For a while now, obviously adopted kids (TRAs, pretty much) have been drawing my attention a lot more than they used to. International adoption is obviously the new big thing, what with all those celebrities doing it, and I just can’t seem to go anywhere without seeing white couples with little non-white kids in tow. I really notice them, not so much because of the transracial/international adoption thing, but because they’re obviously adoptees.
Yesterday we took our daughter to a friend’s birthday party that was thrown at a big kid-friendly place with lots of preschoolers and their families around. I was noticing all these kids who were almost certainly adopted and trying not to seem like some creep by watching too closely (plus I had my own hyper preschooler who had just had too much sugar to worry about), when it hit me that one of the reasons they drew my attention so much was that I was identifying with them. On some level, I was thinking, These are my people.
Now, I am not a transracial or international adoptee myself, and I will not pretend even for a second that white Baby Scoop Era adoptees placed with white adoptive families have the same experiences as TRAs and IAs. But there are similarities. There are things about being adopted that unite us and give us at least a better shot at understanding one another than non-adoptees. While I may not be able to fully understand the TRA/IA experience, I can certainly understand enough of it to realize how much more fucked up it is than my own when I read transracial and international adoptee blogs (sume, vietK, Lisa Marie, and so many others that I wish I had time for).
Some of the TRA/IA issues are similar to all adoptees’ issues, but writ large, global scale, epic. The “wrong tummy” story can be inferred to a whole new level — wrong country, wrong race, just for starters. Larger scale, same crappy put-down. Others, I admit, are beyond my own experience, and I won’t try to speak for transracial and international adoptees in this blog. But when I see these TRA/IA families, I feel a sort of kinship with those kids. They’ll probably have adoption fog, and various moments of clarity, and people telling them or at least implying they should be grateful, not just for what their adoptive parents have done for them, but for being a part of their families. They’ll wonder about their natural families, some will search, some will be reunited, and some will find a grave.
I think a lot of what constitutes group identity is common experience. In the US, for example, white people generally have certain experiences in common that are different from African-Americans, Latinos, and other groups, just as each of those groups have common experiences that set them apart as well. These aren’t just experiences that have already occurred, but the experiences that one can expect to have as a person with a particular group identity. Race, gender, sexuality, they all set you up for certain things that others who share that aspect of your identity will be able to understand better than anyone else.
I think being adopted is like this. We have our own internal subgroups, of course. BSE babies like me, people who are TRAs and IAs, people who are one of those but not the other, late discovery adoptees, open adoption adoptees, maybe donor kids and surrogate births too. And we won’t always be able to understand each other’s experiences. But somehow I feel like there really is more that connects us than just having some random fact about our lives in common. There are so many things we know that we don’t have to say to each other. There are so many things that we just “get” that non-adoptees never really will.
So if being an adoptee is a type of group identity, rather than being something that a group of people just happen to have in common like blood type or astrological sign, then are adoptee politics a type of identity politics?