Archive for the ‘Adoptism’ Category

Invalidating Feelings

19 Feb

I admit I am unlike other adoptees in many ways, I interact with adoptive parents. It’s usually a come and go situation. Many adoptees dislike interacting with adoptive parents. It takes a lot of patience to do this. It’s not the adoptive parents one agrees with, it’s an adoptive parents who assume things about you because you are adopted that makes it hard. It’s the adoptive parent that is not educated to have seen the range of adoption and in some way end up purposefully or invalidating the adoptee.

The first thing I hate is when an adoptive parent assumes since I talked a few times that they know me. Is it because I’m adopted that they make these jump assumptions and thus have the right to preach at me? Why aren’t they asking for the in between parts? Why aren’t they asking why I feel this way?

The second is to not read through the information I’ve given them, hunt for only the negative parts of the things I say. It’s as if they have only read the sob stories that adoptees have, and the anger and then expect me to echo the same. I wish they wouldn’t skim over the good parts and think that all adoptees are a walking tragedy.

The third thing is when they talk for their children. It doesn’t matter. That child has a voice. If they want to object, then let them speak. Give them that computer, have them call me up, have them communicate with me without direction. I’m fine with that. If they aren’t old enough, then why is the parent talking for them? Using these children as examples of how the adoptive parent feels is doing the same thing they are trying to do towards me.

This ends up in the feeling, “You should be grateful.” You should be grateful that you are adopted. Almost like the words I said were a suicide note. I do not look kindly on this. I hate that aspect above all else. I hate that feeling like that person feels that know my situation better than I do so they can make judgments on my life, beliefs and situation that they can impose and preach these feelings at me. I actually had an adoptive parent tell me I should be grateful because I talked about the process of adoption. In another words, it was my fault.

These things and experiences are no different from an outsider of the triad. An outsider of the triad after hearing my story of how I was adopted immediately thinks they can tell me which set of parents I should love. I do not see a difference between this and the adoptive parent that assumes that if I say my story that they can say to me, “You should be grateful.”

Invalidating feelings is not pleasant for anyone–adopted or not. Arguing that one should not feel this way and that everything this person knows is invalid, without first asking why is grating. It makes it hard on me to interact when a person is so convinced they are right that my feelings and thoughts don’t matter, so they can tell me what to think and feel.

Perhaps I say unwanted truths that shake them that they want a scape goat to put out into the desert. It’s my point of view that’s wrong, thus the facts that I give are wrong. So not asking for sources, barging forward, and telling me who to be is more comfortable. Facing unpleasant truths, even if gems lie beneath is hard.

Don’t misunderstand me. I welcome disagreement as long as I don’t feel like I’m being put on a trial. Where everything I say and feel is wrong because the adoptive parent doesn’t want it to be true. Because somewhere along the line if they don’t face that truth, their child will probably find it. I hate the idea of this division. There are grim realities and joy, and sometimes the joy is hidden underneath the grim realities.

I don’t ever act emotionally towards these moments. I stay level-headed, because emotion always leads to more emotion and no information is passed through that. I’ve seen such interactions, and they never are pretty.

I will mention there are many adoptive parents who aren’t this way. What I like is when the adoptive parent is full of questions, when they ask more and more questions than before. They ask for sources, try to find out what I said was right, and look at my answers without a sifting only for the parts they disagree with. They don’t take my answers as “The Guide to Everything an Adoptee Feels and Thinks,” but a part of a larger whole. They talk of their pride in their children and how much they are proud of them. I like it when they don’t use their children as examples or how they wish to parent them as a way to talk about their own beliefs, but rather talk about their own feelings and don’t use their children as a cover. I like the idea of an open mind over the pride of being a parent.

There is so much out there to be had on adoption. Invalidating what I say and what I believe isn’t going to make those thoughts, beliefs and actions go away. That history of adoption will still be there and sit people in the face even if I disappeared. So why spend time, judging me and my life as I’ve lived it? As I see it my life, beliefs and experience is small potatoes.

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Posted in Adoption Politics, Adoptism


Dealing with Adoptism

19 Feb

After twenty plus years of answering questions about adoption, here are my ways to deal with questions–for those inside the triad dealing with those outside the Triad. The triad is made up of the parent that surrenders legal rights to their child, the child that was adopted and the parent(s) that adopts the child. Also all family involved in any of those three legs.

Firstly, I use birth parent because Google and a bunch of parents have labeled themselves as such. However, I know and do consider this unfair to use in many ways. It doesn’t honor the foster parent. It doesn’t honor the adoptive parents either. However, the English language is limited in this fashion where it thinks that parents are either “adopted” or by “blood” so it doesn’t really honor much. I default to birth parent, though I respect those who want me to use different terms when I am conversing with them.

Secondly, I should emphasize that there is no obligation for you to answer a person who is being rude and inconsiderate. There is also no obligation for you to answer these questions at all. I also think it shows strength to your children to not answer the questions occasionally–and also it shows strength to yourself if you are adoptee or adoptive parent. This is your life, not theirs. It is your decision to give them the power to ask questions about you and examine your life under a microscope, not theirs.

To those outside of the triad, one should realize when you ask such questions, you are asking questions that are more invasive than, “How much money do you make?” and “How much do you weigh?” as well as, “So what is your real age?” These things people don’t do in normal conversation. When people ask these questions, they are invading and questioning the ability of the parents. This plays with an adoptee’s self-esteem. This also plays with the adoptive parent’s ability to parent their own children. To an adoptive parent you are questioning their rights to raise this child.

Thirdly, for years I’ve been wondering what rude questions birth parents get too. As it stands there are no memoirs about the legal surrender of children by birth parents. The rest are in filters through various organizations (Usually orphanage organizations who later edit their messages.) This puts a really big wrench in the works. I wish I really could help with dealing with this part of the triad too, and the grief that’s felt, but I have a true lack of information. I will be sure to add information as I find it. I will try my best to address the questions that might be associated with legal surrender of children. But again, I am short on information. I truly apologize for not being able to direct this part towards birth parents properly. So please write me when I am stepping on toes and correct me.

Fourthly from my surveying and research, the adoptess always get more and more of the rude questions. Prepare accordingly–just because the adoptive parents don’t get these questions, don’t mean you shouldn’t teach other methods to your children.

1. Answer all questions with a question. This is also called the Socratic method.
ex. Who are your/their real parents?
a. sarcastic question– Are yours real too?
b. Make them think–”Which ones?” (said confused) or the more philosophical, “Are step parents real parents?”
c. Make them explain their answer so they can hear themselves– “What are you saying? I don’t understand.”
d. More passive and polite (engage their intellect)–”Do you think that children can have more than one set of parents?”
Pros: This has an off chance of actually making the person think about their questions to you in the future. Also f you phrase your question right, they make be distracted off topic if they aren’t that bright–and believe me, there are plenty of those kinds of individuals.
Cons: They don’t notice they made a social taboo.

2. Answer questions with a rant about the injustices of adoption. (Will not work for adoptive parents that well.)
ex. Do you want to go back to Korea?
a. Make them bored–Hell Yeah. I mean the Korean government won’t even give us Korean adoptees a dual citizenship! What’s up with that? I can’t understand why they woulnd’t give it to us. We were born there. Did we choose to leave the country? No… and so on.
b. Rant about the US if you don’t want to answer questions about Korea.
c. Go on a tangent and don’t answer their question. You can rant about the unfair media representation of adoption and Asians instead.

Pros: If they get bored, they will stop asking questions. And if you have some enjoyment out of making people suffer for asking invasive questions, you get to see them numb. Personally, I think this works best for those who pester you week after week.
Cons: If you see them again, you can’t work with them again. You also have to know your facts so they don’t spread whatever you say around to other people and get it wrong. It won’t work for adoptive parents. This is because it feels fake for you to be angry in the adoptee’s place and most adoption questions I’ve heard growing up directed at my Mom were actually for or about me.

