On the Road to Recovery

I am a 36-year-old Filipino American adoptee and my road to recovering from being orphaned as a baby has never come easy. I didn’t have the resources to return to the Philippines to restore my heritage. I never had the resources to mend the problems I had with my intercountry adoption placement. So, I had to find creative solutions to recover from all of this.

I can’t promise any tips to save anyone from the complications of being adopted or adopting. What I can do is give a few personal solutions that I found in my own adoptee life that helped on my road to recovering from my intercountry adoption journey.

5 Things I Did to Reclaim My Adoptee Life

  1. Creating. I first studied writing and then library and information science. My interests led to making mixed media art and information products that helped me voice my transracial life’s losses and restructure a new sense of identity in innovative ways. I could transform my grief with art and education. For instance, I made a digital archive showing my adoption process and the biological identity that I lost when I was born as an orphan in the Philippines in 1985. You can view my archive here and my Instagram here.
  2. Retreating peacefully. In-between a rock and a hard place, I had to choose what was best for me psychologically and emotionally. I started retreating from the norm in my early twenties. I separated from my adoptive family through geographic and social distancing. I retreated from all of the past relations that failed me in the past and the bad relationships I had. I moved to Hawaii in my thirties, a place I had been mysteriously called to for years. There, I let go. But despite letting go, I never gave up on myself, or the love I have for life, my ideals or the world around me. And to keep myself well in Hawaii, I continued my meditation practices and holistic therapies.
  3. Focusing on Work. There are pathways in Buddhism where one can practice meditation optimally and achieve liberation through intensive work and labor. Work has been the best practice for me. Work caters to my studious personality. It is the best physical, emotional and psychological outlet. I can rebuild a sense of identity in work as well.
  4. Being Involved in Communities. I got involved with supportive communities and support groups. I gravitate towards people that practice meditation, people that are devoted to art or learning, or nonprofit endeavours. I enjoy being a part of supportive networks with people. I ask questions. I volunteer. I like to believe that I restructure the broken bonds of my history by being involved today. Being a part of communities helps me cultivate a sense of belonging. I build a positive foundation around me and support structures.
  5. Taking Care of My Relations Today. Relationships keep me regulated in my daily life. My relations include unconventional ones like taking care of my plants, my cat, work relations and with myself. I’ve started adoptee counselling on a regular basis to cultivate a better relationship that I have with myself and my adoptee world. I am also returning to my adoptive family this Christmas to visit and help heal my relations with them. My relations help me keep well in life today.

Yes, I still feel echoes of my broken bonds affect my life today. I still ache from having been born into destitute poverty in the Philippines so long ago. I still dream of the older Filipino American brother whom I lost in this intercountry adoptee experience. I still carry the void where my biological family’s voices are forever gone. There is no easy answer to recover from these paradoxes.

Despite it all, I do know that I am finding my way day by day. I have been coming out of the fog, and it has been a good thing.

Read more from Stephanie:
Reconstructing Identity & Heritage
A Filipino Adoptee’s Plea not to be Erased

I Am Here

by Naomi Mackay, adopted from India to Sweden, residing as a documentary film maker in Scotland; currently producing her memoir and film. You can follow Naomi at Linktree, Facebook, Instagram.

I AM HERE!

I pass you in the hall.
I pass you on the streets.
I pass you in the shops.
I pass you on the beach.
I stand next to you when you brush your teeth.
I stand in front of you at the bus stop.
I stand on the balcony.
I stand behind you in the queue.
I sit in front of you on the bus.
I sit opposite you in the waiting room.
I sit at a table in the café.
I sit on the grass in the park.
I smile from under my hair.
I smile from across the counter.
I smile to hide my tears.
I smile to make you feel better.
I talk to those who need it.
I talk to myself.
I talk to you in the queue.
I talk to your dog while your face is in your phone.
I wait for you in the rain.
I wait for the bus.
I wait, while you do.
I wait patiently, for you to see me.
I AM HERE!

Lately I’ve felt like why whole life I’ve been talking into a void, where others have been heard but it’s like I’m not even there. Sometimes I’ll get an awkward smile, often I get told “You get what you put in!” I’m useless, obviously I’m not putting anything in as I get nothing.

