Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What NOT to Say to Adopted People

Here's a list (I'm only giving you part of it, so you have to go read the whole thing!) from 20-something Korean adoptee Jess Gambacurta:

  • “I’m not sure I could ever love an adopted child as my own.” ……..j3i2oqrfanslkjdf3s If I have to explain this one you are both a royal asshat and an idiot.

    * * *

  • What’s your nationality/heritage/culture?” OK, first off—nationality, heritage, and culture all have different definitions. Let’s get that straight and take a second to look those up and get comfortable with them. Secondly, after American, I’d probably say Italian. You wanna mess with me? I’ll punch your lights out! You’ll wish I was kidding.

  • “So, what’s it like being adopted?” Um, a lot like being your mom or dad’s kid. Really. I swear. I don’t constantly stare in the mirror and wonder why we look different, if that’s what you’re wondering.

  •  Any adoptees out there want to add to the list?  Post in the comments, please!


    Amanda said...

    The only one of those I think I would have on my own list is "where are you from?" This is because white people in the U.S. tend to ask this question to people of color, as if because someone isn't white then they must not have been born and raised here.

    While I do not think it is the job of minority/marginalized groups (e.g. racial, ethnic, gender) to teach, I don't have a problem entering into a discussion about race and culture. I think more people should talk about these topics.

    I don't like it when people phrase things in the way that tells the adoptee how to feel. For example, if you want to know if I've reunited, ask me "have you reunited with your other family." Don't tell me which one of them is or isn't my "real" family. If you want to know what being adopted is like just ask "what's being adopted like?" Don't say "being adopted is the same as being biologically-raised [insert how person should feel about it here]."

    My #1 questions I haaaaate is "aren't you glad you weren't aborted?" or "aren't you glad your mother made such a loving, selfless plan for you?"

    If people want to know something, they should just ask plain and simple. Not put their own agenda behind it--when they do that, it's not a question. They're stating what they already believe about me/adoption and putting a question mark at the end.

    I guess I don't really have a problem with questions. I wish people would ask me more (at appropriate time and places) so that our culture could learn to be more inclusive to the unique experiences of adoptees. It's just *how* people ask that I don't like.

    Jess said...

    Thanks for linking to my post! That was born out of frustration from an early morning office encounter. I normally don't blog about these kinds of things, and I certainly don't think that my aggressive-aggressive (as opposed to passive-aggressive) reaction to people about adoption is the right way. It's just my way.

    I think Amanda makes some great points about how people like to ask these leading questions with their own agendas/preexisting beliefs about adoption. It's very frustrating.

    I think because I feel so strongly connected with my "adopted" heritage, I would much rather be like, "Oh, you're adopted and your family is Italian. Neat! So you must really like pasta?" If one more person asks me what I think about North Korea (...I know as much as the next person, which is to say very little) or asks how to use chopsticks, I will go bananas.

    Jess said...

    Addendum: My last comment about pasta is a bit flippant, if that wasn't clear. Stereotypes all around are kind of bad. I just wish people would ask me about things that really do define or describe my childhood/background/family experiences instead of harping and asking leading questions about my "Asianness."

    Linda said...

    To me, none of these things are really offensive. Ive had just about every question/compliment/insult thrown at me regarding adoption. We are a curiosity.

    The one that always puzzled me most was kidnapping. I mean, seriously? Like I would have known if I was kidnapped as a baby?

    I was raised by Italian ap's, and I am not Italian. While I embrace their culture, heritage and traditions, they are not mine. My a family members all looked very much the same, and I (being Irish) looked nothing like them. I got the "where are you from", or "WHAT are you" from many people in our community.

    I would just answer the "where are you from" question with a sigh and shoulder shrug, lol. Sometimes, Id say "the orphanage"...both somewhat honest answers, because that is all I knew.

    I do not feel as if being raised by ap's is the same as being raised by natural parents. Not even close. I may have a different view on this because my ap's had a natural child in addition to 2 adopted children. I saw with my own eyes those very real differences. No difference in love, mind you, but differences in every other way.

    I also believe that I have 4 very real parents. If I did not, 2 would not exist.

    The one thing that really bugs me is when people find out about my reunion and ask how my ap's feel about it. I usually answer that my reunion does not concern them, or that my parents know I was adopted, so it was only logical that I would find my natural family.

    Anonymous said...

    @ Jess,

    I find you so refreshing! How thrilling to know that I am not the only adult adoptee who happily identifies with their adoptive family's heritage, even if it differs from the biology of it all!I simply could care less about a family's traditions from overseas of whom I didn't share in or grow up with!

    And honestly? Sometimes giving folks a dose of reality and answering with a firm approach is just what folks need ~ cuz quite frakly some things should NEVER be asked by a total stranger!

    Thanks for sharing!

    @Linda & Amanda,

    @Linda, I get the opposite; shock and often hostility when I tell folks(who have asked) I have no interest in reuniting/searching for my bio. family. You are right, only in my case I remind folks that I don't owe said search to my bio. family!Its not about their needs or possible wishes. At the end of day its about what I decide.

    @ Amanda, I agree that in your case a forthright nosey :) approach is best if folks absolutely MUST know your private business! Still wish more folks would exercise restraint though.


    Linda said...

    @ Lydia- yup. It is about what YOU want and what YOU decide, and no one else. It is such an intensely personal decision.

    Campbell said...

    @ Lydia...another adult adoptee here who "happily identifies with their adoptive family's heritage, even if it differs from the biology of it all!"

    When people ask me what I am (just in general conversation, nothing to do with being adopted but maybe to do with holiday traditions or language ) I say by blood I'm not a 100% positive but I was raised with ____ influence.

    It's then I may get the adoption questions, none of which especially bug me.