Am I Adopted-American?

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?


9 Responses to “Am I Adopted-American?”

  1. 1 imtina July 17, 2007 at 4:42 am


    Love this post and for sending me off to do my chores while thinking about the phrase ‘identity politics’ I think the outside world might be able to hold onto that kind of concept vs. saying the usual, “Um..yeah, I’m adopted and that’s been a tough road because of my search and reunion and growing up not looking like the family who raised me and I was supposed to not talk about how I really felt…” etc. etc

    Language is very important. Thank you for that.


  2. 2 sume July 17, 2007 at 7:55 am

    I think the line between TRA/ICA and DA is much finer than it seems. You raise an interesting question. Given the way things are headed, I think it’s quite possible as many of our concerns like adoptee rights are intertwined. But who knows?

  3. 3 Julie July 17, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    For years, I have considered ALL adoptees as “my people.” We are a microcosm and, within, there are microcosms representing variations of a commonality of experience and variations of a commonality of responses to that experience. What we need is solidarity. Can it happen in our isolated electronic culture? If “Move On” can do it, why can’t we?

  4. 4 Amy July 18, 2007 at 1:34 am

    I am with Julie on this one. All adoptees,DA,IRA,IA, Surrogates, Donor , are my brothers and sisters. I can relate to adoptees best.

  5. 5 stewie July 19, 2007 at 3:21 am

    What binds us is loss. Plain and simple, we all of us have suffered the innate loss of mother, of country (yes even us HWI) & of culture. (without meaning to draw a trite analogy, on a smaller scale that jello salad we grew up with is nothing like the spam sandwiches our natural mothers would have made for us.) I believe we have spiritual culture, soul culture with our natural dna. All of us lose that regardless of culture. The Loss not just of Mother but of EASE of existence is something that binds us for sure.

  6. 6 Possum July 21, 2007 at 2:42 am

    I think we are all brothers and sisters – one as adoptees.
    I think that perhaps (for instance) issues for TRA adoptees are perhaps more visible to some. (‘some’ being all those that aren’t adoptees!!)
    But we ALL have such very similar issues – and we’re all told that we’re better off because
    we were adopted – and that we should ‘just get over’ our issues.
    Poss. xx

  7. 7 Lisa Marie July 24, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    This is such an interesting post and really points to the ways in which ALL adoptees struggle with identity issues that have to with loss, loyalty, the unknown past, the known past, family cultures and ethnic identities – all of the issues that are adoption issues. I totally agree that we have commonalities. I also agree that TRA/IA issues seem more complex because they are VISIBLE in a way that same-race adoptions are not. But like TRA/ IA commonalities – I believe its important to remember – like Stewie points out – its the loss that binds us.

  8. 8 thoughtful1 July 28, 2007 at 12:05 am

    You know, if I had to choose between a group of American adoptees, American people of color, non-adopted white folks, and non-adopted Korean Americans, I’d go with the American adoptees. Not that I’ve ever thought much about that sort of scenario, but your post highlighted something for me: other adoptees, whether TRA or IA or DA, are more likely to understand the limboland I live in; how I’m neither this nor that but some sort of inbetween.


  9. 9 JR August 10, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    I agree with everyone else here, and especially want to echo Lisa Marie’s statement – we TRA’s and IA’s are just more visible.

    Great post!

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