Adoption Stories from Adopted the Movie - A Feature Film by Barb Lee

July 2, 2008

ICASN Adoptee Perspectives: Intimate Love Relationships – Share Your Thoughts

Filed under: Adoptees,Perspectives — Catherine @ 2:27 pm

From Lynelle Beveridge at ICASN:

Our topic is Intimate Love Relationships, whether they be of same or opposite sex than yourself.  I think all people, adopted or not, find intimate love relationships challenging and rewarding but I’m interested to know how inter-country adoptees navigate this area of our lives and whether being adopted makes it easier, harder, or has no impact at all?

Feel free to write what you wish to share and in case you want some questions to jog your thoughts to begin:

  • Describe & identify any type of patterns in your intimate love relationships to date?  Eg. What types of partners do you chose?  How does their non adopted or adopted status impact your relationship? What cultural or ethnic backgrounds do you tend to be attracted to?  How does that fit with your sense of ethnic/cultural heritage?  Who typically ended the relationships?  Who pushed the most for the relationships to reach certain milestone like “marriage” or “children”?
  • Do you avoid intimate love relationships altogether?  How does that impact you?  What would need to happen to help you not avoid these types of relationships?
  • How do these words fit within your thinking and experience of having intimate love relationships – trust, security, fear, abandonment, loss, independence, over or under achiever, connection, heritage, ethnicity, shame, attraction, aloneness, anger, love, family, push, gratefulness, sensitive, …..
  • How does your adoption impact your intimate love relationships?  If it doesn’t, please also share your thoughts on this.

You can be anonymous or put your name – just let me know your preference.

I look forward to hearing from you as I know that in this topic, it is an area that we all have experience in so hoping that many of you will be able to share your thoughts.

If you’d like to view previous ICASN Perspective Papers, please go to http://www.icasn.org/perspectives.html

Regards,

Lynelle Beveridge
Founder/Director
Inter-Country Adoptee Support Network (ICASN)
email: icasn@bigpond.net.au


March 25, 2008

From Anti-Racist Parent: “T-Shirts that trivialize the transracial adoptee experience”, and from New Demographic: “Is America ready for a *real* discussion of race?”

From Anti-Racist Parent (originally published at Heart, Mind and Seoul):

On numerous occasions in the past, I’ve been fairly unsuccessful in trying to convey how many times I’ve felt that the messages and attitudes perpetuated by our society about adoption often leads me to feel that I am reduced down to nothing more than a commodity. . .a tangible item that people with the right kind of credentials and qualifications can pick out and pick up. . .a product that in theory, shouldn’t be available for return, but in fact, sadly is. . .an object that is believed to come from some other place, manufactured by another country instead of being born to two living, breathing human beings.

And time and time again, I’m told that somehow along the way I must have lost my sense of humor or the ability to empathize or that I should really try harder see other people’s points of view. After all, they probably had good intentions behind whatever it was they said or did.

So I’m trying to find the humor and the good intentions behind these t-shirts. But I have to be honest; I keep coming up with nothin’.

Read the full article here: http://www.antiracistparent.com/2008/03/19/why-oh-why-are-these-t-shirts-still-available-2/

***

In her latest newsletter for New Demographic, founder Carmen Van Kerckhove wrote this very interesting piece on the recent events in American politics:

Is America ready for a real conversation about race? That’s the question on many people’s minds after Barack Obama’s historic speech last week.

Judging by some of the discussion I’ve seen on cable news since, I’m not so sure. There was talk about Obama “throwing his white grandmother under the bus” because he mentioned that she feared black men who passed by her on the street. There was indignation when in a subsequent radio interview, Obama made reference to a “typical white person” harboring racial stereotypes.

Seriously? Is it that controversial for Obama to suggest that white people — like all of us — have internalized racist stereotypes, and that those stereotypes impact their interactions with others? If we can’t even own up to that simple fact, how on earth are we supposed to move forward?

On Friday, I spent some time on the phone with a reporter from The Los Angeles Times (read the article here). I told him that I believe one of the biggest obstacles to dismantling racism is the way each of us is only interested in our own oppression.
We’re up in arms when someone in our own community is discriminated against, yet when the same thing happens in another community, we couldn’t care less. We’re more interested in playing oppression olympics — arguing that our group is worse off than any other — than in finding a way to uplift all of us at the same time.

And that’s exactly what I see happening here. Instead of absorbing one of Obama’s core messages — that just because you have the privilege of not thinking about racism, doesn’t mean racism no longer exists — some white folks are using this opportunity to cry “reverse racism” and paint themselves as the ultimate victims.

