Things All Transracial Adoptees Should Know

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2021-06-26

Someday Is Here was my first speaking engagement for a conference. I deliberated for a long time about what I needed to share about transracial adoption. Or, rather, what other transracial adoptees needed to hear. Because this conference centered the voices and experiences of Asian American Christian Women, I tailored my message accordingly. I spoke about common elements in the transracial adoptee growth and healing journey. In other words, the things all transracial adoptees should know.

Click here for a video preview of my presentation.

I hope that those who attended the conference will find this post and use the links I share here as resources for further learning. Because in my 25 minute presentation, I cover a lot of ground. And depending on where someone is at in their journey…my presentation may create more questions than provide answers.

What are the common elements?

I know I just teased my presentation topic without further explanation. Not fair. Here is a basic outline of the things I discussed.

  1. All adoptees need to learn how to lament what we’ve lost.
    There are barriers to even acknowledging that we’ve lost anything or that what we’ve lost is significant. However, lament is a powerful tool that we’ll need when we do encounter areas of loss. Failing to properly grieve and lament leaves us emotionally and spiritually stunted.
  2. All adoptees need to revisit their adoption story and rewrite it.
    Too often we learn our story from the lens of our parents and, while their perspectives may have validity, our adoptive parents do not experience adoption in the same way that we do. We need to sit with the details of our adoption and make our own meaning from it based on our own lived experiences of it.
  3. All adoptees should know the bigger picture of adoption.
    This happens concurrently with rewriting our individual adoption stories. We need to see how our stories fit into the bigger contexts of adoption. For example, I’m a domestic adoptee. Learning about the history of international adoption and the varied impact on international adoptees gives me much needed perspective on my own story. We all need to learn about the ethical issues, the injustices and corruption in adoption as well.
  4. All transracial adoptees benefit from learning our ethnic histories.
    We may never know who our specific ancestors are, but we still benefit from learning about the history of the cultures or regions our ancestors came from. I’ve never met my birth father, but I have learned enough to know that my Chinese ancestors were impacted by the Canadian Chinese Exclusion Act. I’ve inherited the legacy of immigrants who persisted in the face of extreme prejudice and systemic racism. That matters.
  5. All transracial adoptees can reclaim their ethnic heritage in some way.
    Again, there are barriers to desiring to do this or acknowledging that it benefits us, but a fully developed ethnic identity will involve some form of reclamation of our heritage and culture. How that looks is totally up to us. We merely need to give ourselves permission to explore our heritage and integrate things into our life that resonate with us. This process reminds us of the beauty and goodness in our ethnic heritage.
  6. All transracial adoptees are welcome to rejoin their ethnic communities.
    We may not always feel welcome. However, that isn’t because we don’t belong in our ethnic identities. It’s because some people in our ethnic communities may not make space for our return. Some perseverance is required. Find the folks who will welcome you in and guide you. Healing happens in community.
  7. Valuing and offering our TRA perspectives.
    When we’ve engaged in portions of all of the above, we encounter a wealth of lived experience and distinct perspectives. These nuggets of wisdom within us carry messages and truths that the world, the church, needs to hear and learn. Not all of us will be speakers or writers, but however we express or communicate, our TRA perspectives are powerful. We must learn not to devalue or minimize what we bring to the table.

Relevant Resources For You

These resources are tools I consider essential for transracial adoptees and our families.

For understanding the larger contexts of adoption:

Adoptee Perspectives:

For adoptive parents and other white people in the lives of transracial adoptees: