An Adoptee By Any Other Identity . . .

This post was inspired by Daniel Ibn Zayd own post

Why would someone think that Adoption erases a child’s identity?

Posted on November 4, 2013

My first Hong Kong passport picture

Like Daniel I’m a transracial adoptee. I came over to the UK as part of a specific social and childcare program in response to a time in the colonial life of Hong Kong when privation and social deprivation were at a peak. Immigrants and refugees where still fleeing to the relative safety of Hong Kong. The local orphanages where over subscribed and there were too few indigenous families that could afford to take on another mouth to feed. The idea had originally been to find Asian American families willing to adopt. But they wanted boys and we were all (bar a few) girls. So as Hong Kong was a British colony the natural choice was Great Britain. One hundred and six foundlings were flown over to the UK from the late fifties to the early sixties under this singular program.

Most of us went to families who had no connections with the Far east and had probably never even been abroad. Many of the white families that adopted had children of their own. A small minority were adopted by mixed race marriage couples. But the majority were brought up in Caucasian Christian households.

I was raised in a “normal” working-class/lower middle class household. Typical post-war family with basic traditional western mindset with euro-centric Christian values. As I a said a “normal”  fifties/sixties British family.
I was not “officially” told that I was adopted. By that I mean, I was never sat down and given “the talk”.
I can look back on this now and laugh. For exactly how long did my adoptive parents think I would not notice the obvious difference between me and the people who surrounded me?

It was, as far as I can ascertain, the thinking of the day “clean break”, the best way to deal with transracial adoptees. Quite how this way of thinking came about I am unsure. Given that the group that I was part of, were the first transracial adoptees on record. (That is not to say other transracial adoption had not occurred I am sure that they did). But this was the first organised and state sanctioned transracial adoption program.

I grew up not know who, what or where I came from. I was denied any opportunity to learn about my culture, my native language or history and will carry the scars of that cultural dislocation and linguistic disenfranchisement for the remainder of my life. I will also have to live with the racism, bigotry and prejudice that transracial adoption has bequeathed me.

Daniel’s article poses the question

Why would someone think that adoption erases a child’s identity?

In the 21st century I’d have to say why is this question still being posed? I can “accept” that when I was adopted attitudes, social views and understanding of issues surrounding race, ethnicity, identity, diversity and cultural sensitivity just did not exist. But here and now in a so-called integrated, multicultural and diverse society – surely not?  Sadly yes there are still those out there who perceive adoption in terms of love being the be all and end all.  Also until adoption ceases to be about families wanting children and becomes solely about the needs, wants and rights of the child, then questions such as these will continue to be asked.

Identity is key to everyone no matter their provenance. In striving to give the adoptee a new start, let’s be generous shall we, one is on a very basic level creating a rod for everyone’s back. Being less generous it goes back to the mindset that seems to be prevalent about children and “ownership”. When people talk of starting ac family or of wanting to have  children we hear

I’m thinking of having a child

I want to have children

That child belongs to me or That’s my child

We talk of children in terms of possessions. That they are ours to hold onto. That we somehow own that child. Well I beg to differ. We never “own” the child. We are given the privilege of raising, guiding, instructing, protecting and helping that child to grow and evolve.  Children are not commodities, to be bartered over, or bought and sold. Yet this continues to happen assisted by sometimes the selfish desires of dubious organisations and sometimes by the selfish and misguided ideals and desires of desperate to be parents.

Until society radically change its attitude towards adoption per say then I fear we will continue to ask these questions and children will continue to lose their birthrights, they will continue to be placed into situations where they end up denying who and what they truly are