Friday, June 26, 2015

The Twinkie Emerges from Isolation

This girl. She sat in the classroom, mostly alone between two seas … one black and one white. Listening … always listening.

Giggles would explode from one group or another. I would often laugh with the white girls, in hopes of “fitting in.” But when the tables turned and either group would make an Asian slight, I was utterly alone … and left laughing nervously with everyone, hoping it would end.

Recently, at the American Adoption Conference (AAC), I had a similar experience that Lost Daughter sister, Amira Rose documented. It went like this …
“Whoa, there was a hospitality suite? How did I miss that?!” (This was me, joking.) 
“Yes, we have been waiting just for you to arrive!” exclaimed the black bartender. I returned his warm smile and said a “thank you.” But then from the only other couple in the room … 
“Can’t you read?” asked the white man, deadpanned.  
“Yes.” I replied. 
“It was in here the whole time. Did you not read this?” he says as he points to the conference schedule book. “I mean, you appear to be an educated woman … ” There was a slight smile and hushed giggle from the white woman. At this, I just needed to flee. I had been here before. 
When discussing the many incidents at this predominantly white conference, I messaged this incident to Lost Daughters founder, Amanda Woolston. I had already heard excuses about why the man was “defensive,” how I needed to get a tougher skin and how I needed to get out more. But Amanda changed me. She said the words no other white person had ever said, “If [you] were white, would he have felt so free to be rude, specifically question [your] abilities and intelligence? The power imbalance of a white male speaking that way to a woman of color in a space where most people are white is incredibly hostile and racist.” When I read her words, I sobbed uncontrollably.

My perforated soul … each blow pierces my heart and bruises my self worth. Each time someone says something demeaning, I shrink … go into my hidey-hole. 

At the AAC, my fellow adoptee Lost Daughter sister, Angela, asked why I laughed nervously sometimes. I couldn’t really answer her. She then said, “You seem fragile.”

I am. I was. I have always looked at women like Angela and wished that I could feel as strong and empowered, like the united front of black girls from my high school with their confidence and bravado. In the 1980s, I longed to emulate them and Lisa Bonet. Having finally secured a job where I could buy clothes, I began to morph into Denise Huxtable. I shrank from the white girls group that I had once coveted. I found my isolation tank.

The most validating moments of my senior year in high school came from the black girls. They wrote me beautiful, sincere notes in my yearbook.

In the Dear Wonderful You video, I speak of this cyclical self I created. Over and over again as I entered a new environment, I began my cycle as an outgoing, white wannabe. I did whatever it took to assimilate. Polo shirts … check. Join a fraternity little sis group … check. Be the graduate school student representative on committees … check. 

But none of this worked. The off-hand comments, the “you almost look normal,” the references to Yoko Ono or Connie Chung, the tokenism of being the “model minority” … all served to place me below the white privilege. Eventually, I would shrink and hide. 

In this solace of aloneness, I would find my voice again and reemerge strong, yet guarded. Each new environment or new acquaintance began the cycle again. 

Today, Twitter has allowed me the freedom to speak strongly and hide, but when I blog, I reveal more of my vulnerabilities. Having these two parts of myself is exhausting. 

Each tweet or means of speaking out gives me so much validation and relief, but then, the adoptee guilt and adoption loyalty set in. In public spaces, I use walls, podiums and my reading glasses to separate myself, protect myself and hide in the open. I use laughter and my comical façade to mask my pain and humiliation.

The Lost Daughters will speak this weekend at KAAN (Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network), and I will fear the notice. I may hide in my room just as I did last year at that same conference.

I realize I like the loneliness and isolation. It’s comfortable and safe. And yet, I know that by hiding I am not claiming my space to be heard.

The valve on the radiator has held back long enough. There have been long pshhhhhhhhts and short, angry spurts of steam. Pressure is building.

Originally published on mothermade.

Feminist columnist, Rosita González 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 adoptive parents. 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.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Thoughts on Family after a Decade in Reunion

The definition of the verb reunite is straightforward: to be together again after being apart for a long time. But we perceive a connotation of family when we use the word reunion, don’t we?

Family is not one universal thing. It is thousands of permutations of people interacting with each other as some kind of cohesive unit. The glue may be love or duty or tradition. Blood plays into it but is not the whole of it, except in the sense of ancestry. Our spouses are family in a non-ancestral sense, by means other than blood. Our lost blood relations may never become family in the way we desire. These are our people by blood, yet we do not understand their conventions. We are foreigners to each other.

Adoption reunions can begin in unpredictable ways: we call/write/message but receive no response; we connect yet feel ignored/slighted/rebuffed; we meet, with hugs and kisses and promises.

The finders have all the control and many expectations.

The found have reactions, then expectations of their own.

After the contact or the connection—good or bad—the hard stuff begins. How to integrate these strangers into our lives. How to become less strange to our own blood. Sometimes we’re lucky and the desires of both sides align. Sometimes every communication is a struggle that will never get any easier.

We are blood, but we’re not the same. We have learned different customs. We value different things.

