There IS beauty in diversity! It’s a universal truth that we don’t have to be white skinned and fair to be considered beautiful but for so many transracial and intercountry adoptees like me, we can often grow up feeling like we are not as beautiful, especially when raised in isolated areas or with few racial mirrors.
Growing up in rural Victoria, Australia was challenging for me as I was often the only person of colour except for some Aboriginals. I absorbed an unspoken assumption that white is best and hence I felt ugly and ashamed of my ethnicity because I was always surrounded by white peers in the community, on the media, and within my adoptive family. These feelings were enhanced by comments I received all the time of being salvato e rescued by white people and culture and assumptions of how lucky I was.
My white adoptive family were never taught that we would grow up feeling different, they were naively told, “Love her like your own and everything will be ok”. So my Asianness was rarely acknowledged, my country barely spoken about except in negative ways, and Asian people were considered “foreigners” but yet when I questioned this, the answer would be, “Oh, but you’re not one of them!” My family certainly didn’t understand how to help me look after my long black straight hair, or my darker skin. I got picked on for my flat nose and slanted eyes. Is it little wonder I grew up hating how I looked? I know I’m not alone in my experience because when I speak with some black adoptees, they also mention the lack of understanding by their white families on how to look after their black skin and hair, how people want to touch their hair as if it’s exotic and how they are treated by strangers because of the hue of their skin.
As a young adolescent, looking in the mirror and having my photo taken was immensely challenging as it confronted me with my non-whiteness. I internalised the shame of how I was different and doubled with feelings of abandonment and rejection, it meant my feelings of inferiority as a person of colour, ran deep within and it took me many years to learn self love!
So from this perspective, I wanted to utilise the ICAFSS small grants funding to create an event in Sydney, Australia that would give some adoptees the opportunity to feel proud of who they are, as people of colour, as a diverse group who share the complexities of this journey that only other transracial and intercountry adoptees can relate to.
I created a day where 10 adoptees could come together, be taught how to apply makeup on our differently hued skin and varying shaped eyes, have our makeup be fully done for us, get a portrait photo taken, followed later by going out to celebrate over a sumptuous meal.
Check out our short video of our incredible day together! It was just beautiful to see the joy and pride these adoptees felt in connecting together, learning about how to take care of themselves, and enjoy being in space with people like themselves!
We need more occasions like this in our community to help bring us together and celebrate our diversity! Aren’t they just a gorgeous bunch!
Grazie infinite a
Lisa Johnstone from Relationships Australia ICAFSS for taking time out of her day to spend helping me setup, clean up, and supporting us all
Linzi Ibrahim for sourcing and organising the professional make up artist – Shay Gittany and assistant Chris
Relationships Australia NSW for providing us free use of their office and facilities
Relationships Australia ICAFSS for the funding via the Small Grants program
Australian Federal Government DSS for making this possible via ICAFSS