Nothing gets under my skin more than an adoption joke. I was adopted at the ripe young age of 5 months old. Fortunately, I was afforded the immense privilege of leaving the foster care system early. My parents never sat me down and had a “talk” with me about how I was adopted, instead I grew up reading books about “alternative” families, and my parents always remained open to my questions. I didn’t have some sort of identity crisis before the age of 10. In fact, to this day I am still a fully functional human being.
Adoption is most often referenced in a derogatory manner or used as a punchline. This only alienates adoptees and marks them as a target for derision based on society’s agreed-upon trope that to be adopted is somehow equal to being unwanted. Jokes about adoptees aim to essentially strip them of their personhood. Telling an adopted person they are somehow illegitimate or “less than” because they don’t know their “real” family is disgusting and shameful.
Whenever I see my fellow peers joke with one another about which one of their siblings is “adopted,” my heart sinks to my stomach. Usually the joke is made because the person in question is considered so different from the rest of their family there is no way they could possibly be related.
It feels as though adoptees are completely forgotten in the college setting. When I first arrived on campus, I was overwhelmed by the amount of student organizations available to me. Nowhere though, did I see a space solely carved out for adoptees or children that grew up in the foster care system. This kind of omission is present at a state-wide level as well, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services there is no single source that provides an official count of how many children are adopted in the U.S. each year. A report published in 2008 placed the number around 130,000.
Despite having a family to call my own, it’s true that I sometimes still feel as though something is missing. That “missing” something could be attributed to the fact that I’m just another angsty millennial in my early 20s, it could be attributed to feeling so bogged down with work that I long for an occasional change of pace, or it could be attributed to my identity as an adoptee. It doesn’t really matter what that “missing” something is, because at the end of the day we’re all searching for something more, despite life’s circumstances.
Yet, that’s one of the core issues with how people view adoptees, that they will forever go through life searching for that “missing” piece. Maybe that’s true, but it doesn’t mean adoptees are incomplete people, and it doesn’t mean adoptees should be pitied because they’ll never know their “real” families. I don’t know about the rest of the adoptee community, and I can’t speak for all of them, but I definitely don’t need your pity.
My parents are my parents — period. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I don’t have “real” parents and “adoptive” parents. My birth-mother provided me with life. My parents made me into the person I am today. My parents are the ones who changed my diapers, fed me, provided me with a home and a bed to sleep on — they’ve been with me every step of the way. Family is about a lot more than blood.