While every adoptee’s story and situation is unique, there are common experiences adoptees often encounter when interacting with the rest of the population. Most of these are assumptions that I’ve noticed are made when the fact that you’re adopted comes up mid-conversation.
1. People think they have free reign to ask you absolutely anything they want, no matter how inappropriate or personal.
When someone learns you were adopted, you suddenly become the most interesting person in the room. Most of the time, it’s because the person asking the questions is digging for a drama-filled, tragic story about how you came to be where you are now. They don’t get that just because one is adopted does not necessarily mean they have a tragic past that forced them into their current life.
2. You are often asked offensive or ignorant questions.
These questions range from, “Where are your ‘REAL’ parents?” to “Why were you ‘put up for’ adoption?”
I’m not sure how many times I need to preach this: My family – my REAL family – consists of those who I grew up with, who helped raise me, who loved/continue to love me unconditionally, and none of whom are biologically related to me. Blood does not mean “family,” let alone “real family.” I guarantee I have gotten into the same mother-daughter fights with my mom that daughters raised by their biological mothers do, and my older brother, who is also adopted and not biologically related to me, tormented me when I was just his annoying little sister, like any other big brother does to his little sister. He is still my “real” brother, and my mom is my “real” mom.
3. You become an object of pity.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times people have found out I was adopted and then suddenly gotten sad, puppy-dog eyes, clearly not trying to hold back that they felt bad for me. This goes back to the assumption that those who are adopted must have gone through something severe and damaging in our past. Maybe it’s the movies, or just society forcing their view of what a “perfect” family is, and the thought of someone taking someone else’s biological child home, to be their own, is seen as sad or unfortunate that it had to get to that point.
On the other hand you hear that the adoptive parents “are saving that child’s life” or “it’s a good thing you had a family choose you to raise you as their own and love you like their own.” Wait, what?
I am aware of how incredibly blessed and fortunate I am to have been adopted into the family that I was. But I can tell you that my family doesn’t love me “like their own.” They are my family, therefore I am theirs, not “like” theirs.
4. You experience different challenges than non-adoptees.
There is no doubt that at some point in an adoptee’s life, they will have different obstacles and questions and decisions than those who are not adopted. Being adopted is a part of who someone is, and will affect them in some way. That does not mean that an adoptee is going to have an identity crisis at some point in their life, or that they will go on a nation-wide search to find their biological family and learn about their past. But being adopted does not mean that those things won’t happen to them either.
Whatever path an adoptee chooses to follow, it is incredibly important for their voices to be heard and have their opinions and feelings validated by their adoptive parents and other family/friends. It is not healthy for adoptive parents to keep all information from an adoptee for their entire lives because they think “that’s what’s best for them.” If a child, or especially adult Adoptee wants to know who they are and where they came from, they have every right.
5. “Fitting in” may not be a thing that you get used to.
Since I was adopted from South Korea, it was very evident that I was not “from” West Michigan, where the majority of families were Dutch with blonde hair and blue eyes. If I’m around a group of people of Asian descent, who were born and raised there, I don’t feel like I fit in there either since I was raised in the Midwest of the United States.
Even though I don’t feel like I actually “fit in” anywhere, it does not mean I am having an identity crisis. I am comfortable with who I am as a person, and have a wonderful group of friends and family to surround myself with. Will I ever feel like I can completely fit in to a specific demographic group based on my ethnicity alone? Probably not.