We are blood, but blood is only one part of family. We look like them. We think like them. We prefer the same color or flavor or style of dress. But because we lived apart for so long, we are clumsy and we stutter. We cannot put our words in the right order so that they make sense to each other.

We have lost something that can never be regained. We cannot create the family that might have been, no matter how badly we want to, no matter how much we try.

We must give up on the impossible dream. Our only chance at becoming family now is to meet each other where we are, to look ahead rather than behind. Our only chance at healing and becoming whole is to accept our reality.

For a while, we will need to cry over what we’ve lost, otherwise the pain will become a cancer that chokes compassion and understanding. We must allow the impossible dream to die, so that a new, attainable dream can grow in its place. In this dream, we own all of our selves—the self we were born with, the self we grew into, the self we choose to be now—and we let go of those expectations we brought with us to our reunions. We cannot do over the years that we’ve already lived. All we can do is start today to live differently. We can live honestly in our own truth and allow relationships with our long-lost blood relatives to grow or to wane naturally, as relationships do.

We have no control, except over our own actions and words. Our shared DNA alone is not enough material to build the kind of family in which members care for and celebrate each other. The ties that bind were cut long ago. We must create new ties if we want to matter in each other’s day-to-day lives. We must be interested and attentive, kind and respectful. This requires effort from both sides. We cannot create this family we want to build on our own, no matter how sincere our intentions are. Relationship requires active participation from two people. Here is yet another reality we must accept.

Reunion does not itself heal the wounds adoption caused. What reunion can do is answer questions, open closed doors, create opportunities to know that part of ourselves we were born with. Reunion does not necessarily return our lost families to us. We are all different people than we would have been if adoption had not entered into our lives.

Repeat it with me: There is no going back. There is no going back.

Now let go. Allow yourself to grieve what has been lost. Then get up and begin moving forward. It may take weeks. It may take months, or even years. But it is necessary. Begin today.

Karen Pickell was born and adopted in Ohio in the late 1960s. She reunited with her birth mother in 2005 and with her birth father in 2007. Her husband is an adoptive father of two children, now grown, from his first marriage, one of whom was adopted from Korea. Karen and her husband live in Florida with their two biological children. She holds a Master of Arts in Professional Writing from Kennesaw State University in Georgia; she has published poems, essays, and stories, and is currently drafting a memoir. She previously served on the board of directors of the Georgia Writers Association, as editor for the Georgia Poetry Society, and as associate editor of the literary journal Flycatcher. Karen recently founded Adoptee Reading Resource. She blogs about writing, adoption, and other topics at

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Exposing the Roots: Family, History, Community and the #CharlestonSyllabus

“We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes”

The melodies of Sweet Honey and the Rock filled my office on early Thursday morning, as I wrestled with the terrible news pouring out of Charleston. Like many Black Americans, I have been overwhelmed by the spectacle of black deaths and the violence wrought on black bodies. I am worn out by contrived narratives and false allies. I am sick of hearing the deafening silence of my non-black friends and family members. I am sick of watching people dance around the naming of white supremacy. I often feel like I am existing somewhere between enraged, distraught, exhausted, and numb.

On Thursday, as the cords of “Ella’s Song” washed over me, I was struck by how conspicuously historical this act of violence was. Over the last year, many historians, journalists and public intellectuals have done tremendous work historicizing and contextualizing present day race relations, state sanctioned violence, mass incarceration, community unrest, protest and activism. Often times these scholars had to work to show and expose the roots of contemporary racism. Yet some of the roots of the Charleston massacre are already visible, wrapping around slavery, rebellion, civil war, reconstruction and the civil rights movement.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

An Open Letter: Why Co-opting “Transracial” in the Case of Rachel Dolezal is Problematic

Editor's Note: Lost Daughters is proud to endorse this letter in support of transracially adopted people who are the authority on what transracial means. We encourage our readers to share this letter widely and follow/support #definetransracial on Twitter.

Rachel Dolezal. Photo credit: artist unknown.

June 16, 2015

Please direct all media inquiries to Kimberly McKee, PhD at

This past weekend the world took to social media to dissect the events surrounding Rachel Dolezal, the former president of Spokane’s NAACP chapter who came under heavy scrutiny for falsely representing herself as black. As part of this real-time discussion, the term transracial is being co-opted to describe Dolezal identifying as black despite being born white.

As members of the adoption community — particularly those of us who identify as transracial adoptees — we are deeply alarmed by the gross mischaracterization of this term. We find the misuse of “transracial,” describing the phenomenon of a white woman assuming perceived markers of “blackness” in order to pass as “black,” to be erroneous, ahistorical, and dangerous.

Transracial is a term that has long since been defined as the adoption of a child that is of a different race than the adoptive parents. The term most often refers to children of color adopted by white families in the Global North, and has been extensively examined and documented for more than 50 years by academics and members of the adoption triad: adoptees, birthparents, and adoptive parents.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Transracial Lives Matter: Rachel Dolezal and the Privilege of Racial Manipulation

Rachel Dolezal. Photo credit: artist unknown.
“The commodification of Otherness has been so successful because it is offered as a new delight, more intense, more satisfying than normal ways of doing and feeling. Within commodity culture, ethnicity becomes spice, seasoning that can liven up the dull dish that is mainstream white culture.” bell hooks — Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance

“They love our bodies, but they don’t love us.” #BlackWomensLivesMatter #SayHerName

“Everybody wanna be a nigga, but nobody wanna be a nigga.” Paul Mooney. 