Maybe they’re right, I’m a spoiled brat who can’t see it. Maybe they’re gaslighting me.

Whatever the truth is, I’m still invisible, speaking into the void.

Read Naomi’s other ICAV post: Don’t Tell Me to be Grateful

Integrating the Parts in Adoption

by Bina Mirjam de Boer, adopted from India to the Netherlands, adoption coach at Bina Coaching. Bina wrote this and shared it originally at Bina Coaching.

“An adopted teenager once told me, “I feel there are two teenage me’s. The me that was born but didn’t live. And the me who was not born, but lived the life I have today.” Without understanding she was expressing the split in the self that so many adoptees make in order to survive….” – Betty Jean Lifton, a writer, adoptee and adoption reform advocate.

Many adoptees become aware at some point in their life that who they are in the present is not the same person as the one they were in the past. Often adoptees have not been able to build an identity or live on before being separated.

Due to relinquishment, most adoptees split into parts and live like this for survival. To be able to do this, they become alienated from their original selves and leave their body. In addition, their original identity has been lost or erased by adoption.

This makes adoptees experience a feeling of intense emptiness or even an urge for death. They become aware that the original self that was born has not lived and that the current survival part that was not born, is living their life. They survive instead of live.

This consciousness opens up the grieving process that was always present in them but never allowed to have a place.

The hidden grief becomes liquid and looking at this sadness, finally reveals the original self.

Original Dutch

Veel geadopteerden worden zich op een gegeven moment in hun leven bewust dat wie ze in het heden zijn niet dezelfde persoon is als degene die ze in het verleden waren. Vaak hebben geadopteerden geen identiteit op kunnen bouwen of kunnen doorleven voordat zij zijn afgestaan.

Door afstand zijn de meeste geadopteerden opgesplitst in delen en leven zij vanuit hun overlevingsdeel. Omdit te kunnen doen zijn ze vervreemd van hun oorspronkelijke zelf en hebben zij hun lichaam verlaten. Daarnaast is door adoptie hun oorspronkelijke identiteit verloren gegaan of uitgewist.

Dit maakt dat geadopteerden een gevoel van intense leegte of zelfs een drang naar de dood ervaren. Zij worden zich bewust dat het oorspronkelijke zelf dat geboren is niet heeft geleefd en dat het huidige (overlevings) deel dat niet is geboren is hun leven leeft. Zij overleven in plaats van leven.

Dit bewustzijn brengt het rouwproces opgang dat altijd al in hun aanwezig was maar nooit een plek mocht hebben.

Het gestolde verdriet wordt vloeibaar en door dit verdriet aan te kijken wordt het oorspronkelijke zelf eindelijk zichtbaar.

To read some of Bina’s other posts:
Balancing Love and Loss
Forget Your Past
Imagine Losing Your Parents Twice

I’m like a Deer Caught in the Headlights

by Krem0076, an Korean intercountry adoptee raised in the USA.

Krem0076 as a toddler

I am an adoptee from a closed international adoption. I have paperwork but for many of us, our paperwork is often fraught with mistakes, lies and discrepancies. That is a challenge – is my information accurate? My birth name? My birthdate? My origin story if I even have one? Are any of the names in my paperwork real or accurate?

I have names for both my b-mom and b-dad and I decided in 2017 to try searching for my b-mom on Facebook. Here’s another challenge – because I am adopted from Korea and wasn’t raised reading or speaking my language, I had to figure out how to translate the English version of my b-mom’s name into Hangul and hope it was accurate. Thankfully I have a fellow Korean adoptee friend who could do that for me. I searched and found a woman who has physical features that are so similar to mine, it was like looking into a future mirror at myself around 50 years old.

The next challenge was – do I message her? And if I do, what the heck do I say? “Hi, you don’t really know me, but I may be your daughter whom you relinquished back in 1987. Did you relinquish a baby girl then? I promise I’m not crazy or going to cause trouble.” Yeah, I don’t see that going over well. Do I friend request her? How do I approach her without spooking her? What if she’s married and has other children? What if I’m a secret? What if she denies me?

This was back in 2017 when I first found my potential b-mom, and after weeks of agonising and being petrified but simultaneously excited, I sent her a message and a friend request. I waited days which turned into weeks, that turned into months and eventually, years. Nothing. I went from being excited and hopeful to being nervous and unsure. Eventually it turned into bitterness, frustration, rejection and loss all over again. In the end, I numbed myself to it and pushed it into the back of my brain and tried to forget.

