I’ve just finished reading this article:
The 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.
I 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.