Tales of Wonderlost

I'm a Korean-American adoptee living in Seoul, just finished my MA in Anthropology (yes, i took all of my classes in Korean TT). In my spare time, I volunteer at two great organizations: Korean Unwed Mothers' Families Association (KUMFA) and the Women's Global Solidarity Action Network (WGSAN) - a group that works on various issues, including with the survivors of military sexual slavery during WWII ("Comfort Women"). I also love cooking and baking and going to the noraebang ^^ To make a monthly donation to the Korean Unwed Mothers' Families Association, please click below!!
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Posts tagged "transracial adoption"

However, I have been thrown off by a statement that sometimes gets tossed into my conversations. The statement: “Your family is absolutely amazing. Makes me wish I was adopted” has been a tough one for me to figure out how to answer. When Bryan is present I am glad for the opportunity to exchange glances with him, silently inquiring ”did you hear that, too?” Bryan often tries to soften the blow in his wonderfully understanding way by making assumptions as to the more likely meaning of the comment. I generally know the intention behind the statement, but that doesn’t lessen the sting or make it any more acceptable. Words are important…

Even with the recent media surrounding rehoming of adoptees, there continues to be a general love for the ‘rags to riches’ stories, a certain fascination with the projection that adoptees are grateful for a “better life” (check out adoptee Lisa Marie Rollins’ show Ungrateful Daughter). I routinely receive messages of love and praise regarding Closure as folks seem to view my life as quite idealistic and use words like strong and determined to describe my steadfast drive for answers and the years sleuthing to find information. Although there is certainly truth to those adjectives, I feel the need to make sure its known that the only reason I had the opportunity to personify these traits is because of an inability to know my own truth. Although a portion of my life has been communicated via a movie format, my life is not the Annie story. Closure moviegoers tend to get swept up by the hope and romance of the impending reunion with my birth parents and forget about the pain, separation, confusion and abandonment that had to have been present in order for my adoption to have even taken place. There is no adoption without tragedy somewhere along the line. Although my uniquely beautiful [adoptive] family is wonderful, wishing to be adopted isn’t a compliment. I’d propose that the actual intentions of a comment or tweet of this nature is something more akin to; “Sometimes I wonder how it’d feel to be part of a family without any genetic ties or biological expectations.”

What if adoptees responded by saying; “I wish I knew who gave birth to me.”

excellent post. i have also heard this soooo many times. also, as the author states, i have also often heard people compliment or romanticize what i do here in korea by suggesting that maybe i was “meant” to be adopted in order to come back to korea and make a difference in korean society. i know that the intentions behind such statements are coming from positive and innocent places but it is a dangerous line of thinking. it erases the family trauma, it erases the fact that my korean mother had her two daughters taken from her without her permission, it erases the hardships and emotional struggles that i went through being adopted and feeling lost about my identity and haunted by a lack of answers about myself. i know that people are trying to put a positive spin on it, make lemonade out of lemons - but sometimes we just need to face the negative, stare it in the face, call it what it is so that we can really come to terms with it. my being adopted was not some “calling” or “destiny” - just as i won’t deny the positive parts of my adoption experience, let’s not ignore the negative parts by trying to wrap it up in a neat, nice package that lets people forget the uncomfortable parts that must be confronted.

once again, talking about transracial adoption WITHOUT including the voices of TRANSRACIAL ADOPTEES! why are adoptees one of the few minorities who don’t get to speak for ourselves?? because people think we are perpetually children who need our adoptive parents or social workers to speak to our needs and experiences. would you talk about whether race matters in another context without including the voices of those direcly affected?? NO! i’m getting &!:&2&3@ tired of seeing this crap. not only do adult adoptees have the actual lived experience (that no adoptive parent or “expert” can have regardless of how long they study adoption - unless they are also adoptees), MANY also have the degrees to back up their lived experience, for those who believe school = expertise. bottom line: there is NO ONE else better equipped to speak on transracial adoption than transracial adoptees!! 

i had to move to seoul before i learned to find my own reflection pleasing (which i wrote about here) it took me 27 years.

ps. this article is super “easy on the ears” - he even says that he’s not against transracial adoption (and is open about the colorism within black adoptive families) and STILL people are calling him an ungrateful, whiny brat with “issues” - that’s basically a given whenever adoptees are critical of adoption.

NPR contacted me and asked me to be a part of the Sunday Conversation that aired yesterday morning. I spoke in depth about my story, my upbringing, the challenges and joys of my experience being raised by Caucasian parents… I was stunned to wake up and hear the one-sided, tired, age old perspective that we’ve heard so many times before. A loving, Caucasian adoptive parent of three African American children was the only voice to hear. 

The adoptive mother was asked by NPR host if she fears the stereotypes her black son may face as he grows. Why not simply ask a trans-racially adopted man how discrimination has affected his upbringing and adulthood?