Fast forward to March of 2021. I had recently fully come out of the adoption fog, started reconnecting with my Korean culture, language, foods and traditions and making more Korean adoptee friends. I decided to look her up again and see if there was anything new. From what I’ve gleamed as an outside observer, she looks to be married and has 2 adult daughters. It also looks like she runs a berry farm. I decided to message her again, this time in Hangul hoping she’d respond to that better. I’ve also updated my profile name to include my birth name in Hangul, hoping she’d see it. She never read the message and I don’t have the option to friend request her again.

I know I can go through other channels to find and contact my b-mom, but I am a mess. What if they can’t find her? What if they do and she rejects me? What if this woman is her and she rejects me? What if she’s passed away? That’s another challenge – the debilitating and paralysing onslaught of emotions that stop me from moving either way. I’m like a deer caught in the headlights.

For adoptive parents reading this, I encourage you to foster open adoptions if you can – not for your needs and wants, but for the future needs and wants of you adopted children. They will grow up knowing their origins, their medical history, their b-mom or parents. They will have a better sense of their identity. They will be able to ask questions and have them answered. There will still be trauma. There will still be tough days and emotions. But they will have a stronger foundation than I will never have. I’m 34 and drowning somedays. I struggle with being adopted and right now, quite frankly, I hate it.

The Here and Now

One of my local beaches in Hawaii

It’s been a while since I’ve last posted at ICAV and a lot has happened. But I’m okay. I’m living in a small studio apartment across from the beach now. In a coastal town next to Honolulu. After a pandemic school year of substitute teaching at Kamehameha Schools, teaching Digital Photography and creating a Yearbook for the 8th grade, I’m now a full-time adjudicator at the State of Hawaii, helping out the claims backlog that happened due to Covid. It’s a conditional job, supposed to end in December, but there’s a chance it’ll be extended for another 6 months. I had to take what I could since the field of substitute teaching everywhere is simply not stable anymore.

I’m newly single although I don’t know for how long as I’ve already met someone who makes me laugh which is great. I recently broke up with my ex-fiancee in whom I’d been with for about two years in Hawaii. It was good for me to separate from him although hard, it’s always hard letting go of someones I once loved even though he didn’t treat me well. I think it was the pandemic and all the unexpected variables that brought up behavioral patterns he didn’t know he had. I guess I can’t give excuses for him not treating me well. I just had to leave and I’m not on speaking terms with him anymore.

Life is full of the sounds of the highway, the sight of a glittering ocean, beaches, Aloha Aina. My kitty, Pualani, has been my rock and cord connecting me to this earth as a 35-year-old Filipino-American adoptee. My studio is full of plants, junk journaling materials, penpal letters, flip flops, basic necessities. I have certain stones and crystals that keep my energy grounded, balancing the chaotic cosmos within.

Life these days has been a whole new chapter, working full-time, making ends meet in Hawaii on my own. I started playing Dungeons and Dragons on Monday nights, and Fallout 76 with my new next door neighbor in whom I’ve been hanging out with almost everyday. He’s been inviting me out and keeping me productive, meeting people, exploring Hawaii, beach-going and supporting my secret nerd hobbies simultaneously. I can’t thank him enough for being able to get me out of my shell even just a little bit, which is miraculous.

I sometimes wonder where my life went. I sometimes feel like a failed attempt at a normal adult because I should be married with kids by now. I should own a home, going to parent teacher meetings, I should have found a place to belong in by now, but haven’t. I’m surviving in Hawaii with all these unwritten books inside me, waiting to be let out. I still haven’t found that job I can grow in for the rest of my years to come, but I want to. It’s a constant conflict here in Hawaii because it’s too expensive to own a home. But, it’s a beautiful place that is constantly in flux with all the right kinds of elements that keeps me on my toes everyday. Keeps me trying, everyday.

The city is awe-inspiring. The ocean, a constant mystery and companion to my soul’s never-ending quests. The Hawaiian culture is one that I respect and connect with on an unspoken, intrinsic level. I love living next to a highway where the library is in walking distance and so is a beach. I see the beach everyday now, waking up. It is magnificent. Giving me a profound sense of relief everyday.