3. Direct approach.
ex. Why did you adopt?
a. honest, but guarded approach–Because family is important.
b. Get lost approach–I don’t feel like answering that question.
c. super-direct–I don’t feel that is an appropriate question to ask. I feel it questions me as an adoptive parent.
d. If you like the person– Because I wanted to build a family. (cut off any questions after that point. This is all your children really need to know. If they ask about why… and if you did it to save your children from a worse fate, then be equally direct by saying that you find this line of questioning rude.
Pros: May work better for adoptive parents who have to see these people over and over again. It also teaches the person the right answer and what not to ask. If this person has to be around your kids often, such as a teacher, it’s best to use this approach.
Cons: This approach is my least favorite as an adoptee. It usually invites a barrage of questions and people start losing sight of the person in front of them.

4. Philosophical platitudes.
ex. Do you speak Korean? (after long questions about adoption–not before)
a. Slightly passive aggressive–It is interesting that people think that because one has a certain blood that they can automatically speak that language. However, we are all of the same species. I wonder what in society and our culture makes people think this way.
b. Softer answer–There are a lack of language programs in the United States. To date, it’s hard for immigrants to even work a job and learn the English language. I find it strange that people are so insistent that one should learn English coming to the Unite States but US tourist are equally insistent about speaking English in foreign countries. One of these major faults in the United States governmental system is that it doesn’t honor many countries outside of Europe in its language programs. I do wonder what brings this about in our society.
Pros: Makes the other person see you as a person and not an object (see below). It shows your competency with the subject asked. It also answers further questions that may lay underneath the original question.
Cons: You really have to be quick mentally to answer in this way. If you’re tired or upset, it doesn’t work. For Dinner parties it might work though. You also have to know a fair amount of information and politics to be this high brow.

5. Meet ignorance with ignorance.
ex. Who do you love more?
a. sarcasm–Myself.
b. alienation (for those annoying people who won’t leave you alone)–If I can help it no one. But don’t worry, you’re sinking fast on my list.
c. gentle approach (more socially acceptable)–I’m not sure what you mean. Please explain. (You have to be willing to compromise your position to do this though.)
Pros: Exasperation. There is a slim chance that by meeting ignorance with ignorance the person will understand their own.
Cons: They ask more questions when they truly don’t get it.

6. Redirection. That is utter avoidance of any questions before they start. So when they ask, you simply redirect their question into a new direction and into a new topic.
ex. I think you should love X more.
a. I think everyone has the right to love everyone in their own special ways. So, how are your children doing? (i.e. ask them a new question)
Pros: Gets them off of the subject.
Cons: They may try to ask you again or ask someone else in your family/friends the question. This can have a major con that they stay ignorant. I generally don’t use this too much unless I know the person they will most likely go to. Then I watch ignorance meet ignorance. It’s rather amusing, because somewhere along the way there is a small inkling in both people’s faces that maybe this is the wrong thing to do.

Generally, as an adoptee, I favor the question approach with a softer side to it. Because there is joy in having a person gage their words. And being able to correct them. I also don’t like dealing with stupidity at all. I have a very low tolerance of it. If the person isn’t getting it by the third question to me, and they aren’t feeling uncomfortable, I find a way to ditch them. Personally, I will never date anyone stupid enough to ask these questions and make these statements. It’s ground for break up if they start telling me who to love and not love. I don’t keep such friends either.

For adoptive parents, I think the direct approach works. Mix in refusal to answer questions with the people you don’t want to deal with because often your children are in earshot. It took me years to realize I had no obligation to answer these invasive questions. Also directly teach your children when it’s OK to answer these questions and when they are OK not to. My parents never gave me this, but I think there is a lot of personal power for the adoptive parent and the adoptees to know this. I also think one should be aware of the children while answering these questions. If the children are anywhere around, doesn’t matter where–if in the same household and they could run up to you, you should be careful of your answers. Also gage if your children at that very minute would be willing to deal with this. Talk to them after answering those questions if they seem upset. When you answer these questions, they are not just about you, they are about your child too.

I also encourage to give yourself time to consider the question and the best way to answer. Don’t answer from your gut. If you don’t think you can answer the question levelly because you’ve never gotten it before, give yourself time to think. Ignore the other person if they pester you. If you can’t answer the question, answer as such directly. This is better than answering the question and hurting yourself, the understanding of the other person and the children around you–adopted or not.