BREAKING NEWS NPR: We no longer need to speculate about the challenges trans-racially adopted children may face as they grow. The first hand answers for these important questions can be answered by qualified, educated, articulate adult adoptees (or birthparents) found by doing a quick Google search.

…This discussion is about how the mainstream media chooses to portray transracial adoption… Please stop speaking for us and assuming that your speculations are our realities. This discussion is about coming to terms with the fact that adoption ethics, practice and policies will not change until the public is willing to hear out more than just the adoptive parents’ perspective or their hopes and biased desires for our lives.

Trans-racial adoptees have a unique bond. This is the reason why adult adoptees were so outspoken about the Baby Veronica case, and why we are speaking out now. We adult adoptees acknowledge our different paths and childhoods, and understand that no two adoption experiences are exactly alike or give any one adoptee more credibility than another. We understand the struggles inherent within being adopted in a unique way that nobody else can understand – not even our own well intentioned, loving, adoptive parents. However, those of us who were trans-racially adopted no longer need our Caucasian parents to speak for us. We are grown up now. We can do it.

yea, also transracial adoptees don’t tell our (white) parents about the racism we face growing up because 1) it’s humiliating 2) we don’t want to make them sad/angry 3) they are “colorblind” and don’t think racism exists so we know they won’t believe us. 

(white) adoptive parents of children of color should really stop assuming they know what their adopted child is facing, particularly in terms of race or birth families, because many of us don’t talk about it either to protect our parents or ourselves. 

the whole article is worth a read and MHP was/is/will always be the best.

made rebloggable by request.

[Image description: Photo of an anonymous ask, “Can you recommend any non-fiction or fiction books on adoption that you enjoy reading? Someone suggested to me Finding Fernanda, but I was looking for a few more to add to my list.”]

language of blood, fugitive visions - both by jane jeong trenka. language of blood, i cannot recommend enough.

comforting an orphaned nation - tobias hubinette. this is more of a scholarly piece but the writing is awesome and he knows more about the history of korean adoption that probably anyone out there. i love his postcolonial theory analysis. 

outsiders within - an anthology of writings about transracial adoption by transracial adoptees.

a single square picture - katy robinson. another memoir that is also well-known (but i prefer jane’s personally)

the letter never sent (I and II) - letters from birthparents to their children 

adopted territory - eleana kim. not an adoptee, she’s s korean american scholar who has done tons of adoption research - this is a pretty comprehensive look at korean adoption, adoptee communities, and adoptees returning to korea.

there are TONS more. but i’ll spare you from my whole thesis bibliography. also, you said “enjoy” so i tried to pick books that are a bit more “reader friendly.”

THE LANGUAGE IN THIS IS SO DISGUSTING - their attitude is clear, the business of selling children must go on!! 

We know what you’re thinking… The Korea program? Didn’t Korea just pass a law slowing the adoption process? And doesn’t Korea now require families to travel twice to complete their adoption?”  

(The buying process just got harder for you because god forbid you should actually have to travel to adopt your child - so that they can get automatic US citizenship and avoid being deported like some adult adoptees today - instead of them being delivered to you in the past)

So give me one good reason why I should adopt from Korea?

(but here’s why you should still give us your money)

1. Because children in Korea still need loving families to adopt them.

(actually, no. most of them don’t. 90% of the children sent for adoption today are the children of unwed mothers who essentially have no other “choice” but to give their children up for adoption. if there’s no other choice, can we really call it a “choice”??? more here)

2. While the process has changed, the children have not! Although slightly older, children coming home to families are still toddler-age.

(the product is not as fresh, the toddlers might be a bit stale, but they still won’t have gone rotten by the time you get them)

3. Like most other country programs, all children referred from Korea now have at least some health issues. But their conditions are often so minor that children are actually considered healthy in the U.S. Common conditions include prematurity, low birth weight or a minor heart murmur.

(we are manipulating the slightly lower health conditions of children into “children with disabilities” in order to send as many children for adoption as possible)…. and finally….

The Korea program is still strong, and still moving…For 57 years, Holt has been uniting children from Korea with loving adoptive families in the U.S. Although rumors of end times in Korean adoption have ebbed and flowed over the years, children from Korea have continued to find homes overseas at a steady, uninterrupted pace – and we expect this legacy to continue for many years to come.

(if there’s money to be made by manipulating western couples’ desire to parent, unwed mothers’ guilt and shame, and adoptees’ birth records - we’ve done it for 57 years and can be damn sure we will find a way to continue to do it!

angryfixmixtape:

Being an Asian American adoptee in the US means nothing and everything. It means being an unbalanced equation in America’s weird racial math. It means being a completed puzzle with missing pieces. People project their views of race onto you, and you bounce them back distorted, like a fun house mirror.”

Happy Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage month, everyone! Check out my piece on being a Korean American adoptee at Beyond Hallyu.

excellent, excellent piece: 

"I was born in Busan and adopted to the US at six months old. I’m told I was born to an unwed mother who gave me up for adoption because of the shame of bringing up a boy without a father in Korea. I’m also told that the adoption agency I came through has a propensity for making up these types of stories. Like the refugee or the prisoner, the soldier or the peace activist, my entire existence has been profoundly human and also couched in rhetoric. The adoptee is both proud and burdened. There are days when I’m not sure who I am.

