“Are you Hispanic?”
“Are you Indian?”
“Where is Romania?”
With an ambiguous look that confuses many, these are not uncommon questions that I am asked. It has become so normal that I have started to just accept what people assume my nationality is without any real rebuttal. That, however, proposed the question: “Do I even know my own identity?”
As an international adoptee, the topic of adoption was never one to be hidden. I was told from the moment I could understand what it meant that I was adopted and born in another country. And that was good enough for years. As a child, I knew this information but rarely thought too introspectively about it. It was not until I became older that I started to first identify as a Romanian. I represented my country’s colors with pride, going so far as to throw a Romanian-themed birthday party. I was fairly certain I knew what my identity was: a Romanian.
It was not until I reached high school that my thoughts about my identity would become challenged. Constantly being questioned about the color of my skin and how that did not correlate with my last name or being spoken to in another language purely based off an assumption made me unsure of who I was. Was I supposed to be what everyone else thought I was? Should I have taken on those different identities? Asking myself these questions only furthered my own questions about my adoption as a whole.
For me, being adopted never took away from being a part of my adoptive family. I never felt like I was unwanted or did not belong. I knew I was loved and that was all that mattered to me. However, there were always questions locked away in the depths of my mind. Do I look like my biological family? Would other Romanians be able to guess my nationality? Would I fit in there? The investigation for my identity went from nonexistent to ever so present without any warning. And so, I searched.
Who am I? I am adopted. I am Romanian. I am male. I was purely focused on what people were able to physically determine about me but could not care less about what they were able to emotionally or mentally determine. And that realization was the catalyst I needed to understand what identity really was. I began to understand that my adoption had nothing to do with my identity. Yes, I knew that being adopted was a crucial part of my life, but I was not simply ‘the boy who was adopted.’ From my own experience, that was where the disconnect between identity and being an international adoptee existed.
What I needed to understand was that my adoption status, especially my international adoptee status, did not define who I was. I was more than just a title. I was an artist, a son, a friend, a brother, a human. And even more importantly, I am and will remain as such. I still may discover new aspects of my identity, but I can say I have learned to see my international adoptee status as a mere portion of a much bigger whole.
Have you ever been mistaken for a different nationality? Comment down below and share your story.