I really shouldn’t be blogging but . . .

bloggingI have so much to do, I really have and blogging shouldn’t be top of the agenda.
With important writing deadlines looming, I find myself dead in the water.

I was going great guns and then suddenly my writer’s brain has become becalmed.
Maybe that’s because my mind is flooded with thoughts, ideas, possible plots, themes and endless possibilities. Along with the ever-present and seemingly never-ending reminder of the fact that I’m different. That my difference frightens and in some cases incense people.
I people like me are not considered to be part of UK PLC. That the surge of support for the British sw2431articleright-wing political party UKIP is disturbing to say the least. But then having said that the way that British society views, treats and interacts with its own East Asian citizens is frankly appalling. Attitudes have changed little since the Victorian era.
My “Britishness” in spite of what the Politicians would like to con themselves into thinking is not included in many of the hearts and minds of those in power over the wider society. Being British saying and being called this, I always feel that it’s done as a back-hander or with a slight grudge. There always seems to be confusion, a mental hiatus when anyone says British-Chinese or British East Asian. As if British and Chinese/East Asian shouldn’t really be coupled together.

windowslivewritertheconferenceseasonisalmosthere-13ee4microphone2I was approached late in the day (as it were) to speak at an adoption conference but it just didn’t pan out, timing  being one of the issues. I’ve also been interviewed for an oral history project, archiving the experiences of the working British-Chinese.

Who and what I am right, there in those last two sentences.
Not a British citizen who has an interesting background, or a British artists that’s got an unconventional back-story, but Adopted and Chinese. Society wants to be seen as inclusive, tolerant and poly ethnic so we’ll call you British-Chinese or British East Asian to show we’re being sensitive. But if there is no thought or understanding behind that “label” then it has no meaning. It has no place. It does nothing but allow the culturally dominant to pigeon-hole, separate, tick boxes, forget and move on. This label that I’m given doesn’t sit at the same table as Black British, or British-Asian, we’re still on seated at a minor table at the back.

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Opening The Door at the Young Vic 2012

Whatever I do I am always going to be East Asian. Whatever I do I am always going to be a transracial adoptee. I cannot change the past. I cannot reverse the actions and decisions that adults made in the past. I can not reverse my own history and relive my life in Hong Kong. I cannot prevent myself from being flown from Hong Kong to Great Britain, over half a century ago.

However, what I can do is make sure that my voice, my understanding, my life view is heard.
I will continue to strive and broadcast this British voice. I’m just one of many different British voices and are seldom given a chance to be heard.  British culture at the moment is still viewed through a very narrow lens. It cannot be considered wholly British if it excludes citizens like me.
It cannot be considered to be an inclusive culture and society if  it excludes realistic representations of people like me. If British culture does not embrace, nurture and support artists like me, it is not representative of  Britain in the 21st century, is it?

book_Adversity, adoption and afterwards

British Chinese Adoption Study – BAAF

As a Transracial Adoptee, as a British East Asian as a female, I am subconsciously  driven by those cumulative life experiences. How and why I write, make films, interpret text is driven, shaped and coloured by my experience of life as a person from a marginalised, unheard and under-represented section of British society. Society has held up a mirror to show me and how people like me, are perceived and thought. That perception, both institutional and structural has changed very little since the 1800s. Is it any wonder then, that I am somewhat sceptical and slightly pessimistic about seeing a greater move towards universal inclusivity and diversity?

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Lenny Henry tells MPs ethnic diversity plan of BBC does not go far enough

In spite of  my scepticism, I want the current diversity policies heralded in the media to work.
I’d like to see Britain pushing society and the country as a whole forwards into an era that truly embraces its poly ethnicity, its diverse populous and it multiple mixed heritages and shared histories. I’d like to be able to go to a Theatre and see people like me performing the classics or new works and not to have to enter into a debate about the precise political, cultural or social point the writer or director was trying to make by casting a British East Asian. I’d like to go to the movies and see a British movie that casts East Asians where the characters aren’t linked to martial arts, food, or illegal migrants trafficked to the UK by snake-head gangs. Yes I am being a tad facetious, not all films that have East Asian cultural or heritage themes are superficial. But as a British East Asian actor why do I feel that I have to “qualify” when being considered for an acting role.  And the only way that I can “qualify” to participate in a project is, if that project has some kind of East Asian tie-in or theme.