In Hawaii, my adoptee past looms ever-present as a silent, disenchanted world of loss that lives in the heart of me, no matter how beautiful the day is. But, more and more, I feel like I can come to grips with my past out here. Somehow, I’m just doing it, moving through it maybe, without knowing why or how. Somehow, I found myself here, living on my own and doing okay, despite the heartache.

To Know Your Origins is a Privilege!

To know your parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, and grandparents …

To know your medical history; whether your mother died of cancer, your father suffered heart problems, whether your grandmother had diabetes …

To know who you look like, where your traits come from, whether your face in the mirror is a reflection of someone else ..

To know your birth story, date, time, season of the year, what hospital you were born in …

To know your country of birth, culture, heritage, language, customs, religion …

To be surrounded by people who look like you racially …

To know your origins is a privilege!

These are the things I don’t take for granted because I didn’t have any of these whilst growing up. I was born in one country, adopted to another, by a family of different race. I’m a transracial intercountry adoptee. I’ve spent a huge portion of my life wondering, searching, trying to learn about my origins.

In my community of intercountry adoptees – to know your origins is definitely a privilege!

Loss, Longing and Grief

by Soorien Zeldenrust adopted from Sth Korea to the Netherlands, Adoptee & Foster Coach (AFC).

Loss, Desire & Grief

A little while ago I had a conversation with my adopted coach about my pregnancy. After the conversation I realised that during my first pregnancy and maternity period I actually printed away all my feelings and sadness.

LOSS

During my first pregnancy and maternity period I felt a void, loss and a huge desire for my own mother in Korea. What I didn’t and couldn’t feel and receive during the first weeks of my existence, I now had to live up to and take on with my own daughter.

I am aware of the feelings and consequences of my own trauma in the meantime. And motherhood. But what about my mom? Is it something that was taken from her? Or what she chose then? It keeps gnawing at me, now stronger than ever. With the delivery at the door, I am increasingly wondering: “Will the loss be present again at that moment?”

RECEIVE

It hits me that a new life is emerging within me and that I pass on my own DNA which literally becomes visible. My own family line starts here for me. I suddenly realise that it is the pain, lack and desire that is so palpable. It’s taking shape and literally a face, because I see it in my kids again. But what exactly am I longing for? Towards equality and a mirror image? Does my role as a mother get a desire for a parent that looks like me? Can anyone tell me that I inherited it from him or her? That it’s “normal” in our culture and someone taking me to show me how she would have done it? Is this the desire that sometimes makes pregnancy and maternity for an adopted person so difficult and a lonely one?

FEAR

The fear of childbirth itself falls into thin air with the fear I feel for after childbirth. How will the outside world react if I’m not just me? How will I personally respond to this? Because the baby is here now, so I am now “healthy”.

From whom do I even need approval to be allowed to show these feelings? I know I can keep my own time and pace for my process. So also for all my feelings and emotions during this period. As a friend said:

“Don’t forget 9 months on and 9 months off. And what if you are of yourself purely you. Can that be yours?”

ROUGH

The feelings and emotions I am experiencing for the second time now are similar to ‘grief’. For my feeling it’s deeper than grief. Deeper than I can explain and maybe handle. It’s mourning and lack of my parents whom I don’t know. Desire for a love that I never received myself in those moments of a newborn. So how can I give my own children that?

The desire that I was as desired as my own children, that my parents saw a future with me and would have me forever in their lives. That desire hurts because I don’t know the answer.

SHAMEFUL

Now the load of guilt and shame is heavier for my feeling. Again grief and lacking a place that didn’t actually have to be there. That place should be filled with love. And I am also fulfilled with that. Lots of love all my life. Love for connection.

This piece is so elusive to the outside world. Because how do you explain this and why do we want to get the other person back into the “okay” zone? Is it too painful to see the other person suffer like this and can’t you deal with the powerlessness you feel? May my pain and sorrow be there? For a while or for longer?

I need it to be able to grow further and to process it. Eventually it will be part of me that I can live with and be with.

That same girlfriend I was just talking about called it “living loss”. It’s there and it will never go away completely. Is that bad? And will you allow that?

