Adoption Survivor

dealing with it

Archive for the ‘Living with Purpose’ Category

New Year / New Life

with 2 comments

Best Wishes for a great new year and years to come!

I’m sitting in my almost empty fragrantly cedar cabin in Washington
State, after having given away a lifetime of possessions, my goods
reduced to two suitcases full of stupid clothes I would rather replace
in Korea if I had the cash, and an instrument I can’t yet play. Last
day before I mop the floors, turn in my key, and spend three weeks at
my daughter’s house prior to boarding the plane for TESOL training in
Thailand. After the training, I’ll spend a week in Seoul at Koroot,
doing the requisite orphanage tour, traveling to the nearby mountain
town of Wonju as personal identity sleuth, and then on to my new
teaching position in Anyang.

As I sit here avoiding cleaning the oven and contemplating this life,
it’s quite stirring to think about the future and the past and the
epic in between. Almost 3 years of mystery followed by 42 years of
what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, followed by starting over
halfway around the world in a place I know nothing about yet feel I
know on a cellular level, is almost too incredible for me to
comprehend. Do you ever think that way? Do you ever think about how
unbelievable and incredible this odyssey is we’ve been sent on?

Transracial, transcultural, intercountry adoption feels like a brief
interruption of an inviolable destiny. I blinked and I have a head
full of gray hair, but I feel somehow like I am a 3 years young old
soul, picking up where I left off.

In this generous moment, I want to thank Holt for f’g up my life so
badly. It’s made this homecoming all the more sweet.

I’m just grinning ear to ear and bursting with love love love love
love for all of you and wanting to wish you half of what I feel right now.

Holt orphan 4708

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Written by girl4708

January 1, 2009 at 3:00 am

removing the hypocricy from ethical adoption

with 7 comments

This was a response I posted on an ethical adoption site. I have edited portions of it referring to the particular thread to make it more universal.

It is a snapshot of my current evolving view on international adoption.

As a person who can understand WHY people want to adopt, yet as a person who wants all international adoption to END, I’ve found this thread to be very interesting.

It’s interesting because this is a website devoted to integrity and ethics in adoption, and yet it still reflects all the divisiveness of the adoption issues at large. It’s also always interesting to me when children who were once so coveted and sought out grow up to be a source of discomfort and conflict.

Like most of the parents here, my views about adoption began to turn upside down only as I learned more about how it was conducted and as I explored the motivations behind its genesis. It’s not a pretty picture beneath its top layer. The deeper I explored, the more outraged I became. Is this angry adoptee syndrome a popular phenomenon? No. It does not reflect the majority of adoptions (though I do believe time brings us all closer to these revelations). I believe it is a parallel path to those who are willing to ascribe to ethical adoptions, which also do not represent the majority of adoptive parents. Both positions are the result of a deeper exploration and a belief in social justice and personal responsibility. These positions are not set, but are a journey, as we all are seeking the truth.

There is no room for (or value in) blame or assumptions or pre-judging. Especially when what’s done is done. However, more fundamental to all adoptions are the issues of desire, entitlement and all the dark alleys that can lead people down. As a broad generalization, the distinctions between ethical adoptions and the status quo often stop here.

For me, as an idealist who wants to promote the idea of village (a more expanded definition of family in a social context) and the exploration of what a genuine parent is, I don’t feel adoptions are a necessary legal construct. However, as a pragmatist, I feel I must address adoption on two fronts: Support for social services in source countries to eliminate the need for adoptions, and support for the children who have already been adopted. By support for social service in source countries, I believe most adoptions are unnecessary and very correctable if we threw as much energy into caring for one another as we throw energy into rescuing children of the aftermath of not caring for one another. By support for the children who have already been adopted, I mean helping children by helping their adoptive parents provide a more meaningful parent/child relationship. What’s done is done and I want to spare other adopted children the suffering us older adoptees had to endure at the hands of our well meaning (by their estimation) parents.

At the essential core of both fronts is the surgery that is executed for adoption to take place, and the participation of institutions or individuals in that wound. What is frustrating is that the majority of potential and already adoptive parents reject acknowledging their participation in that reality. Because these issues are so fundamental to the relationship of adopted child and parent, the denial of or unwillingness to admit their role in this surgery can lead to an unbridgeable gap of mistrust, a gap that young children are unable to verbalize. The ends do not always justify the means. If the means were ugly, but only the beauty is promoted, then children are taught that their parents are hypocrites that can’t be trusted to be honest. This lack of trust prevents adoptee relationships with their adoptive parents from fulfilling its potential for depth and meaning.

And the means does not only include adoption agencies and countries. It starts with each person, and what set them on the road to adoption in the first place. Too often progressive adoptive parents wear the mantel of truth yet still exhibit their underlying entitlement. I will put forth that adult adoptees have hyper awareness of this when it occurs. There doesn’t seem to be any good way to point out when entitlement is showing without appearing accusatory.

When you hear the “anger” or frustration in the adoptee voice, it is because we are always trying to have a conversation with people closed to any real discourse when it does not validate what they have put so much energy into building. So please be understanding and patient when you deal with adoptees – the frustration and isolation of voicing an unpopular opinion and repeatedly talking to deaf ears can make our voices shrill.

On the other hand, I think that it does not do our cause any good when we try and hammer home our viewpoints, however well argued. This is because there are too many iterations of the adoption scenario and because the ten arguments we may have do not apply to the 15 reasons people adopt. I understand adoptee frustration over ethical adoption organizations, despite being for integrity and ethics, are still advocating adoption, and more radical than that, international adoption. Yet – I think our energies can be spent better eliciting allies amongst them. We don’t necessarily need 100% support. An inroad is an inroad. A little enlightenment is still an improvement and progressive. We need thoughtful parents, like the ones who come here, to help us re-frame the dialog with the rest of the adopting world. We can not do this alone. We need to recognize those that are on this path are heading somewhere positive, just as they need to recognize that our perspectives are valuable, even if they hurt.

