Thursday, October 30, 2014

What the Fog Took: A Halloween Story

I was nervous as I rehearsed the conversation in my mind.  There were so many ways to say it, and most of them felt wrong – overly sensitive, accusing, weak.  I knew I had to approach one of my dearest friends with caution, because matters of race always seem to get volatile

I checked the photo again, just to be sure of my position.  One of my closest friends (we’ll call her April) had posted pictures from a Halloween party.  In them, April’s husband (we’ll call him Mark) wore my husband’s old Army uniform, with my married name embroidered above the left breast pocket.  April wore a silky kimono, a black wig, and her face painted chalky white (she is not Asian).  The photo was captioned “Geisha?  Or mail order bride?”

For context: I am a Korean adoptee, my husband is white, and we both graduated from West Point and served in the US Army.  I had recently come out of the fog – like many adoptees I had an awakening that opened my eyes to the reality of many uncomfortable things.  I harbored a deep, wrenching pain.  I was still surviving trauma.  And I could no longer pretend to feel white on the inside.  My awakening had happened over a series of years, probably from 2008 through 2010, and I was finally on the other side.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Are Adoptive Parents Modeling Enough Adoption Language for Their Children?

This post is about the lack of modeling from adoptive parents when it comes to answering questions about their child's adoption story with friends, family and even complete strangers. As an adoptee, this is extremely unsettling to me. This is the exact same approach my parents took over thirty years ago when I was a child. Thirty years ago it was a lack of information and fear that led to the absence of modeling and today it seems to be the belief is that sharing any aspect of the child's history is invading their privacy. I have heard over and over again in adoption circles that the adoption story is only for the adoptee to tell when they are ready to do so. As an adoptee that has lived through the repercussions of Adoptive Parent silence, I could not disagree more.

You see, when I grew up my parents had no information about my birth family or my adoption story. They hardly mentioned my adoption and when a friend or stranger asked about my adoption, the response was usually "we don't even think of her as being adopted." Talk about reinforcing that adoption IS BAD to your child and missing a teachable moment! I was fed the universal adoption line of the 70's, "Your Mother loved you so much that she gave you a better life." God, I always cringed inside when my well meaning Mother said this.  It never made sense to me.  It still doesn't. Shit - I love my kids too, should I send them to Dubai to live in a castle with a chef and chauffeur? Some would argue that would be a better life than what we are providing them. It's just crap. No one relinquishes their children to give them a better life. It is NOT that simple. There is typically a lot more meat in that sandwich! Any adoptee in reunion will tell you that. I will say that there has been an enormous shift in that thinking when it comes to adoption language. Families are talking more inside the home and seem to have more educated responses when it comes to the tough questions. But is it enough?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Narrative Demands of Guests in Adoptee-Centric Spaces

Recently, Adoption Today inquired on their Facebook page, "This question is for adoptees only: What do you wish your adoptive parents would have learned about adoption before they adopted you?" Unsurprisingly, at least to me, fewer than 20 adoptees responded within a space that has nearly 4,000 possible participants. The question itself is seemingly benign--that is unless we consider it problematic that mainstream media typically only asks such questions to support parents or professionals, not to support adoptees. But, don't look at the question; look at what's around it.

On the same page, the content surrounding the question consists of ads for professionals serving adoptive families and questions seeking advice for and from parents who are adopting or have adopted children. Notably, these questions did not need to be prefaced with "This question is for adoptive parents..." because it's a given in that space--an ambient sensation that goes without saying--whom the questions and content are intended for. 

Of course, that's not to say that Adoption Today is unique in synonymizing "adoption" predominantly with "adoptive parenting." If it was, I would not be writing this. No singular comment or space prompted this long-time-coming post; this is how it is and this is what I think guests in all spaces that have specifically chosen to be adoptee-centric need to know.

Discrediting adoptees like Betty Jean Lifton and Florence Fisher in your classic most adoptees do not feel the way that they do maneuver, a 1970's Child Welfare League of America changed their tune, "social welfare agencies have an obligation to listen to the messages that adoptees are sending...," they said. Unfortunately, change has been slow in including adoptees in adoption spaces. Thus we continue to both highlight our exclusion and carve out our own adoptee-centric spaces. 

My colleagues, my sisters, and I carved out Lost Daughters; we are one among many. We are one among not enough.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Why Adoptive Parents need to stop blogging about adoptees

My adoptive mom Edie didn't blog about me. They didn't do blogs back then.
OK, it’s a free world wide web. No one can control who blogs. But if you are an adoptive parent (abbreviated: APs), you may have missed the memo: Don’t post photos and stories about your adopting a child and raising your child since your adopted child has a legal right to privacy.

WHAT? I’m sure some of you reading this blog will say that’s ridiculous but according to a panel at MIT, at the International Adoption Conference I attended in 2010, it could cause APs (moral and legal) issues down the road. One panel I attended was Secrecy, Openness and Other Ethical Issues for Adoptive Parents and Writing and Publishing about Adoption.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Lost Daughters Presenting at American Adoption Congress Conference

We are excited to announce that a number of our contributors here at Lost Daughters will be conducting a panel discussion workshop at next year's American Adoption Congress conference. In the spirit of our popular roundtable posts, we will discuss "Diverse Narratives within the Collective Adoptee Voice," including the perspectives of many different adoption experiences.

The conference will be held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from March 25-29. Stay tuned over the next few months for more details, including our specific workshop date and time as well as the line up of Lost Daughters contributors who will be participating in the panel discussion.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The White Saviors

I had an affair with a strapping young white man. It was beautiful but then fell into ruin. He used me and ignored me. I can see his bright, blonde hair and his sea blue eyes. I remember the hurt as he left me with a destroyed family life.