I really hope we can break this cycle of self-absorption and get real. If we’re serious about dismantling racism, we need to go beyond the concerns of the specific community to which we belong and recognize that when one group is discriminated against, it is an affront to us all.

Warmly,

Carmen


January 7, 2008

Stories About Home, by Leonie Simmons

Leonie Simmons was born in Vietnam and adopted to an Australian family. Five years ago she returned to the place of her birth. This thoughtful and carefully written paper describes her journey and her efforts to deconstruct taken-for-granted ideas about culture, identity, family and home. It will be of relevance to anyone interested in ways of making home and making family as well as to those connected to the issue of intercountry adoption.

This is a story about my life. It is a story about identity, culture, belonging and families. To me, for the most part it is a story about Home. Making one, finding more, leaving many and taking them with you when you go.

I was born in Vietnam, during a time of war, and then adopted to an Australian family. Five years ago, I returned to the place of my birth. It has taken until now to be able to find the words, write them down and and speak of the experience. In the intervening years, I decided to hide away the events of my visit to my birth place. I wanted them kept safe from analytical tinkering, uninvited interference, wacky conclusions or undisciplined thoughts. Let the past be done with, I declared. I concluded that there were more important things to attend to, to think and speak about. And I was right.

But during this time, when I was keeping the stories of Vietnam at a distance, I was also experiencing a disconnection in relating with other people. I would have the occasional meetings and I was competent, I thought, at listening, but I could not answer questions. Simple, easy, demographic questions regarding my life began to take avery long time to answer and when I did manage to reply, I stuttered and mumbled incoherently. Questions like: What is your name? Where do you come from? Where do you live? Where is your home? Where were you born? Embedded within these enquiries is a request to disclose what nationality you are, what country is your country, what language do you speak. Other questions would inevitably follow: Who are you parents? How many brothers and sisters do you have? What is your profession? Are you single, married, divorced? These seemingly simple questions are routinely asked in conversation or on forms with little boxes to indicate which simple category you belong within. Those little spaces imply that the answers to those questions are to be easy and brief. But that is not possible for all of us. Anticipating the inevitable sense of awkwardness that would accompany these sorts of questions led me me to avoid talking to people as much as possible.

ed what my Vietnamese family had intended or thought about when choosing this name for me. Feeling that I had been granted a name representative of a particular meaning, image or metaphor, evoked a soft appreciation for the people responsible and a new sense of substance began to surround my anonymous biological parentage. It was around the time I learnt the meaning of my Vietnamese name, that I began a journey on which I would meet the ‘I’ that I may have been, an ‘I’ whom I definitely wasnot, and more importantly the ‘I’ that I could possibly become.

WHY VIETNAM?
In 2002, I traveled to Vietnam to visit my country of birth and to see Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, where my life began. I had always presumed that when the time was right, I would one day return. There were times in my life when I did not think much about going back to Vietnam. I had phases when I assumed a revisit would be an exciting adventure to pursue. And then, sometimes exploring the unknown felt a little daunting. For the most part though, there were simply other concerns, projects and life happenings to be focusing on. It was only a matter of when the ‘right time’ would arise, Vietnam wasn’t going anywhere.

(more…)


December 14, 2007

International Adoption, It’s a One-Way Dialogue

From Mother Jones:

When adoptive parents like myself try to keep the lid on controversy, we do
ourselves—and our kids—no favors.

by Elizabeth Larsen

November was National Adoption Awareness Month, and the
media—including Mother Jones, which recently published my story Did I
Steal My Daughter? The Tribulations of Global Adoption—have been doing
their best to bring fresh ideas to a much misrepresented topic. The New York
Times has joined the fray with, among other things, “Relative Choices,” an
engaging series of personal essays to which readers can post comments
online. As an adoptive mother, I’m delighted with the variety of
perspectives (though I do wish more birth parents had been included and feel
that the title “Relative Choices” is off tone—most adoptees don’t have
a “choice,” nor do birth mothers buckling under economic or societalpressures).

But there are viewpoints that aren’t given a lot of real estate, most
notably the perspectives of people—adoptees, birth families, adoptive
parents—who are deeply critical of adoption. Novelist Tama Janowitz’s
essay, published on November 12, unknowingly highlighted this disparity.
Intended to be a humorous look at generational resentment, the essay employs
the term “Mongolian” to describe her Chinese-born daughter’s features and
refers to a recently published book in which Midwestern adoptees in their
30s and 40s “complain bitterly” about their experiences and as a result
blame their parents. (The book, which Janowitz doesn’t name, is Outsiders
Within: Writing on Transnational Adoption.)

