Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Being adopted is not a universal experience, by which I mean that each adopted person will have a different - intensely personal - take on it. They will also, if my own feelings are anything to go by, judge all fictional adoption stories by their own truth and, therefore, find them lacking. For this reason, no matter how great this film or that documentary is supposed to be, I avoid the adoption stories of others. However, the questions people ask are always the same:

1. Have you always known? Yes. I was fostered from around eighteen months by my parents - and by other people before that - then adopted at four. I can vaguely remember going to court and meeting the judge, he took his wig off so that I wouldn't be frightened, bless. I only realised years later that if my parents had lost the case my future would have been very uncertain. As it was, my name and identity got changed (legally, my parents had sneakily been calling me Lisa before it was official) just in time to start school.
2. Is your brother adopted? Yes.
3. Is he your real brother? Yes. He. Is. We just have diiferent birth parents. (Cue sheepish look on the face of the question asker.) Strangely, even people who have met my brother ask this - somehow overlooking the fact that he is six years older, four inches shorter and we look as different as it's possible to look.
4. Do you realise that you could marry your brother!? My cousins used to tease me about this constantly. Maybe if we were living in Utah it would be acceptable. Here it's illegal and, anyway, he's my brother and you are being both gross and rude.
5. Have you traced your natural mother? No. Please note I prefer the term 'birth mother' - there is nothing unnatural about my adoptive parents, and they are my real parents. (Some folks use the term biological or genetic, I'll stick to birth mother.) My situation is more complicated than most and, for reasons that don't need listing here, she was in sporadic contact when I was growing up. I have always had an antipathy towards her and her family. If we become friends I'll tell you about my run ins with The Grandparents someday. I know that some adopted people feel that they have unanswered questions about their identity that only finding blood relatives can fix, however, this has not been my experience. Interestingly, although my brother's adoption was much more 'traditional' and issue free (he was adopted from birth, and his teenage birth mother didn't really have any other options), he feels exactly the same. He occasionally wonders out loud about brothers and sisters, but since I know I don't have any birth siblings that's not an issue for me. It amazes me that people never ask about tracing my father, but perhaps it is just as well because according to my birth certificate I don't have one.

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