As a White woman adopted by White parents, I was expected to just be whatever they are. When I told my [Adoptive] Mom that Priscilla had helped me trace my Natural roots, she initially didn't want to talk about it. She wanted to know why I didn't consider their ancestry my own ancestry. She felt that by claiming my biological roots, I was rejecting my Adoptive Family.(Go read the whole thing -- lots more there!)
I felt like she was rejecting me by not wanting me to claim my roots as my own (things are better now, as you know).
Is there a difference between pretending to be the direct descendant of a German immigrant who was wounded in the Civil War rather than acknowledging that you're the direct descendant of an English immigrant from the Mayflower? I think so. Why? Because one belongs to someone else and the other belongs to me.
I'm sure that none of us would argue that adoptees must research ONLY their adoptive family's ancestry, or that they must NOT research their biological ancestry. But I think sometimes adoptive parents will think that our ancestry is a perfectly fine substitute for biological ancestry when information about biological ancestry isn't easily available. I find that attitude pretty dismissive of biological ancestry. But is Amanda right that her adoptive parents' ancestors belongs to someone else, not to her? (I'm not suggesting Amanda is wrong -- how she feels about it is what is right for her, and I absolutely get why she feels that way. Maybe I'm asking whether it is weird for an adoptee to feel differently.)
Back on a previous post on the topic, Wendy mentioned in the comments that her husband was biologically related to Abraham Lincoln, and I asked whether it meant that her daughter adopted from China was related to Abraham Lincoln. For her daughter, the answer is no -- she doesn't see herself related to Lincoln. My question is whether other people would say that M. is related to Lincoln? I'd suspect they wouldn't see M. as related to Lincoln, and while I find it perfectly fine for M. not to see herself as related to Lincoln, I have to ask what it means when other people don't see her as related to Lincoln.
Is it a good thing when others don't see an adoptee as related to a distant ancestor of the adoptive parents? It's certainly an acknowledgement of the importance of biology, isn't it? It confirms what adult adoptees tell us -- biology is important, knowing your biological roots is important to identity formation, having access to original birth certificates is important because it provides the information needed to search for near (in time) and distant (in time) biological roots.
But that runs counter to the "same as" narrative of adoption -- adoption is the same as biological relationship. Adding a child to the family via adoption is the same as adding a child to the family via birth. For the "same as" narrative, M. is related to Lincoln, isn't she?
And herein lies my ambivalence on the subject. I reject the "same as" narrative. Adoption is different, bringing an origin in loss and grief and pain, bringing different parenting issues, bringing additional work for a child in healthy identity formation. But at the same time, I don't want anyone to take anything away from my children because of their adopted status, not even their adoptive ancestry if they wish to claim it.
I think I'm guilty of wanting to see adoption as only additive -- you acquire more ancestors through adoption, but you don't lose any of your biological ancestors because of adoption. So as an adoptee what is available to you as ancestors is whoever you choose from your adoptive family and from your biological family.
So if Zoe wants to see herself as Chinese & French right now, that's fine. And if another day she wants to see herself as just Chinese, that's fine, too. But then, what if she were to decide she was only French? Not so fine.
Because ancestry and ethnic group has an additional layer in transracial adoption. . . .
I've said before that writing helps me think through issues, so the stream of conciousness writing above is really thinking through my fingertips. Tell me what you think, that helps me figure out what I think, too!