No it’s ok and I allow it. If it is there later, I hug the fear so firmly that it is smothered in love. Then I know, this is possible and we can handle this.

IS IT A DEPRESSION THEN?

This too feels deeper. Deeper than depression. It is an overworked desire and loss that accompanies grief. Mourning the (un)known. Because in my body my parents feel familiar. I just can’t always reach that feeling. It’s not depression, it’s mourning my beginning and at the same time losing my original existence.

My wish is that everything can be there. That the feeling of love and pride in my body will prevail. That our family is strong enough to handle anything. That I am the mother I have longed for myself. No! No! No!

I’m not her, but carry a piece of her and also my dad. I honour them by passing on their genes and their existence. In love, in feeling and with my own and our shared experiences.

Original Dutch

Verlies, Verlangen & Rouw

Afgelopen week had ik een gesprek met mijn adoptiecoach over mijn zwangerschap. Na het gesprek realiseerde ik mij dat ik tijdens mijn eerste zwangerschap en kraamperiode al mijn gevoelens en verdriet eigenlijk heb weggedrukt.

VERLIES

Tijdens mijn eerste zwangerschap en kraamperiode voelde ik een leegte, gemis en een enorm verlangen naar mijn eigen moeder in Korea. Wat ik zelf niet heb kunnen en mogen voelen en ontvangen tijdens de eerste weken van mijn bestaan, moest ik nu waarmaken en aangaan bij mijn en eigen dochter.

Ik ben mij ondertussen bewust van de gevoelens en gevolgen van mijn eigen trauma. En van het moederschap. Maar hoe zit het bij mijn moeder? Is het iets wat haar is ontnomen? Of waar ze toen voor heeft gekozen? Het blijft aan me knagen, nu sterker dan ooit. Met de bevalling voor de deur vraag ik me steeds meer af: “Zal het verlies op dat moment weer aanwezig zijn?”

VERLANGEN

Het raakt mij dat er een nieuw leven in mij ontstaat en dat ik mijn eigen DNA doorgeef wat letterlijk zichtbaar wordt. Mijn eigen familielijn start hier voor mij. Ik besef me ineens dat het de pijn, het gemis en verlangen is wat zo voelbaar is. Het krijgt vorm en letterlijk een gezicht, want ik zie het in mijn kinderen terug. Maar waar verlang ik precies naar? Naar een gelijkheid en een spiegelbeeld? Krijgt mijn rol als moeder een verlangen naar een ouder die op mij lijkt? Die kan vertellen dat ik het heb geërfd van hem of van haar? Dat het “normaal” is in onze cultuur en dat iemand mij aan de hand neemt en laat zien hoe zij het zou hebben gedaan? Is dit het verlangen wat de zwangerschap en kraamperiode voor een geadopteerde soms zo moeilijk een eenzaam maakt?

ANGST

De angst voor de bevalling zelf valt in het niets met de angst die ik voel voor ná de bevalling. Hoe zal de buitenwereld reageren als ik toch niet gelijk mijzelf ben? Hoe zal ik zelf reageren hierop? Want de baby is er nu, dus ben ik nu weer “gezond”. 

Van wie heb ik überhaupt goedkeuring nodig om deze gevoelens te mogen tonen? Ik weet dat ik mijn eigen tijd en tempo mag aanhouden voor mijn proces. Dus ook voor al mijn gevoelens en emoties tijdens deze periode. Zoals een vriendin zei:

“Vergeet niet 9 maanden op en 9 maanden af. En wat als je van jezelf puur jij bent. Mag dat van jou?”

ROUW

De gevoelens en emoties die ik nu voor de tweede keer ervaar zijn vergelijkbaar met ‘rouw’. Voor mijn gevoel is het dieper dan rouw. Dieper dan ik kan uitleggen en misschien aankan. Het is rouw en gemis van mijn ouders die ik niet ken. Verlangen naar een liefde die ik zelf nooit heb gekregen in die momenten van een pasgeborene. Dus hoe kan ik mijn eigen kinderen dat dan wel geven? 

Het verlangen dat ik net zo gewenst was als mijn eigen kinderen, dat mijn ouders een toekomst mét mij zagen en voor altijd mij in hun leven wouden hebben. Dat verlangen doet pijn, want ik weet het antwoord niet.