East Asians still are not widely seen in “normal dramas” as bus drivers, cab-drivers, rail-workers or bog standard business men and women. Even though in real life we are.
In drama and the media we have to come from off shore. Bringing with us our Eastern ways and sensibilities. It’s rare to see an East Asian character that does not have a non-English accent.
But then if within the media British East Asian writers are not getting the chance to have their work produced, there will be no contemporary representations of such people.
It’s a vicious circle, one which I find myself currently being swirled about in.
Will I be able to ride the white water rapids and come out the other side, if my play Conversations With My Unknown Mother goes into full production next year, then the answer is yes.

Watch this space  . . .

Made the Boat, Missed the Bus… #FreshOffTheBoat

Lucy Sheen aka 4gottenadoptee:

How can you not read this and at least, pause and think!?

Originally posted on fairyprincessdiaries:

The Fairy Princess had a great week last week, for two reasons – she was able to go out twice…at night.

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If you have a toddler, you understand that sentiment.

First, she went to a friend’s viewing party to see him Guest Star on a giant TV show that spans new branches like a giant oak,

scott-bakula-russell-wong-and-bd-wong_photo-by-lia-chang-93 Scott Bakula, Russell Wong, and B.D. Wong on NCIS New Orleans

and the very next night was the Uber Awesome, Fresh Off The Boat Viewing Party in Manhattan, where TFP was delighted to sit on one of the two panels that evening.

Panelists Greg Pak, Jeff Yang, and TFP - photo by Lia Chang Panelists Greg Pak, Jeff Yang, and TFP – Photo by Lia Chang

It was a great night and absolutely everyone who was in New York City, who could make it, were there to support.

From Orange Is The New Black, Actress Lori Tan Chinn, Standup Comic and Actor, Phil Nee, Actress, Karen Lee From Orange Is The New Black, Actress Lori Tan Chinn, Standup Comic and Actor, Phil Nee, Actress…

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Familial estrangement

I’ve just finished reading this article:

Why Some Grown Kids Cut Off Their Parents

Could their estrangement be caused by how we raised them?

nottalkingtoyouThe reason that I read it was because it posted to a transracial adoption group. It was noted that whilst this article isn’t about adoptees it is, or might be relevant to adoptees and adoption circumstances.

That’s true for most “conditions,” “syndromes,” or any other medical and emotional state that a human being could suffer from. Whether a person is a biological relative, child or sibling or an adoptive child we can all suffer the same or similar problems.

Lets look at familial estrangement, as it relate to the adult adoptee. As unacceptable as it might be for blood relatives, the reaction, the often violent recriminations and vitriolic disapproval and condemnation that the adult adoptee is subjected to, is something else entirely.
I speak from personal experience.

1.13.81833e56-a5e6-4a61-8d8f-4736fb5f8dcc.MediumI have not had contact with the any member of the family that adopted for over thirty years. To be honest and blunt, I have no desire to reconnect. I can hear people saying, how awful, how callous, how ungrateful, how selfish, how dare you after they adopted you and how could you, after all they must have done for you. I have heard it all before and much worse.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion. As I am entitled to mine. I  you don’t know you and you don’t know me. I’d like to think that I am not an arrogant or presumptuous person  and would never superficially prejudge another human being, just because their experiences differ from mine. Or because my personal experiences are not the same as the other person’s and therefore that person’s experience must be false. But as a society (sadly) we do this all the time. As a transracially adopted adult I think that estrangement to a greater or lesser degree is inevitable. Both from the adoptive environment, the host country, as well as with the the country or birth. Even if it is just simply the physical distance from the country of birth. But for many transracially adoptees this estrangement has a profound and far reaching effect.

Families, some are close, some not so, others splinter and fracture, never to be reunited again.
But place an adoptee into this exact same scenario and we are not permitted to move away, or evolve out of this familial environment. Once an adoptee, always an adoptee. It’s a prefix that will never go away. It lurks in the background and is often used in times of stress and crisis to punctuate situations and define relationships.