Side Note:
Often the questions are not about your parenting abilities for adoptive parents. And usually they aren’t really interested in you as a person for adoptees. You need to be able to take responsibility for your answers and make yourself more human to them.

I’ve found that the real question they have is if nature or nurture is the way to go. They are viewing you as an experiment of a long question of which came first, like the question of the Chicken or the egg. (BTW, for creationists, it’s clearly the Chicken. For the evolutionist it’s clearly the egg.) The true answer should be, it doesn’t matter. The children/you are you in the moment that you are living it now. So getting the person to realize this is your primary goal–you and your family are not part of a grand experiment.

I found this was the case, because after all of the questions were over, they would often slowly ask that question and try to compile the answer *for you*. This would amount to, “You should love X” more.

One minor thing to adoptive parents:
“Gotcha” day should be replaced with Family Anniversary Day. If you have more than one adoptee in your family, well, there are more days to celebrate the formation of your family. It’s the best language you can use. Because it doesn’t slight the adoptee to an object. If you have biological children, it allows them to be included into the mix. It allows you to celebrate both cultures of the child–not just their birth culture. It also doesn’t slight the birth family. In fact, you can use that day to honor them. I also think you could include them later on if you meet them face to face. This way you thank them. It gives power to you, to your family as a whole, all the parents and finally empowers you to deal with those outside of the triad. Use that day wisely.

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Posted in Adoption Politics, Adoptism, Parenting


Addressing Specific Questions

19 Feb

This is for handling those outside of the Triad. Again, you have no obligation to answer these questions.

Who are (your/their) real parents?
I usually answer, “Both” or “Which ones?” But for adoptive parents this won’t work.
I like the answer in that case, “I am their parent. They have parents in Korea too.” Skip the real. A quick person will realize you didn’t use the word real, thus there is something wrong with the word.

Note: that in Korean the word “real” is used in addressing biology in day to day, not just adoption. (This is unlike English… where the issue doesn’t come up often.)
ex. Such as “This is my biological brother,” would be said in translation to Korean and retranslation to English as “This is my real brother”. Dictionaries are not good that way). You can redirect this also by asking the birth parents to use “miguk”_title_ (Eomma, appa, gajok) and “hanguk”_title_ (Eomma, appa, gajok) in Korean. So don’t be insulted by this. I also use “Appa” for my birth father and “Eomma” for my birth mother. This allows me to use “Dad” and “Mom” without having to deal with AAL (Appropriate Adoption Language) issues.

Do You Know Korean?
I usually answer this one honestly, because it’s not that harmful. And then go into the lack of language programs shortly.

For adoptive parents… I really encourage you to have your child to be able to answer yes at some point. Statistically according to a GOA’L survey, children don’t know Korean as children. And then when they become teenagers they reject all Korean culture and language–which doesn’t happen to the average Korean. So this must be a function of adoption where they haven’t learned pride in themselves and found the balance needed to function. Then in adulthood, they regret not having it at all, where more adoptees identify themselves as Korean American, but unable to connect to their birth culture. This is not to say to cram it down their throats, but I think being able to encourage it and give them that culture they are missing will help in the long run. I also think an adoptive parent should also be able to answer yes at some point as well. You don’t know what your child is going to ask. You get more access to more things when you know another language. Plus you adopted a country and culture with that child. As you feel an obligation to teach your child your culture, you should be able to do the same for theirs. That’s actively teach. Oh, and many younger children go through language rejection in their early years if they are older. This is because the language is often tied to negative memories. We often store many memories with words. But making the suggestion won’t hurt. Also try to surround them with real Korean once in a while. (or their birth language, whatever it is). The stuff in school isn’t the same. The best programs are directed towards Korean Americans rather than adoptees which tend to teach the “foreigner” Korean. (i.e. only differential Korean.)