SCHAAMTE

Nu is de lading van schuld en schaamte zwaarder voor mijn gevoel. Krijgen verdriet en gemis een plek die er eigenlijk niet hoefden te zijn. Die plek zou gevuld moeten zijn met liefde. En ook daar ben ik vervuld mee. Heel veel liefde, mijn hele leven lang. Liefde voor verbinding. 

Dit stuk is zo ongrijpbaar voor de buitenwereld. Want hoe leg je dit uit en waarom willen wij de ander zo graag weer in de “oké zone” krijgen? Is het te pijnlijk om de ander zo te zien lijden en kun je niet omgaan met de machteloosheid die je dan voelt? Mag mijn pijn en verdriet er zijn? Voor even of voor langer? 

Ik heb het nodig om verder te kunnen groeien en om het te verwerken. Uiteindelijk zal is het een onderdeel van mij waar ik zelf mee kan leven en mee kan zijn.

Diezelfde vriendin waar ik het net over had noemde het “levend verlies”. Het is er en het zal nooit volledig weggaan. Is dat erg? En sta je dat toe?

Nee het is niet erg en ik sta het toe. Als het straks er wel is, dan omhels ik de angst zo stevig dat het smoort in liefde. Dan weet ik, dit kan en dit kunnen wij aan. 

IS HET DAN EEN DEPRESSIE? 

Ook dit voelt dieper. Dieper dan een depressie. Het is een overwerkt verlangen en verlies wat gepaard gaat met rouw. Rouwen om het (on)bekende. Want in mijn lichaam voelen mijn ouders als bekend. Ik kan er alleen niet altijd bij, bij dat gevoel. Het is geen depressie, het is rouwen om mijn begin en tegelijk om mijn verlies van mijn originele bestaan.

Mijn wens is dat alles er mag en kan zijn. Dat het gevoel van liefde en trots in mijn lichaam zal overheersen. Dat ons gezin sterk genoeg is om alles aan te kunnen. Dat ik de moeder ben waar ik zelf naar heb verlangd. Nee…

Ik ben haar niet, maar draag een stuk van haar en ook mijn vader mee. Ik eer ze door hun genen en hun bestaan door te geven. In liefde, op gevoel en met eigen en gezamenlijke ervaringen.

Soorien Zeldenrust 

In Memory of Seid Visin

By Mark Hagland, South Korean intercountry adoptee raised in the USA, co-founder of Transracial Adoption Perspectives (a group for adoptive parents to learn from lived experience), and author of Extraordinary Journey: The Lifelong Path of the Transracial Adoptee

What We’re Learning

In the past few days, since the news broke on June 4 that 20-year-old Seid Visin had ended his life through suicide, the Italian and European press have published articles and broadcast segments on his death, with a fair amount of disbelief and confusion involved. There are a number of reasons for the confusion, some of them journalistic—questions over the statement he had apparently made a couple of years ago to his therapist, versus what might have been going on in his life most recently—but most of all, because of statements made by his parents Walter and Maddalena.

Walter and Maddalena adopted Seid at the age of seven; he grew up in their home in Nocera Inferiore, a suburb of Naples. I can understand that they are deeply confused by what’s happened; but it’s also clear to me that, despite their good intentions, that they have no understanding whatsoever of his distress over the racism that he continued to experience. I’ve just viewed an interview with an Italian broadcast program called “Approfondimento Focus,” in which they kept reiterating how happy he was, how his recent psychological issues were related to the COVID lockdown, which they blamed for his recent depression, and how he had no interest whatsoever in his Ethiopian background. They also repeatedly denied that racism had anything to do with their son’s emotional distress.

That last set of statements on the part of Seid’s parents really struck me in a number of different ways, particularly given the excerpts of the text of that letter to his therapist of (apparently) a couple of years ago, that have been released. Per that, Corriere della Sera obtained a letter that Seid Visin wrote to his therapist two years ago, and Rolling Stone Italia has published it. In it, Seid wrote that, “Wherever I go, wherever I am, I feel the weight of people’s skeptical, prejudiced, disgusted and frightened looks on my shoulders like a boulder.” He wrote that he was ashamed “to be black, as if I was afraid of being mistaken for an immigrant, as if I had to prove to people, who didn’t know me, that I was like them, that I was Italian, white.” This feeling led him to make “jokes in bad taste about blacks and immigrants (…) as if to emphasize that I was not one of them. But it was fear. The fear of the hatred I saw in people’s eyes towards immigrants.”

