them with their biological families. Make every effort to stop the illusion of a “better life” in the US.

Feminist columnist, Rosita is a transracial, Korean-American adoptee. She is married to a Brit who refers to himself as an Anglo-American and is a mother to two multiracial children. Rosita was adopted in 1968 at the age of one through Holt International. Her road has been speckled with Puerto Rican and Appalachian relatives and her multiracial sister, the natural child of her adoptive parents. While quite content with her role as a “Tennerican,” her curiosity has grown recently as her children explore their own ethnic identities. She considers herself a lost daughter, not only because of the loss of her birth family, but also because of the loss of her adopted mother, who died in 2001 as she became a first time mother. Rosita has recently started her search for her natural family. With the help of G.O.A.’L., she visited Korea in August 2014. When she is not supporting her children on their individual paths, Rosita spends her time as an art educator, ceramicist and an art photographer. She also shares her adventures as an adoptee and parent on her blog, mothermade.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Anti-Poster Child (Because I Will No Longer Be a Marketing Ploy for Your Pro-Adoption Agenda)

I realize that I can come off as someone who always focuses on the “negative side” of adoption. I’m the doom and gloom queen, the naysayer, the dripping faucet, the squeaky wheel...

Recently a conversation I was having with another adult adoptee made me ask myself, Why do I do this? Why do I focus so much on the pain and suffering? Why do I feel so resistant to acknowledging the good things about my adoption? Why do I so relentlessly write and talk about the hardship and turmoil?

Aside from the obvious need to process my emotions and experiences regarding my adoption journey, I knew there was something deeper prompting me to consistently address the difficulties of my adoption experience.

And then it came to me--I have become a kind of "anti-poster child." Not on purpose or intentionally, of course. 

Rather, I think I veer away from discussing the “good” because I don’t want my story to be repurposed for someone else’s pro-adoption agenda. And I can be confident that no one is going to repurpose my story for their pro-adoption agenda if it’s not the happy, la-la story for which they’re looking. It’s not that I’m anti-adoption (I’m not. No, really, I’m not anti-adoption). I’m just anti-poster child.

My fear is based not only in reality but in personal experience.

* * *

In my younger years, I allowed myself to be pimped out to the adoption community. I allowed myself to be hung on the wall by adoption agencies and churches for all to see and gaze upon so that they could catch a vision of how "grateful and beautiful" their future adopted child could be.

Once upon a time, I used my voice to call upon the masses to adopt because, Look at me. Look at how great I turned out. Look how grateful and compliant I am [Not really]. I praised and lauded all things adoption. I told everyone what they longed to hear and reassured all the adoptive parents and adoptive parents-to-be that their “sacrifice and selflessness” would be worth it. That in the end, adoption was the most noble deed you could do, and I was living proof of that.

One time I tried to be more wholly honest about the complexities of my adoption experience. And I got censored.

I never forgot it. 

Not because I’m bitter about it, but because it was the first time I began to realize that only one type of adoption experience was welcome among the adoption (religious) masses. And hence, it was the first time the wool began to peel back, and I ever so slightly began to emerge from behind the curtain of oblivion and ignorance.

And yet, I continued to self-censor, because I wasn’t ready to fully emerge. I wasn’t ready to come down off the wall and give up my status as Adored Poster Child. But as I persisted in telling only one side (the feel-good side) of my adoption story, the more conflicted I began to feel.
I felt like I was lying. I felt like I was deceiving those who listened.

I felt like a con. Completely inauthentic and fabricated.

I felt used.  

* * *

It’s not that there isn’t anything good about adoption. It’s not that good things have never come out of adoption. But that's all I was allowed to talk about. (And that can seriously mess with an adoptee’s head--what I call "adoption dissonance").

It’s that for so long--and even presently--that’s all people have wanted to hear. That’s all people will acknowledge as valid or right--"the good"--as though an adoptee’s experience of adoption can be “wrong” or “right” (C’mon, people, seriously?!).

It’s that for so long no one would listen to the bad. And still today recognition of the ongoing suffering and hardship inextricably entangled with being adopted is viewed as a dissident perspective rather than a normal part of an adoptee's journey.

It’s that my adoption story and those of so many others have been manipulated and edited to present adoption in an oversimplified form so that more people will want to adopt. Our stories and lives are used like marketing materials to sell adoption as the best thing since The Crusades (irony and sarcasm intended).

It’s that adoptees like me have been silenced for so long, and yet even when we finally get the guts to speak up, we are still expected to qualify and measure each and every word so carefully and neutrally if we ever want the hope of being taken seriously.

* * *

At one time not so long ago, when I used to measure my words more carefully, adoptive parents sought me out not because they really wanted to hear what I had to say but because they wanted a "safe" adult adoptee who would relieve all their insecurities and reassure them that "they're awesome." And I complied. 

They would say something like, "You are wonderful. So well-adjusted and happy. You are so blessed with such wonderful parents and such a wonderful life." It's not that such statements don't have truth in them. 

It's that these statements were not really intended for me. They were the adoptive parents' way of reassuring themselves, of proving to themselves that adoption was the most noble of deeds and that their adopted children would be just like me one day--endlessly grateful and compliant. It's as though in their minds, they were thinking, "Oh, thank God, you turned out okay."

Hence, another reason that I stray from espousing all the wonders of my adoption--because I don't want to be the "poster child [adult]" or "model adoptee" that adoptive parents turn to when they want to silence other adoptees or when they want to make themselves feel good. 

Again, don't misinterpret what I'm saying. I'm not saying it's wrong for adoptive parents to want the children they love to live meaningful, full lives. Most parents desire that for their children--as a parent, I know I certainly do! And I'm not saying that I hold disdain for people pointing out the good in my life or that I despise being complimented or that I don't feel good about the ways in which I have overcome or succeeded. 

What I am saying is that I am not a symbol or a good luck charm for you to carry around in your pocket to prove to everyone that you're a good person. And my life is not for you to selectively pick apart into good and bad to ultimately dismiss the bad in the name of the good so that everyone can feel happy about adoption.

* * *

The whole truth includes not just the good but also the bad. For decades the good of adoption has been like a broken record stuck in the same spot just playing the same few words from the same old song over and over.

Well, dang it, I'm tired of hearing the same old song. Maybe I’m playing a new same old song. But at least it adds to the discourse a more complete, well-rounded understanding of what it means to live life as an adoptee.

And truth be told, I keep speaking up because fortunately, the discourse is beginning to change. More critical, complex adult adoptee voices are being heard and included more than ever before--and I believe we are making a true difference. Although we still have a long way to go, we are definitely gaining momentum and strength every day.

So, you can sing about the rosebuds. And I'll wail about the thorns. You can shout about the blue skies and rainbows. And I'll cry out about the tempests and lightning. They all have their own worth and purpose of which one is neither greater nor lesser but rather they are equal.

Yet, I ultimately realize that we cannot control the perceptions of others. So, if my so-called “overfocus” on the storms and tribulations of adoption gets dismissed as an overreaction, and I become the "anti-poster child," labeled as an unhappy, ungrateful, sad soul of a human being who can't move on, so be it.

I have to accept it. But it gets all the easier to accept as time goes on, because such perceptions are becoming less and less the norm, and I believe they will one day be an anachronistic, outdated minority.

And in the end, I believe that my voice (along with the many others) will be seen simply for what it is--just another small part of the same collective truth.


(Above watercolor painting by the author of this blog post)