Over the weekend, I had a phone call with my eldest brother. We talk a couple of times a year, at family get-togethers and on our respective birthdays, but between the age difference (12 years) and the differing communication styles, I wouldn’t describe us as close. But I realized I’d been avoiding starting a conversation with him about adoption, and I needed to just jump in to the awkward place and make it happen. And I’m so happy I did.
As previously mentioned, Bill is trans-racially adopted himself. He has also been a step-parent to a child of a different race, and was married to another trans-racial adoptee. I got to talk to him about being a black boy in a white family, and identity formation, and lots of things that happened either before I was born or out of my view. And the answers he gave me were thoughtful, but ultimately boiled down to the title of this post: things will be fine, as long as there is love and honesty. My child will know that ze is loved and won’t be lied to.
Some things I didn’t know before: my parents didn’t explicitly seek out black role models for Bill and Evora, but did participate in adoptive family social gatherings. I know (from reading The Commitment) that I will have to seek out queer and adoptive families so that once the kid starts really noticing that our family is different to most others, ze won’t feel alone in that difference. (Bill and I had a funny discussion about how all kids assume that their family is normal until they get an outside confirmation of the weirdness: Bill didn’t know having access to a private plane was unusual; I was befuddled by same-race adoption.) I don’t generally join these sorts of groups. I’m not sure if it’s the artificiality, the lingering sting of childhood rejection, or that I seem to like being the strangest duck in the pond, but I’m going to need to stretch out of my comfort zone on this stuff. Also, the parenting stuff I’ve gone to sans-baby has left me feeling really self-conscious. Well, that’s an issue that will be solved soon!
Bill’s identity formation issues didn’t sound that different to mine (and although mine could be considered extreme to some, I weathered them pretty OK). Everyone has identity issues in adolescence, but adoptees have a concrete place to focus them. And Bill made the great point that this child will have an experience somewhere between his and mine: ze will be adopted from birth, whereas Bill was over a year old when he came to our parents, and ze won’t be the only black person in our family. Another reason I’m wary of joining adoptive parent groups: I’m incredibly blessed not to be the first in my family to hoe this row, and that perspective is definitely outside the norm.