For the first 8-10 years of my life, I was actually part of that racism, brought up on the binary of good black people vs. bad black people, taught the nuances of Mexican and Puerto Rican work ethic. This was what growing up in a white family afforded me, the privilege of not having to think about my own otherness and how the system worked for me while neglecting others.

In school, things were different. My school was about half white and half black with Latin@s making up a sizeable portion of the population. Every day, someone would make sure I knew I wasn’t white. Whether it was the boy whose name and face are burned into my memory calling me ‘Chinese boy’ for the entirety of recess nearly every day for two years or kids I didn’t know who threw nonsense syllables at me trying to sound like the language they thought I spoke, I was always aware of my body as other, my flat nose and small eyes, hair dark and straight that no one seemed to be able to cut.

The adoptee is supposed to forget their identity while constantly being reminded of it.

For their part, my parents made efforts to make sure I wasn’t ashamed of my background. We went to Korean heritage festivals, and they encouraged me to research Korea for school projects, but I never saw myself in those things. Korea was a foreign country with a foreign language. It existed in food and on maps, in demographic statistics and facts about history, but not really as a part of me. I wasn’t Korean. But I wasn’t completely American, either. Eating food with names I couldn’t pronounce once a year wasn’t the same as having a family who understood what it felt like to be made fun of for the body I too often felt was a burden that I was stuck with.

I became obsessed with Tupac and Bob Dylan. As a teenager, I read WEB DuBois and Langston Hughes. James Baldwin and Anthony Burgess showed me how fiction can influence society. No, these weren’t the Asian American role models that I was looking to admire, but if I couldn’t find an image that reflected me, at least I found words that resonated. There are plenty of Asian writers I could have looked to, but I didn’t know that then. No one ever recommended Jeff Chang or Maxine Hong Kingston to me at the time—you have to remember my family still had dialup internet and one phone line—but I had friends who walked through school, bulky headphones around their necks with “Me Against the World” blasting from their Walkmen.

I ended up clinging to a lot of elements of black culture because I often felt like I didn’t have a culture of my own. While I was not a part of that community, the alienation from mainstream culture spoke to me, a different kind of alienation from that of, say, grunge kids in their worn flannel or the wannabe hippies who seem to crop up with every generation. This wasn’t about generational differences or rhetoric. This was, at its core, the struggle to be recognized as human and recognize the humanity in myself.”

speaking of diaspora. while doing my research for my thesis, i’ve been thinking a lot about the korean adoptee community as a diaspora. in her article, "the turn to diaspora", lily cho writes:

Diaspora brings together communities which are not quite nation, not quite race, not quite religion, not quite homesickness, yet they still have something to do with nation, race, religion, longings for homes which may not exist. There are collectivities and communities which extend across geographical spaces and historical experiences. There are vast numbers of people who exist in one place and yet feel intimately related to another. 

researching and writing about the korean adoptee community as a diaspora has been therapeutic for me in more ways than one.  

cho writes that while the major condition of diasporic communities is a “traumatic dislocation”, that the diasporic subjectivity does not rest solely in the realm of loss. her most exciting passage turns instead to the agency of diasporic communities,

…these histories are not merely narratives of a faraway past disconnected from contemporary subjectivities and memories. The question then becomes one of thinking through how it is that these histories are also histories of the present. How do historical experiences of incarceration and bondage in the service of empire emerge in the formation of contemporary identities? What are the forms of transmission? Who carries these histories into the present? What transformations in these histories occur in the process of transmission and how are these histories transformative? 

while diasporic communities do have their origins in a history of loss, we are also able to use this common history as transformative power. 

this video is actually an art installation that was made by an adoptee artist named suki through the support of TRACK. the installation was created while a coalition of adoptee groups (TRACK, ASK, KoRoot), KUMFA, and a public interest lawyers’ group was lobbying to amend korea’s adoption law (which adoption agencies and adoptive parents’ groups are now trying to re-amend). it was set up in the national assembly building so that people had to walk through it. suki and other volunteers stamped every single one of these tags with a number (if you look carefully, you’ll also see my photo). each one represents one adoptee that was sent abroad. the original goal was to hang 200,000 to represent the approximate number of adoptees sent abroad. however, they stopped at 60,000… barely over 25%. can you even imagine 200,000? now imagine that they are all real people who had to deal with the loss of losing their families and homeland. now imagine that they had real mothers and fathers who also had to deal with the trauma of losing their children. 

but now the adoptee diaspora has come back to korea to transform our legacy of loss into a legacy of positive social change. we are building solidarity relationships with birth family groups and unwed mothers groups in order to put a stop to this unnecessary but still continuing legacy of loss. 

that is the meaning and power of diaspora.