The kids and I have been talking off and on about Florent Amodio, the Olympic skater who was adopted from Brazil by a French couple. I said something along the lines of, "I think it's cool that you have something in common with an Olympian -- you're both international adoptees!"
Zoe replied, "Whoa, wait a minute. I'm not an adoptee, I'm just a kid!"
Wow, what does that mean? She knows she's adopted. But is she rejecting the view of herself as adopted? Is she saying she doesn't want to be labeled? Is she clarifying that "adopted" isn't all she is?
So I asked, "Why aren't you an adoptee?"
Zoe's simple answer: "I'm just a kid whose adopted, not a grownup! Grownups are adoptees!"
I was talking to a friend of mine about this; S. is a professor of education who teaches a course about special education. She was reminding me of the importance of not labeling, and that with special needs kids, the preferred trend is to focus on the PERSON first. So it is a "person with autism," not an "autistic person."
An important reminder for how to talk about people who are adopted? I use the label "adoptee" for simplicity's sake, same for adoptive parents and birth parents. I've learned some things over the years, like being careful about the phrase "birth mother" for someone who is pregnant but has not relinquished -- that might be a "potential" birth mother, but she isn't a birth mother yet. I try not to use the term adopter, because some adoptive parents find it insulting. I often see the phrase "adopted person" instead of adoptee, but even that doesn't follow the "put the person first" rule.
This isn't just "political correctness." I believe that words do matter. "Adopter" seems to deny adoptive parents the title of parent. "Birth mother" for a woman who has not yet relinquish seems to suggest that relinquishment is a foregone conclusion. And a label like adoptee suggests a singular identity instead of a whole person.I'm still pondering the issue of "adoptee" v. "adopted person" v. "person who is/was adopted (is or was is the subject of another post!)" -- any advice?