As a sports journalist wrote in Le Parisien, “His death caused great emotion in Italy. In 2019, the young man pointed out the racism he was subjected to, writing a post on social media in which he expressed his discomfort. ‘A few months ago, I managed to find a job, which I had to quit because too many people, mostly older people, refused to be served by me,’ he said. They also accused me of the fact that many young Italians could not find work. The adoptive parents of the victim, however, wanted to provide details. ‘Seid’s gesture does not stem from episodes of racism,’ they told the Italian press.”

Here is the text of the letter; its exact date is not certain, and there is confusion as to when it was written—either very recently, or about two years ago—but in any case, here it is:

“I am not an immigrant, but I was adopted as a child. I remember that everyone loved me. Wherever I went, everyone addressed me with joy, respect and curiosity. Now, that atmosphere of idyllic peace seems very far away. It seems mystically. everything was reversed. Now, wherever I go, I feel the weight of skeptical, disgusted and scared looks on my shoulders. I had managed to find a job that I had to leave because too many people, especially the elderly, refused to be cared for by me. And as if it were not enough for me, they accused me of being responsible for many young Italians (white) not finding work. After this experience, something changed within me. As if I was ashamed to be black, as if I was afraid that someone would mistake me for an immigrant. As if he had to prove to people he did not know that he was like them, that he was Italian.

I have even made distasteful jokes about blacks and immigrants, as if to emphasize that I was not one of them. The only thing that explained my behavior was fear. The fear of hatred he saw in people’s eyes towards immigrants. The fear of contempt that I felt at the mouth of people, even my relatives, who wistfully invoked Mussolini and ‘Captain Salvini’. I don’t want to beg for compassion or pity. I just want to remind myself of the discomfort and suffering that I am experiencing. I am a drop of water next to the ocean of suffering that is living who prefers to die to continue living in misery and hell. Those people who risk their lives, and those who have already lost it, just to snoop around, to savor what we simply call ‘life.’”

A couple of very important notes here. First, it is quite significant that Seid explicitly references not on Mussolini, but also Matteo Salvini, the former Deputy Prime Minister, and still current Senator in the Italian Parliament, who is Secretary of the Lega Nord, or Northern League, which is a right-wing racist, xenophobic political party, whose supporters are pretty much the equivalent of the supporters of Donald Trump in the United States. There has been a massive surge in the expression of overt racism and xenophobia in Italy in the past decade and a half, and the racist xenophobia has exploded in the last several years, particularly as many thousands of Black Africans have entered Italy as refugees from war, conflict, and poverty in Africa. Second, in the letter above, he made it extremely clear that he was deeply distressed by the racism he had been experiencing.

Interestingly, his mother Maddalena, in that interview broadcast on the “Approfondimento Focus” program, kept emphasizing that Seid had recently been depressed because of the isolation imposed on him and others during the lockdown this spring. Obviously, there is rarely simply one single cause for suicidality. Seid could certainly have been depressed during the nationwide lockdown in Italy this spring. But that absolutely does not negate his extreme distress over his lived experience of racism.

Reflecting on all this, I see a tragically classic situation for a young adult transracial, intercountry adoptee, a young person who was racially and socially isolated, who was experiencing ongoing racism, and whose parents, from what we can tell, were in denial about the racism he was experiencing and the distress he was experiencing because of it.

Another tragic loss of yet another transracial intercountry adoptee life.

I’m sharing a post from La Repubblica, with a link to a selfie-video (which has since been taken down so I post this one instead) in which Seid is enjoying dancing.

May the memory of Seid and his life be a blessing.

Related Resources

ICAVs Memorial Page

Read Mark Hagland’s contribution to ICAVs other post: Can we Ignore or Deny that Racism Exists for Adoptees of Colour?

We Need to Talk about Adoptee Suicide, Now

The Lie We Love

by Jessica Davis, adoptive mother in the USA who adopted from Uganda and co-founded Kugatta, an organisation that re-connects Ugandan families to their children, removed via international adoption.

The lie we love. Adoption.