I was doing my best to ignore this story. It wasn’t until one of my fellow adult adoptees alerted me to the fact that Twitter (which I use religiously, but avoided specifically the past two days) had begun to use the term “Transracial” to refer to Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who has been outed as hiding her whiteness and living as a black woman that I paid attention.  I discovered that Twitter had also begun a hashtag as a sarcastic taunt — #TransracialLivesMatter. Then, I read an article that argued that "transracial identity, is not a thing." Um. No. 

For those of you who don’t know, and clearly there are a lot of you, the term “transracial” is used in scholarly research, creative writing and cultural work to denote a particular “state of being” for people adopted across race. It also describes a kind of family unit / type of parenting. In other words, it IS a 'thing'. It is disheartening and disconcerting to see this term used dismissively as if it does not encompass an entire population of Black, Brown, Native and Asian people across the globe. For the past 35ish years, I’ve considered myself to be a transracial adoptee. The “trans” in transracial for me, never meant my race changed. It meant I was a multiracial black girl, adopted into a white family. It meant I was taken without my consent from one home, one place of origin and put inside another family, another culture, another race, one that didn’t belong to me. It meant I had to learn how to navigate my blackness and my black girlness, inside an often times racist, religious, violent and rigid white world. It meant living in a house and community that simultaneously erased me, racialized me and tokenized me. It gave me a language to articulate what was happening to me. But you know what it didn't do? It never actually changed my race. An even with all the ‘privileges’ of whiteness, even with all the education, the middle class living, camping, fishing, hunting — It never made me white.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Identity and Life

I am not sure if I am content with the life that I have right now---I don't want to complain even if this post may come across as it. Disappointed---I feel disappointed in life, my life has not turned out the way I imagined it would when I was 14. I dreamed, hoped and believed so many things-- achomplishments and things that I wanted for myself. To be honest my life is long from what I hoped for. 

Now I find myself struggling with others more than with myself, all I want is to get a purpose in life to feel like I matter. That I'm important and significant period. I won't lie being an adult adoptee these days aren't easy oftentimes immigrants and transracial adoptees get accused from society to be lazy and wanting to contribute to society by earning a living for themselves. Many are believed to take advantage of economic contrubtions and unemployment fees instead of working or wanting to work.

I have years of college studies behind me but the competition for work is hard--harder now compared to 15 or 20 years ago. Degrees and higher education doesn't seem to matter anymore instead it's important with social networks and who you know.

There can be hundred of applicants for the same work, I'm not lying now. That's plain and simple truth. Maybe it's connected to the economic recession that still has its grip on the industralized and developed world.

Is this what's supposed to be my future---a life in constant struggle; never anything else than a an applicant for social benefits from the state. This is not how I imagined life to be when I was 15---I am certainly glade that I didn't know anything about my future back then.

Honestly, my dreams and aspirations have so far been unreachable to me, and I find myself wondering if life always becomes what you want it to be or becomes what you want... Of course I realize that this may come of as a very negative post. That wasn't my intention. 

Life is relative, I know that, there will also always be someone somewhere who is worse of than you are. We human beings all have a choice---life is full of choices and life itself is a choice (although I'm not talking about pro-choice or pro-life, that's something entirely different). To fully appreciate success one might have to experience hardship, challenges and failure.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Not So Forgotten

Me, the year I was first taken from my mother.
The last image I have of my mother is her sitting in a low chair, pregnant, with long straggly hair below her shoulders. I am maybe 9 years old, and she is crying to me. She is apologizing to me, she is promising me a new life, and then she is rambling nervously. Her eyes are mine, her hands even have the same texture. But she is so vastly different from my soft-hearted nature, she is starkly calculating and unnerved.

Even in my fear of her, I pitied her obvious weakness. We sat in a cell of some type that day, being watched by two social workers and a cop. I did not speak a word but felt hot tears nearly cut my skin as I tried to decipher my own feelings of hatred and fear. I saw her one time after that day and never again.

It is the stark image of her face, strained and nearly helpless, and the sound of someone kicking in a basement door that follows me sometimes. The smell of the musty air, the light being dim from a broken window, the cry of a boy beside me. And confusion. Mass confusion. Thankfully decades later, these memories are dull and they appear infrequently. They are sometimes jarred by someone's touch, and other times, by my writing, my motherhood, and personal explorations.

 I have learned to navigate these moments fairly well by now but when they appear they are fierce.
The last image I have of my mother is her sitting in a low chair, pregnant, with long straggly hair below her shoulders. I am maybe 9 years old, and she is crying to me. She is apologizing to me, she is promising me a new life, and then she is rambling nervously. Her eyes are mine, her hands even have the same texture. But she is so vastly different from my soft-hearted nature, she is starkly calculating and unnerved.