It didn’t take long before the blogosphere was buzzing not only about
the Janowitz essay, but also the fact that when some of those very same
“bitter complainers” tried to post their reactions, they couldn’t get past
the Times’ digital gatekeeper.

In its FAQ for posting comments, the Times makes it clear that its
criteria for allowing users to post comments are subjective and that
abusive, vulgar, or ad hominem comments are not tolerated. In the opinions
posted for stories that were not related to adoption, it is clear that the
website favors measured language over anything that tilts toward pissed off.
But how do you explain that a post that included the line “The term
Mongolian to describe Asian features went out of fashion the year your book
was published” was nixed when a response to an article about Camille Paglia
saying “Camille, dear. Return to your Madonna-lust and leave the rest of us
alone” did make it through? Several of the responses that were not published
are posted on Harlow’s Monkey, a blog by Jae Ran Kim, who was adopted from
South Korea and is now a social worker specializing in adoption. While some
of the comments might not be personally gratifying for Janowitz, none that
I’ve read are, in my opinion, anything that the general public needs to be
protected from. In the days that followed the flap over censorship, more
dissenting voices were included in the comments, including a posting by Kim.

The online scuttlebutt behind these omissions is that the “Relative
Choices” editor Peter Catapano, who is an adoptive father, is censoring
critical voices. I have no idea if Catapano had anything to do with the
filtering—neither he nor anyone else at the Times returned my phone
call or emails. But whether or not this incident was an example of an
adoptive parent censoring dissent, I think it’s vital that we recognize why
some adoption critics would not be surprised if it was so. The truth is that
it’s almost impossible to find those voices in American media. When The
Language of Blood author Jane Jeong Trenka—a Korean adoptee and
award-winning writer who tackles the difficulties she faced growing up in a
small Minnesota town with heartbreakingly gorgeous prose—tries to
submit her writing to magazines and newspapers, she gets virtually no
takers. Meanwhile, Korean editors print everything she writes.

Why? I think when it comes to adoption, American adoptive parents
(myself included) steer the discourse. We direct adoption agencies and think
tanks. We write the home studies of prospective adoptive parents. We are
policy experts and doctors and academics and journalists. We are passionate
about adoption—an institution that has given us so much—and
therein lies the problem: In our passion, we sometimes shield ourselves from
larger discussions about the toll that adoption can take, a discussion that
is in fact gaining traction across the globe. And in doing so, we are
preventing adoption from evolving.

When I attended a reading of Outsiders Within last winter, I was struck
by how much the intensity and the passion of the writers recalled the
pioneers of second-wave feminism. That movement upended our opinions about
marriage, and the institution survived for the better. Any adoptive parent
knows that the adoptive bond is not fragile. So why do we protect it from
the same kind of scrutiny?

Reading through the comments posted on “Relative Choices” and other
adoption blogs, it’s clear to me that if you are an adoptee and want to say
something critical about adoption, you had better make it abundantly clear
that you truly, absolutely love your mom and dad or you risk getting
berated. (A notable exception to these “quit whining” directives are the
respectful comments posted to Sumeia William’s “Relative Choices” essay
titled “I Am Not a Bridge,” the most hard-hitting selection in the series.)
In fact, expecting adoptees to publicly pledge their gratitude to their
parents is holding them to a standard no one else has to adhere to. Isn’t it
true that even if we hate our parents, we still love them?

Similarly, in some adoptive-parent communities, anything questioning
the current practices in the adoption universe leads to a virtual stoning of
the messenger. When UNICEF publicly states that they support intercountry
adoption—but only after all efforts to keep children in their birth
countries (through family preservation, foster care, or domestic adoption)
have failed—or the State Department weighs in with critical
assessments of Guatemalan and Vietnamese adoptions, tirades rain down.
Meanwhile, a Guatemalan adoption attorney who allegedly offered money to a
teenage birth mother’s father in exchange for the baby is praised by some
adoptive parents for her dedication.

I’m not saying that I want all adoptive parents to agree with the steps
UNICEF or State is taking to reform intercountry adoptions. But we need all
perspectives to get more space in the conversation—otherwise, we
parents are just patting each other on the back.

Since Mother Jones published my story, I’ve taken my own virtual
knocks. (Unlike the Times, Mother Jones only filters hate speech and
propaganda.) There’s not much reward in being called an egotistical
colonizer whose self-hating tendencies have rendered me a horrible mother.
But I will admit that even some of the more stinging criticisms have made me
pause long enough to rethink my assumptions.