Me, I’m a pragmatist.

I see adoption as a great experiment gone horribly awry. I feel we can all learn from each other and all work together to stop the mistakes of the past from continuing to be perpetuated. It is my sincerest hope that for every adoption that goes through, x+ families are assisted to stay together. We should ALL work towards the elimination of the need for adoption to abandon children. Hopefully we can all agree that the need for adoption to abandon children is messed up, that there are things we can work together to eliminate this need, and that reform is a beautiful thing.

Imagine all the progress we could make if each adopting parent who claims they are adopting to save children, would concurrently support programs to save families…now that would be an adoptive parent I could believe in and endorse.

I would hope all of you can join me in open forum, enlightening popular culture as to the complexities and consequences of adoption. I would hope everyone can take what you’ve learned and broadcast it OUT to those that know little about adoption and do what we can to minimize the damage that can happen when people jump into something with simple and reckless abandon. I commend you all for pausing to think and choosing this path. Now that you’re on this path, I hope you don’t stop – but continue on – with me – working for social justice and – with yourselves – doing the hard self analysis.

For the kids

Written by girl4708

December 4, 2008 at 4:07 pm

Female, Unknown

with 3 comments

A name is something most people take for granted.  Unless, of course, you are an adoptee.  We recognize that names, along with so many things bestowed upon the biological, are a privilege we may never know.  Many of us have many names – the names we had as so-called orphans, our nick-names as orphans, our new legal western names, the bastardization of our orphan names, new westernized spins on our nick names, the marriage of orphan names and new western names, etc., etc.  Often, when people would call my name out loud, I wouldn’t even recognize my own name.  I just didn’t know what name to expect, as I’ve always had too many, and none of them felt right.

And then I got married and had yet another name.  And then I got divorced and wanted a new name but couldn’t think of anything meaningful, so went back to my maiden name.  And then I had a nervous breakdown and realized HEY!  I am carrying the name of my abuser around as my own name.  Every time I hear MY OWN NAME, I think of my abuse.  I decided I absolutely had to come up with something different.  It didn’t even matter to me anymore about meaning, as long as it was different.

My daughter broached the subject of a name change recently.  She was tired of our culture’s insistence on names of ownership that are tied to the patrimony.  She wanted her name to have meaning, and she wanted to honor women in her family.  She’s known I’ve wanted to change my name too.  I told her I would change  my name at the same time, maybe we could all take on the same new name together.   When I told my son about this, he said he would go along with it too, since he honors both the women in his life!  (I love my kids!)

Together we traced the history of all the women in my adoptive family.  The names were uninspiring, and their stories were uninspiring.

I asked my daughter if there were any famous woman she wanted to honor, and she felt that was too arbitrary, searching for inspiration instead of just being inspired.

I did a little research on the history of matronymic (when the names follow the mother’s side of the family vs. the father’s) surnames, and I ran across an interesting little something found under a wiki about Indonesian names.  Specifically, when the colonists didn’t know how to deal with an inconsistency in how they traditionally record births in Indonesia vs. how they are referred to in daily life:

In the Netherlands, for example, a person without an official family name would be given the surname Onbekend (which means Unknown)

My new last name could mean “unknown.”  I got all excited and forwarded this on to my kids to see if they wanted to go along with being daughter of unknown and unknown’s son.

Of course there were difficulties – I didn’t have to have it literally say unknown – I just wanted it to MEAN unknown.  So I looked for its meaning in other languages to find a name with a musical quality I could live with.  Let’s just say the kids were not too thrilled with the choices.  For one, they didn’t like that I was following the practice of a colonizer, and “picking the name’s language based on how it sounds is too arbitrary!” my daughter complained.  “too bad ‘x’ was used by Malcolm.”

Yes.  Too bad indeed.  ‘x’ a placeholder for an unknown.  Being a pure algebraic symbol, it was free from any cultural connotations. It was, indeed, perfect.

Later I told a KAD friend about what I wanted to do and she, too, said “it’s just like Malcom X!”  and she sent me the following link:

I watched/listened to Malcolm ‘X’ and I felt something stir in me – something like love – something like that thrill in your chest while simultaneously becoming an invertebrate on the plummeting side of a roller coaster, crashing to earth.

I decided whether my children join me or not, I WILL be named unknown soon. It not only frees me from my owner and  abuser, but it means something profound.  It represents my identity on this planet.

Recently, I found out that my Korean adoption records state that even my earliest known name was a provisional name.  That even the one name I’d always used as the datum of my identity was a total fabrication.  At two years old, someone erased me and someone else made me somebody else, and I was forced to live somebody else’s life with people who renamed me and made me somebody else yet again.

Then, just yesterday, a fellow adoptee mentioned her pseudonym as an author:  unknown female, which was her name as a relinquished newborn at the maternity hospital where she was left.  I asked if I could user her pseudonym as my real name, and she was all for it.

I’ve yet to decide whether I will go for literally being called unknown female, since i know that’s obnoxious and it will make everyone around me uncomfortable.  yet the joy of writing that down on checks and forms is sooo appealing.  I am also in search right now and don’t want to offend my first family should I find them, so I will wait until after my trip to Korea this spring.

But something about this name, this unknown female, makes me feel like i AM coming to terms with my identity and all I’ve lost and all I’ve been through and it’s a tribute to that.  It feels good to have a name of my own choosing, something that has meaning to me.  It will feel good to have a name which reflects the truth of my life, and to finally , once and for all, own my name for myself.

Written by girl4708

October 3, 2008 at 5:13 am