I’ve heard people say that adoption is one of the greatest acts of love, but is it? Maybe what adoption is and has been for the majority of people isn’t really as “great” of an act as it has been portrayed to be.

Instead of us focusing on the fairytale imagery of the new “forever family” that is created through adoption, we should be focusing on how adoption means the end of a family; the absolute devastation of a child’s world resulting in the separation from everyone and everything familiar to them. When the focus is misplaced, we aren’t able to truly help the child and as a result often place unrealistic expectations on them. Expectations of gratefulness, bonding, assimilation and even expecting them to “move on” from their histories.

So what reason is acceptable enough to permanently separate a family? Poverty? If a family is poor is it okay to take their child? OR wouldn’t it be more loving and more helpful to invest time and resources into economically empowering the family so they can stay together?

If a child has medical needs the family is struggling to meet is it then okay to take their child OR is it a greater act of love and human decency to assist that family so they can meet the needs of their child and remain together?

If a family has fallen on hard times is it then okay to take their child? OR should we rally around the family and help them through the difficult time so they can remain together?

What about a child that has lost both their parents? Is it then okay to adopt the child? OR would it be a greater act of love to first ensure the child gets to live with their biological relatives, their family? Why is it better to create a new family with strangers when there are extended biological relatives?

What if a child lives in a developing country? Is it then better to take a child from their family to give them access to more “things” and “opportunities”? To give them a “better life”? Is it even possible to live a “better life” separated from one’s family? OR would it be a greater act of love to support that family so their child can have access to more things and opportunities within their own country? To build up the future of that country, by investing in and supporting that child so they can become the best they can. How does it help a developing country if we keep needlessly taking away their future doctors, teachers, social workers, public service workers, etc.?

I don’t know much about domestic adoption but I know a lot about intercountry adoption and these are some of the many reasons I hear over and over as validation for the permanent separation of a child from their family, biological relatives and country of origin.

Parents and extended family were given no option (other than adoption) when seeking help/assistance. What choice is there when there is only one option given? Not only are the majority of these families not given any options they are often told their child will be “better off” without them and that keeping their child is preventing them from these “great opportunities”. This mentality is wrong and harmful to their child.

So much of the adoption narrative is constructed around a need to “rescue” an impoverished child by providing a “forever family” yet 70%-90% of children adopted abroad HAVE FAMILIES. What other things do we continue doing in adoption knowing 4 out 5 times we are doing wrong?

Some say the greatest act of love is adoption, I say the greatest act of love is doing everything in one’s power to keep families together.

I titled this post The Lie we Love because it seems that so many of us love ADOPTION (and the fairytale often perpetuated by it) more than we love THE CHILD themselves. This is demonstrated every time a child is needlessly stripped from their family and culture, all while we as a society cheer on and promote such a process. This happens when we aren’t first willing to do the hard task of asking the tough questions; when we would rather ignore the realities at hand and live the “fairytale” that some problem was solved by adopting a child who already had a loving family.

Someday, I hope things are different: that more and more people will come to realize there isn’t an orphan crisis but rather, there is a family separation crisis happening in our world and adoption is not the answer, in fact it’s part of the problem. Intercountry adoption has become a business with massive amounts of money to be made and little to no protections for those most vulnerable because most of us sit in our comfortable first worlds and are happy with the fairytale. Adoption is truly the lie we love!

For more from Jessica, she and husband Adam were recently interviewed in this Maybe God podcast : Does Every Orphan Need Adopting.

See Jessica’s other article at ICAV and her Good Problem Podcast with Lynelle and Laura as a 3 part series by Leigh Matthews.

Tears of Trauma

by Christina Soo Ja Massey, aka YooNett adopted from South Korea to the USA.

Artwork by CS Massey aka YooNett

The Tears of Trauma I cry as a helpless Orphan, I cry as an Adult throughout my Life.

This piece of art deals primarily with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Trauma of being abandoned, left to fight for my Life, but being unable to do so … The fear, anxieties and hopelessness of the situation. I attempted to convey how this Trauma persists throughout my Life. I have come to my Adopters already deeply scared only to relive old Experience via new Scars.

Read Christina’s previous blog Adoptees Need Mental Health Services.

For more of Christina’s artwork, visit YooNett.

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