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Posted in Adoption Politics, Adoptism


I am not just…

19 Feb

I eat Chinese food while watching Japanese dramas. Sitting in my American mess sitting like an American while eating at my computer. Around me are English books and video tapes. Some of them are Japanese, some of them are writing books, some of them are design books, some are games, and some are cookbooks. I have projects scattered around me. A book I’m writing here, a book I’m editing there, drawings, embroidery, painting, languages, dictionaries, calligraphy brushes, calligraphy pens, A Bible–non King James Version even though I’m Jewish. Because it’s straight translated and I’m reading it like a novel. (A Super-raunchy novel.) Around me are different cultures, talents, creativity, and though this space is messy, it’s reflective of me in a lot of ways. I always have sooo much going on that people (outside of my own parents) say I work too hard that I never have a break. I research in my off time, draw, write, but I rarely ever *just* watch TV or *just* do one particular thing. When I draw, I listen to books, when I eat, I am absorbing culture and language through dramas. I’m always working on my brain somehow in some fashion. To everyone this seems like a scattered mess of unimportance. What is that stack of paper…? To me, that’s a novel waiting to be born. To that person, it’s a pile of scrap that needs to be thrown out.

I know this chaos. I become this chaos. I order this chaos and the chaos orders me.But as soon as I step out the front door, I will have labels placed on me. I am no longer a person living in a creative space with writer and creative sttached to me as I attach it to myself.

If I talk to an Adoptive parent, I become Adoptee. When I enter a classroom, I am student. When I sit next to a racist white male, I become to him, “Submissive Asian.” If I walk faster in front of an African American male because I simply don’t want to talk to him, I become “slow.” If I talk to my Mom. I become “Jewish daughter who is not adopted.” If I talk to my Aunt, I become Niece. If I talk to my grandmother, I become “adopted granddaughter.” All those labels are put on me as soon as I walk out into the world and have contact with it. But it becomes so tiring. The Code Switching is difficult and it feels like I’m fighting constantly with the world to see me as I see myself. Right now as you view this, you think I am adoptee. I am Korean. I am Korean American. But to me, I’m not. I’m human first. I’m Korean, adoptee, Jewish, daughter, niece, Korean American, International adoptee, and whatever else you want to label me, second. I am always human first. Does that intimidate you? I claim my humanity first? I am homo sapiens sapiens descended from a fine line of Homo sapiens sapiens. My materials, my dust, my atoms came from the center of this universe, just like you. Genetically, I only different from you by a maximum of 200,00 years. Considering the Billions of years of the universe and planet, you and I aren’t that different. Yet, you want to define me by one label, one set of rules, but to me, I am all of those labels and more. I am human, living, breathing in this space and I see you as human first too. Thinking, breathing with the same capacity for intelligence that I have, whether that be left or right-brained. This is the gift international adoption has given me and I wish you could see it too… but I’m so tired by being backed into labels I can’t live up to. I’m tired of being stereotyped, by people not seeing me as the creative force I think of myself, almost breathing it daily like it was oxygen, but as these impossible labels that have nothing to do with my centered self. Why can’t it be that when I view you, and I take you for human, though I may not like you I think of your humanity first, who you are in the every day. How you wake up, go to sleep, how you talk, move, act, move through space, how you view yourself, instead of “Mexican” only or “Black” only. You are all those things, shouldn’t we learn to reserve that judgment and stop the useless labeling? Because right now I’m tired of moving through such spaces. I’m tired of meeting people at the door of my sanctuary and have them label me in the instant they look at me. I’m tired of being afraid, and having to fight for who I am as I see myself. And this is how you free yourself from prejudice.

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Posted in Adoption Philosophy, Adoptism


“Angry Adoptee”

19 Feb

Do you know what they called a Black Man that spoke out against the white masters? An”Angry Black Man” this served to function to other the person so they were not human but “other.”

What was Malcolm X? An Angry Black Man.
What was Rosa Parks? An Angry Black Woman.
What was Martin Luther King? An Angry Black Man.

Who was the “good” black man? The one that shut up and took the oppression and let himself seem dumb to his masters. Because this man was grateful to his masters for feeding him, clothing him, and treating him like crap when the master dehumanized him. Sure, these masters also committed genocide on 30% of the full 90% of Native American populations and sure there were plenty of acts later down the line to prove that White Superiority was shown through things like “Manifest Destiny” Immigration Acts (mainly to block Chinese, Japanese and “foreign”, let’s admit it, “other than white” races.) But let’s get this straight. The man who does not speak up against oppression is the “good” slave and the one that speaks up is the “bad” slave.