I have encountered, met, engaged, chatted with and become friends with many adult adoptees around the globe. It matters little where the adult adoptees are. But for those of us who speak our minds, we suffer the same arrogant, presumptuous, abusive behaviour. Adult adoptees are accused and vilified. For some reason, adult adoptees are assumed to have developed some type of gratitude gene. If you don’t have this gene, if you don’t conform as an adult adoptee, you become persona non grata. Adult adoptees are not supposed to speak up or speak out. Those that do are considered by many in Western societies and also by some adoptees, trouble makers, or emotionally unstable. Adult adoptees that speak out are often labelled as “ungrateful.”  We are expected to remain dormant, we are not supposed to grow up, move on or out, either physically or emotionally from the familial surroundings.
Perhaps that is why I (and many adult adoptees that I have en-counted) end up breaking away from the family that adopted them. This is not some aberrant behaviour. Neither is it for no apparent or trivial reason. In my personal opinion, it is a very normal reaction, to abnormal circumstances.

I was brought up like any other child that lived in 196os Britain. I was no more unhappy, than any other child that I went to school with. I had all the material things that a child needed. Had I not been adopted I would not have ended up with the career that I have now. If I had not been adopted it is very likely that I would not have survived my infantile years. For that, yes I am grateful. But I do not feel forever indebted or beholden for having been adopted. To me that’s like saying to any naturally conceived child, you have to be forever pro-actively grateful for your life, come what may. You will never be allowed to forget that you must be grateful for being allowed to exist. That throughout the entirety of your life as an adult you are expected to show gratitude. For that gratitude to be manifested in some way that is tangible for all to see. That you will “payback” somehow the debt that you incurred for being bright into being.
We don’t expect naturally born children in conventional families to behave and think in this manner. It may be implied and assumed by both parties but it is not “forced” upon the naturally born child. Yet many Western societies expect, no demand,  albeit subconsciously, that those of us who have been adopted; especially transracially adopted, they expect us to be eternally grateful, uncritical, subject only to the directions of those and the society that adopted us. We are to be mute, unquestioning and compliant.

Estrangement doesn’t happen over night. It occurs over a long period of time. Like a dripping tap that laboriously eats into granite. Estrangement in this context for me, it is the severing of biological connections. The turning of your back on links that are there because they go deep, not mere superficiality. These links are encoded deep into our very being, they inform the nature and composition of our fibre.

As an adoptee I do not have such links like that with the adoptive family. My connections to that family were on a piece of paper. A legal agreement binding me, as a baby to the family. I had/have nothing in common with that family. Physically, mentally, emotionally, ethnically or racially. I was brought up in a time when race, ethnicity and cultural understanding had yet to enter into the social vocabulary of Britain.
Society has now moved on and so have I.  I have been trolled, griefed, cyber-bullied and even threatened with legal action, why?

Because as an adult adoptee I refuse to remain silent

I dare to talk about the legacy of transracial adoption. I speak of transracial adoption not being the fairy-tale, not the ‘they all lived happily ever after‘ or the ‘forever families‘  ending. I talk openly about how transracial adoption can sometimes be messy, upsetting and painful.
That white privilege will not shield the adoptive parents or their adopted child from the deeply ingrained racism and prejudice of society and even some members of the extended family.
That love, money and a desirable postcode, will never fill in the missing gaps for some inquisitive children. That honesty, openness and a willingness to speak about difficult subjects has to be available in buckets loads. That adoptive-parents that won’t, can’t or refuse to teach themselves about the racial politics of their own communities and what this really means for their transracially adopted child. This is a family which is waiting to go into a crisis. That is storing up problems and challenges for their adopted child and the family years on down the line. Another generation of  damaged and incomplete human beings.

There are, in my honest opinion, certain fundamental things in this world that money and white privilege cannot buy or correct.

 

Dear blocked adoptive parent…

Lucy Sheen aka 4gottenadoptee:

This should be read by all involved in, affected by directly or indirectly by adoption.

Originally posted on Daniel Ibn Zayd:

…who finds the need to email me and explain that I somehow don’t “understand” adoption and that adoption is somehow “different” in the UK:

The history of adoption in terms of Anglo-Saxon society reflects a targeting of the poor, the marginal, the “base classes”, the Indigenous, the colonized. That 120 years later this still takes place in the UK (not to mention that you still live in a “kingdom”) is beyond mind-boggling, and this horrifying state of affairs stands no matter how you package it, now matter how you market it, no matter how you promote it. I think it is fair to say at this point that adoption has done nothing to ease the class division in English society, or the disdain of the English for those they consider to be “sub-par”, including the parents of the children temporarily in your care. I’m not sure why you feel the…

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