Listen to Adoptees
Trigger Warning: This article includes quotes touching on traumatic experiences like abuse.
It would be ridiculous to make blanket statements about all children living with their biological parents, yet adoptees are often marginalized into positions of inferiority or alienness.
“So, your parents didn’t want you?”
“Your adoptive parents must be such amazing people because they chose you. You should be so grateful to them.”
“I’m sorry that you were adopted. It must be awful.”
Like all minorities, adoptees face stereotypes and assumptions. They are either called tragedies or miracles. Irreversibly damaged or infinitely blessed. Less than or backhandedly more.
Every adoptee’s story is unique, but they do not owe anyoneyou explanations. Their complex histories are not fun trivia facts for oneyou to learn. When they are being open and vulnerable enough to share about their experiences and how they feel, it is one’syour job to listen.
From a combination of videos, articles, and blogs, I have compiled a short list of anecdotes from adoptees to exemplify the diversity of their perspectives and experiences:
“What it is (apparently) difficult for some to understand is that adoption, despite being a necessary and oftentimes wonderful thing, always starts with loss (with trauma, if you will) and that a good adoptive family and even a good reunion with original/natural family doesn’t make that go away.” -Through the Eyes of an Adopted Kid
“I have no emotional attachment to my biological mother or father, I never knew them and I never will.”
“My childhood was a nightmare from hell. At the age of four my “parents” (adoptive parents) were already demonstrating a complete lack of regard for my well being. I was beaten multiple times with belts and boards, my “father” even went as far as to strip me naked for these beatings and he would turn the television up so that no one could hear me screaming.”
“Despite our differences and despite some things that have happened, they (parents) would die for me, and they’ve sacrificed so much for me...They’re my family. I don’t even use the word adopted parents, like, that’s insulting to me...they’re just my parents.”
“My (biological) mother abandoned me due to reasons of her mental health, I miss her terribly and wish I could just talk to her and make sure she’s okay.”
Adoptive parents are not saviors. Biological parents are not villains. It is more complicated than a simplistic narrative of absolutes.
Don’t assume adoptees have the privilege of knowing their birth parents. Don’t assume their biological parents didn’t want them or that their adoptive parents want them. Don’t assume what an adoptee’s relationship with their parents is like.
On Adoption & Gratitude
“Because they’ve (adoptive parents) like done so much for me, I subconsciously felt bad bringing stuff up and talking about it because I was just so grateful.”
“Dear Adoption, you have no idea the harm you did, in the name of A Better Life...do not impose on me your opinions...like I had to when I was given a false birth certificate and forced to declare it as fact...You want to think you saved me...”
“It drives me insane when people always say...it’s (adoption) such a bad thing or when people say that it’s...the answer to everything.”
“I’m so happy to be adopted. It took me a long time to get to this point. I realize now that no matter what kind of bad day I have now in America, it is no doubt better than anything I could have had in Russia. I am grateful to my parents for providing me with a good life.”
“My life is not tragic.”
The belief that all adoptees should automatically be grateful to their adoptive parents presupposes their adoptive parents are worthy of gratitude. It ignores the unique circumstances that led to them being adopted, and silences adoptees’ voices when they do not fit the happy tone of indebtedness.
Every adoptee has their own nuanced opinions on adoption, affected by their specific experiences. Let them express how they truly feel without judgement or condemnation.
On Transracial and Transcultural Adoption
“Just because I was raised in a white family does not mean that I am white.”
“I wish they (white adoptive parents) would have helped me embrace the culture a little more rather than look at me as a child going, ‘I hate being Asian,’ and they just laughed.”
“I don’t think there are any differences between me and...other Chinese people. Except for the skin tone, we are generally the same.” (Translation from original interview in Mandarin with Zhu Junlong, an adopted Black Chinese boy)
“By its very nature, when it comes to transracial adoption, somebody is going to be uncomfortable. It's the parents' position to be uncomfortable because they're the ones who chose to adopt" -Chad Goller-Sojourner
“My mom, she’s from Mérida, Yucatán...I didn’t want to be black. I didn’t want to be white. I wanted to be Hispanic...to fit in with my family.”
In America, the majority of transracial adoptions are BIPOC children being adopted by white parents. However, transracial adoptions encompass a diverse variety of situations from international adoptions to white children being adopted by BIPOC parents to parents of color adopting children from a different minority.
While some adoptees yearn to know more about the cultures of their birth families or birth nations, others grapple with wanting to be seen as the same as their adoptive families. In other cases, adoptees are not even fully aware of their racial background.
Transracial adoptees do not need stereotypes or expectations about how they are “supposed” to behave based on their skin color or adoptive family’s race.
Aunts and uncles and brother-in-laws are married into families without any biological prerequisite, yet adoptees seem to face scrutiny, stereotypes, and unwelcome questions. Like all people, adoptees should never be reduced to their trauma or their joys but rather understood and listened to as the intricate people they are.
Hear, support, and amplify their voices.
Resources to Learn More:
Too Much Soul: The Journey of an Asian Southern Belle
Code Switch: Transracial Adoptees On Their Racial Identity and Sense of Self