Since most East Asians use passive means of social correction, this makes them the “good” minority.

The bad minority are those Native Americans without tribes, you know the “red” people whom we like to misnomer things like “Indian” and “Eskimo” (For anyone living in a cold climate must be “Eskimo”) that do things like sue the government for reparation money for the 90% of the population and irreplaceable land they lost through sleazy displacing. Yup, they are the “angry” ones. The ones that we like to call things like, “Skinheads.” (taking from a Mohawk stereotype… and mixing it with Blackfoot Native American traditions… Way to go! Mix those Plains Indians with Sedentary Agricultural New York State Native Americans!) Don’t forget those African Americans (Why should they be angry at almost 150 years of slavery and prejudice?) And those Catholics too… Man, what were they thinking by believing in the Pope. Let’s ban those “bad” white people of Eastern Europe from coming into the country with their Papist views. They are “angry” Irish and “drunk” Scots and “seductive” Italians with Immigration Acts to ban them from the country–religious freedom! Yay! If they speak out they are “angry.”

So Uncle Tom that lived in the cabin was a “good” slave, but Jim was a “bad” slave, ’cause he ran away from his master/mistress in Huckleberry Finn.

What do I think when someone calls me an “Angry Adoptee?” I think the “good” adoptee is the one that has faced hardships and tried very, very hard to cope with their surroundings, but is afraid to speak out. While the ones that speak about the injustices of the system are the “angry” adoptees. As history has shown for the African American slaves, I don’t think either is the “wrong” way. There are good and bad adoptions, things that are good and things that need to change. And if I point out things that need to change at the same time that I point out the good things about adoption, it’s likely I’ll be labeled as the “angry” adoptee. Because I called for change to the system. Because I feel like certain unalienable rights were taken away when I had to take on this label given to me by certain institutions and governments. And if I fight for them and the next generation of adoptees, isn’t that just as frightening as it was when advocates of race spoke out? So it’s easier to label me as angry, take away my humanity and voice by labeling me with a “negative” emotion, because who wants change to a system that seems to serve the adoptive parents’ and agencys’ good which the media entirely endorses (well, most of the time). However, remember that Susan Soon-keum Cox of Holt said, “Families for children, not children for families.”

So go ahead and call me angry. And I’ll be happy to call you out right back–prejudiced and afraid. And if you are prejudiced and afraid, then please educate yourself so you are not. Because I think the next generation of children–adopted or not–deserve that much.

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Posted in Adoptism, Uncategorized


Learning Korean

19 Feb

Learning Korean proved to be difficult. This was because in addition to there being limited programs on learning Korean in the United States, I had mental blocks to overcome. There were times that I would speak Korean and what would come out was the my five year old inner child’s Korean. The one she spoke with Appa, which is a regional dialect of Korea.

There would be really tough times for me because sometimes I’d feel like I should *know* that word, or that I remembered it, but I couldn’t place why. There were times, too, when people would say,
“Your accent is really good.”
“You are slipping into Kyeongsamnamdomal, Eonni…. I couldn’t understand you.”
“You speak like child. No ‘Un.’ That is child [speak].”
and while I’d feel a sense of pride, I’d feel a sense of frustration too, because I couldn’t distinguish where the child’s language began and where the child’s language ended.

What often made it worse is that people expected me to know Korean. I had to be able to speak Korean even if they didn’t know it. The pressure to know Korean makes my brain cycle at times and sometimes, for months I’ll reject the language. Especially when people say, “You aren’t X” or “you are X”. My languages tend to flucuate heavily on identity.

It’s not the physical learning of the language that is hard. I’m still pretty good at agglutinating languages. (like Korean.) It’s the emotional baggage of learning Korean that makes it difficult. It’s the things I’m associating with the language that I’m not associating with Japanese, Mandarin or Cantonese. From the time of pain I felt from abandonment to the teacher’s delight that I’m a Korean Adoptee. There is excess crap that comes with the language of my mother versus the language of my fluency.

I do wonder what happens when those two are linked. Would that feel the same inside for me? Or would I end up in long silences of not wanting to speak at all? But I don’t think I’d ever know.

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Posted in Adoption Politics, Adoptism, Korean Language

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