Othering Adoptees

18 Jun

The post below is from 2018 and a lot has happened in the intervening years, especially the last couple of years. I think a refresher on this subject is necessary because I’m seeing this happen more frequently online, minor edits and formatting have changed from the original.

What made you (an AP) the expert on which adoptees can be heard?

If you know me well, the title tells you this is a post where I’m going to vent a little, blow off steam that’s been percolating for nigh onto a week. 

Othering adoptees is not okay.  Us old-timers can take it because we have btdt and can see what you say comes from ignorance, insecurity, or just plain old hypocrisy. Younger adoptees can’t and you are making their journey of discovery harder than it needs to be.

It doesn’t matter if the adoptee is anti or pro adoption – othering them is not okay. 

Deliberately holding up your friend of a friend who is adopted and never thinks about being adopted and is too busy living her life to be one line – is not okay. Telling them adoption is so different from it was in their era (despite it being the same) is othering them. If you don’t want to hear their views, scroll on by, block them, just don’t other them. When was the last time you heard an adoptee who knew a friend of a friend who was an adoptive parent who felt the opposite to whatever you espoused and used that to shut you down and invalidate your voice? I’m not going to say that never happens, but it certainly doesn’t happen at the rate adoptive parents other adoptees in the same room happens.

And it’s not okay not only because you are pitting one adoptee against the other, you are deliberately being mean-spirited and you are missing the point completely. Being adopted and interested in adoption and engaging in adoption conversations is not something abnormal. When your life trajectory is fundamentally changed by an event it’s pretty normal to be interested in it, want to talk with others about at different points in your journey. Even as a child at camp – all the ones adopted sought each other out the first day and spent the week together because of the commonality of the shared experience, and it helped being around others adoptees. Today, there are camps designed to give space for adoptees to spend time with each other because they realized it’s good for our souls. As an adult, both the history of adoption and the current process and practices fascinate me, the areas that are better are good, the areas that have travelled down the slippery-slope make me mad.  The topic fascinates me, and others like me as well, the friendships made, I value.

Your words, posture, actions in regards to discussions tell your child far more about how you personally feel about adoption, and in this case their peers, than anything else. Children pick up on everything that has anything to do with adoption, even if you don’t think they do, we do. And, if you think asking their view helps your case, regardless of how they feel at that specific age, doesn’t mean they will always feel the same. Your goal should be to be ready to walk alongside them at all points in this journey of being adopted, your role is to be neutral. If they know going in that you get you feelings hurt about anything that doesn’t laud being adopted and adoption, you won’t ever have the chance to be a safe shoulder to cry on, the person they turn to, they’ll find another shoulder or way to process their feelings.

There is nothing abnormal about adoptees talking about adoption, unless talking about being a mom in mom groups is abnormal, or talking about being an adoptive mom in an adoption group is abnormal.  Or talking about any of the many life challenges and events in a group created for that purpose is abnormal.

If adoption is so beautiful, how is being defined by being adopted bad? 

Ask yourself why you think that being defined by a life-altering event is bad when we are all defined by our lived experiences, the professions we choose, the lifestyle we chose, who we associate with.  Ask yourself hard questions like does the reason I don’t want them defined by being adopted have anything to do with the fact that we had to adopt to become parents.  If it does, you have your own work to do.

I’ll close with this: how you treat adoptees online today, is how the next generation of adoptees (your children) will also be treated.  Be a leader and stand up against othering adoptees today.


Posted by on June 18, 2021 in Adoption, adoptive parents


Tags: , , , , , ,

12 responses to “Othering Adoptees

  1. Lara/Trace

    June 19, 2021 at 9:20 pm

    I love this post and your thinking on this Tao.
    I always found adoptees in school and made friends. It truly helped me.


    • TAO

      June 19, 2021 at 11:49 pm

      Me too Lara/Trace – both school and the church camp I went to for a couple of weeks in the summer, twice.

      Liked by 1 person

    • beth62

      June 22, 2021 at 3:12 am

      Me too. I’m not real sure how it happens, can’t really remember how it has come up either. It’s not like I go around just saying it, or asking. I guess different topics of conversation lead to it, or someone will give a clue that they might be, then I say it.

      I could have said I was adopted to someone last week. Went to the doc with my mom, after discussing my parents ailments and ages, the doctor commented how I got some good longevity genes. Instead of saying it, I said, “yeahhhhh, I think they just don’t make em like that anymore.”

      Then many times came to mind when I did say it when someone brought up heredity to us…
      Mom smiled, I was happy to do it for her, for a change 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • TAO

        June 22, 2021 at 9:49 pm

        Fuzzy on the details, think I wrote about this before which would be more succinct:

        I took mom to a specialist and she wanted me to tell him my medical story, then said something about my mother, he was confused, so I told him I was adopted, turns out he was an AP who with his wife adopted children internationally. Several years later (3-4 yrs) I took mom back to see him and he was gushing about his wife and their little toddlers, mom and I were both confused, he’d divorced his wife, remarried, and apparently his adoptive dad status as well because he was only talking about his two bio kids.

        Ain’t Adoption Grand.

        Liked by 1 person

        • beth62

          June 23, 2021 at 2:44 am

          Argh, just grand. Hope he got a hefty support payment.

          Liked by 1 person

          • TAO

            June 23, 2021 at 7:51 pm

            That was my thought, mom was past the stage by then to clue in.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. beth62

    June 24, 2021 at 3:18 am

    “If adoption is so beautiful, how is being defined by being adopted bad? ”

    Ask why Adoption was created.
    That’s why it’s bad, still.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Carly Quinn

    June 24, 2021 at 2:34 pm

    Reading your blog is very eye-opening to me. Yeah, I know, I was adopted as were all my siblings. Growing up, there wasn’t any discussion of adoption, just listening to dad tell all his ‘went and got a kid’ ‘didn’t even know we were pregnant’ stories. Then life runs with you, college, marriage, kids, at some point the adoptive parents pass on, and for me, I began wondering where all the rage was coming from-And I found your blog, and I’m learning. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TAO

      June 25, 2021 at 12:59 pm

      Glad you’ve found something worthwhile here Carly. If it’s any help, many don’t start to explore the complexities and contradictions until they reach mid life, it’s a journey for sure.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Carly Quinn

        June 29, 2021 at 11:22 pm

        I’m glad I’m not as far behind as I imagined. My sisters and I talk about many things discovered here, and our dismay at our own ignorance. We were all adopted, for pities sake! I guess I’m saying, we feel old to be learning so much about ourselves. Happy we are finally figuring out some things.


  4. L4R

    July 6, 2021 at 7:22 pm

    I don’t think all “old timers” can take the hits either. Age doesn’t tell us where someone is in his or her journey. And, frankly, it’s sad that longtime adoptee advocates have had to steel themselves.


    • TAO

      July 7, 2021 at 1:17 pm

      True, I worded it poorly and lumped all together. Thanks L4R



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