This is a difficult time for transnational adoption, with troubling
news stories increasing and the future, at least in some countries, unclear.
But whatever the solutions may be, I don’t think we’ll find them by closing
ranks.

Elizabeth Larsen has worked for both Sassy and Utne Reader. She wrote about
her daughter in this year’s Choice: True Stories of Birth, Contraception,
Infertility, Adoption, Single Parenthood, and Abortion, and in the current
issue of Mother Jones.

@2007 The Foundation for National Progress

Original article: http://www.motherjones.com/news/update/2007/12/international-adoption-one-way-dialogue.html


May 30, 2007

Lucky to be Adopted

Filed under: Film Clips,Perspectives — Catherine @ 5:21 pm

A term often used to refer to adoptees is "lucky." Adoptees are lucky because they have been "rescued" from a bad situation and placed into a better one. Below, Dr. Amanda Baden discusses the consequences of using this term and what effect it has on adoptees.


May 18, 2007

Jen’s Experiences with Name Calling

“Adopted: The New American Family” follows Jen, an adult Korean adoptee, as she confronts issues of race and identity. In the video clip below, Jen has frank discussions with her parents about being teased as a child because of her race. Watch the video and tell us about your experiences with your child’s racial identity. Or if you’re an adoptee, let us know what it was like to grow up confronting racism and how you discussed your feelings with your parents.


January 2, 2007

Asian Women as Exotic

Amanda Baden, a transracial adoptee and adoption psychologist, on the exotification of Asian culture.

One of the interesting facets of being Asian in American, an Asian woman in America is recognizing in our culture that there is a tendency to exoticize Asian women in this society. And so for parents who are raising children who are Chinese and adopted, their recognition of that may take on a different tone. They may not be aware of it in the same way that I, as an adult woman, am aware of it. And so, emphasizing the child’s tie to Chinese heritage and cultures is wonderful; but, there is also this tendency to sort of–there can be a fine line I guess I should say– between objectifying being Chinese and celebrating being Chinese. And so when we objectify and exoticize this Far East kind of place, then it doesn’t become real to us here in America. And it’s hard to incorporate that sense of what China is in our everyday experience. So for a child who only sees that being Chinese means wearing those silk jackets and doing line dances, may be an inaccurate way for them to think about it. And may not help them at all understand how they interact as a Chinese person in school or at work with their friends on the playground. So we have to sort of balance it much more carefully.


On Feeling Lucky to Be Adopted

Amanda Baden, a transracial adoptee and a counseling psychologist, discusses the view that children adopted from China are often viewed as "lucky" to have been adopted by American parents.

One of the real struggles in adoption has been that people who are adopted, particularly from China at this stage in the game is that, these girls are always talked about as lucky. They are so lucky to have been adopted. What a great thing your doing for them. Which implies then that they need to be grateful and that they should be thankful for what’s happened in their lives. Which, as we know, isn’t always the case. They didn’t ask to be abandoned. They didn’t ask to be adopted. That doesn’t mean that they’re lives aren’t better, that they don’t’ have positive relationships and real loving relationships with family. But what it does mean is when gratitude is expected for being a child of a parent it somehow says that they aren’t allowed to be angry. They aren’t allowed to have frustration and they might not– if they have any sort of dissatisfaction, its something that they have to keep to themselves and internalize. That it’s not a family issue. It’s an individual issue. And I think as a clinician it’s really a family issue a lot of times. If everyone can tolerate being able to look at themselves a little more objectively and with a little bit more of an eye towards improving rather than criticism, then it can be very effective for everyone involved.


December 17, 2006

International Adoption Should Be Last Resort

Filed under: Film Clips,For Parents,Perspectives,Videos — Catherine @ 5:52 pm

Dana Johnson, the Director of Research and Education at the International Adoption Clinic, speaks on international adoption as the last resort. To learn more about Dr. Johnson, click here.

We just don’t talk about international adoption in terms of what effect it’s having on the countries of origin and how we’re viewed both in the United States and Western Europe by sending countries. I think we forget that the most important thing is for children to stay with their families and the vast majority of children come into international adoption because their families relinquish them because of poverty. Many are single women, but some are families but just don’t have resources to take care of another hungry mouth. You know, instead of bringing them into our countries and adopting them into our families, perhaps we should be sending money over there to help them stay with their families. Or we should be sending money over there to develop the adoption systems within that particular country so that those children can be placed with other families. And there are families in every country that would like to adopt.Only as a last resort should children be taken for international adoption and placed out of their country into a different country.