“‘Why does your mommy look different than you?’ As a child, I would brace myself for this question and rehearse my response: ‘I was adopted from South Korea when I was nine months old.’
‘Where are you from?’ My first response to these questions used to be, ‘I’m from California,’ before I quickly realized they wanted to know where I was ‘really’ from.
Adoption is both messy and beautiful, traumatic, and simultaneously hope-filled. It is full of open-ended questions surrounding origin, belonging, and community. As a transracial adoptee, I constantly see adoption stories that focus on all of the positive aspects of adoption; all that the adoptive parents have gained. All too often in an overwhelmingly positive narrative, there is little room for grief, sadness, or to consider the reality that as one family gained a new addition, another family lost a member.
As a transracial adoptee, I have heard many times from well-meaning individuals that ‘I should be grateful’ or ‘There’s no reason for me to be sad.’ As a child, I didn’t know what to do with these responses so whenever I experienced sadness or grief surrounding adoption or had questions that would probably never get answered, I quickly shoved it down. Or worse, felt shame for being curious, like I was betraying my adoptive parents by having the courage to feel all the emotions of my adoption.
I remember, as a child, standing in front of a mirror in my bedroom and wondering what my birth parents looked like. I had figured if my adoptive siblings looked like my adoptive parents, then I too looked like my birth parents. I remember being obsessed with trying to map my features onto my birth parents, like if I was creative enough, then I would be able to conjure up what they looked like. Ultimately, I would get overwhelmed and, not knowing how to cope with the depth of emotions, crawled into my bed that had Winne the Pooh sheets and softly cried myself to sleep so as to not disturb anyone.
This is adoption. It’s not just sunshine, unicorns, and rainbows. We do adoptees a disservice by not giving space to feel both the blessing and also the pain of adoption. This is also not about shaming adoptive parents or my personal experiences with adoption. But it is to point out the ways I felt lost and alone at times growing up with little to no racial mirrors or other adoptees to be in community with. To understand what adoption is, you need to sit and hear from all sides of the adoption triad: from adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents. There can be a lot of shame and stigma if you are a birth parent, as well as an adoptee. Sitting in and with each other is long overdue and if any reform is going to happen, it will happen first because we are able to listen to stories and experiences that are not our own or who we even may disagree with.
I’ve experienced a lot by stepping out of my comfort zone and sharing via Instagram my experiences as a transracial adoptee in hopes of building community with other adoptees but also educating adoptive parents. I’ve experienced adoptive parents gaslighting me out of my experiences as an adoptee, birth parents thanking me for sharing my story, and other adoptees reaching out to me saying they feel not so alone.
My goal in sharing my story and experiences as a transracial adoptee is to help other adoptees feel less alone. We are stronger together and need each other and our stories for the betterment of the communities we are a part of. Suicide rates are four times the national average for adoptees. This is unacceptable but also reveals the ways in which many of us are hurting and isolated from each other.
The internet and social media have provided new opportunities for connection and for communities to build and form. If you are an adoptee, I encourage you to do some digging because I promise you, adoptee community groups exist! It took me a while to find them but once I did, it felt like a breath of fresh air being with other adoptees who just ‘got it.’
One resource I want to share is a Facebook group called Subtle Asian Adoptee Traits. It is a transnational group with over 3,000 Asian adoptees from all over the world. It is a space to share all the things or nothing at all and simply have a community. If you are an adoptee, know you are not alone.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sarah Williams from New Jersey. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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