Then, I woke. I had this nightmare a week ago. It spoke to me as symbolic of the way in which I felt the white world sees me … to use until I am no longer of use.

Bill O’Reilly knows how to use me. The mere fact that he uses my race, “Asian,” as a means of discounting white privilege illustrates something. He is actually using his white privilege to perpetuate the stereotypes that pit me against my black sisters. You see, I have a history. I was white in Appalachia. But not. The words “colored” and “negro” and “nigger” were commonplace in the community where I grew up. In school, I never spoke up about the prejudice I witnessed for fear of the tables turning.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Anniversary: A Guest Post by Karen Goldner

It was ten years ago this past March when I got the call that my sister had died. It was relatively early in the morning, around 7:00 am. That was my first indication that it was bad news. Nobody ever calls at 7:00 am with good news.

“Are you sitting down? You had better sit down, “ my sister-in-law Jenifer said. “There’s been an accident. Cristi is dead.”

I was shocked and confused to hear my sister, who was 14 months younger than me, was dead.  I was very upset to hear this news, but the predominant emotion I felt was confusion.  Cristi was my full biological sister, but I had only known her for about 15 years. I was adopted as an infant in a traditional closed era adoption in 1966.  I met Cristi during my reunion with my birth family in 1988. I did not know how I was supposed to feel about her death.  In my head, I thought, “I should  be really sad about this,” so I pretended I was. Don’t get me wrong, on one level, I was sad. She was young, she had two young children, it was a tragedy. But she wasn’t really my sister. She was someone I met 15 years ago. I had little in common with her, except genes. We were not close at all.

Like most adoptees, I had spent an entire lifetime denying my feelings. When you are adopted you have to deny your feelings in order to survive. It becomes a way of life. You deny your feelings, repress you feelings, stuff your feelings, medicate your feelings. You do whatever you can to try and make them go away. You learn that expressing your feelings, or actually feeling your feelings, can destroy you.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Xenopbia or Patriotism

I am well aware of that this place that I have come to love so much is supposed to be our place. A place were there is no need to censor, restrain or filter ourselves, our thoughts, experiences or opinions. Since I not only am a Woman of colour since I am an Asian adoptee I also am the only European adoptee. Even though I do not like to discuss politics since the Swedish election (which happens every fourth year) was just completed. I thought I would use this post to discuss the recent developments in Europe. (This will also be the only post were I will discuss politics.) I would also like to stress that Lost Daughters does not support or believe in xenophobia. We believe that people should be treated equally and with respect people's ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation should not matter.

The last election ended with a major win for the Swedish Democratic party an traditionally extremist right wing party that now will be the third biggest party in the Swedish government. Sorry that clip is entirely in Swedish. This was the election commercial for the Swedish Liberalist Party, who wants to restrict migration and instead help people in war torn countries with aid while they stay inside the nation. This commercial is remarkable since you clearly can see that the man and woman in the clip is not ethnic Swedes. Yet they support a party who does not approve of immigrants like them. Please rewind the clip to 20 secs- that is when it gets interesting.(Sorry that it's not subtitled). Also I do not support this party's politics I choose to include it because I find it interesting that an extremist party decides to use immigrants as a way to improve their reputation. Not to mention that the girl is a Korean adoptee like me and the guy is an adoptee to- from Sri Lanka.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Adoptee Identity and the Fear of Losing Connections

Photo by La Citta Vita via Flickr
I have been thinking a lot about connectedness. This is different than belonging, which is fitting, like the stone in the center of a peach. Connectedness does not require the perfect environment. It is more like a house in a yard on a street with a park at the end; these things touch each other and may, to some, be considered part of a whole, though they each exist independently and might exist equally well someplace else.

I’ve long understood that I don’t belong in my adoptive family the way other people I know belong in the families they grew up in. I am a very different kind of person than most of my adoptive relatives. I don’t value the same things they do. I don’t communicate in the same way. I don’t enjoy the same activities.

Yet, I am connected to them. For a long time, they were my only foundation. As many adoptees do, I have often hidden parts of myself from them, and I realize now that this is because I’m afraid of losing my connection to them.

What would losing that connection mean? What would it feel like to no longer be connected to the only family I knew for all of my formative years? When I try to imagine this, I feel like I’m about to fall off of a very high cliff into a great abyss with no discernible bottom. And I don’t like heights.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Arriving in Canada on February 23rd, 1987
After much thought and a few unexpected events, I have decided to search. Searching has always seemed next to impossible to me, given the lack of information I have about my birth family. 

I was born in late 1985 in the northern part of Ethiopia, an area heavily affected by famine and civil war. I don’t have a birth record and what I know about my birth family is only through word of mouth. In fact, my official documents were produced a few months after my birth with the sole purpose of legalizing my adoption. I understand that it might not have been possible to fully document all relevant information about my birth and birth family given the chaotic circumstances and lack of resources, but I have many questions as to why so much information was unavailable.

Growing up without such information has been “normal” but at the same time, very disconcerting. As I’ve written in Gazillion Voices, I think the lack of information I have about my background contributed to me ignoring my adoption for most of my life. I rarely thought about my birth family, perhaps because I had what I needed—a happy childhood, a loving family and friends. I only realized that I had identity issues when
I was in my late teens. Deep down, I knew that the only way to have some peace of mind would be to search for my birth family, but I wondered how I could embark on a search without proper documentation.