I recently had a long phone call with my brother, who I love and do not talk to often enough. He lives in California and goes to school in Oregon, while I live and work in Massachusetts. The 3,000 miles of distance and 3 hours of time difference between us make it harder to connect frequently, but when we do get those phone calls in, it is easy to forget that we aren’t in the same room.
In our most recent long conversation, we spoke a little bit about being adopted. Both he and I were adopted from different biological families. We have a younger sister who was also adopted from yet another biological family and together we make up a darn cute trio. We also have step-siblings and biological half siblings so it is easy for people (including ourselves) to get confused. I got to thinking that he must face a lot of the same questions that I have been faced with my whole life as an adopted person and I asked if he would share some of those questions.
When people find out that you are adopted, they often have many questions. While some of the questions are welcomed, some are surprisingly personal. As a child, I did not think twice about the deeply personal nature of many of these questions. We live in a culture where the norm is to start with the basics, “Where are you from?”. “What do you do?”, “What do you like to do on weekends?” et cetera, however it seems that being adopted can exempt you from some of these social rules.
While some of these questions are helpful and I welcome them, as I have grown older I have noticed that I’ve become wary of others. Perhaps this is because as I continue to get older, adoption becomes more and more a deeply embedded part of my identity. Having people question your identity upon meeting you can sometimes be a bit tiresome. I feel I have to add that people never seem ill intentioned. The questions come from a genuine curiosity, but that doesn’t mean they are pleasant.
With the help of my brother, I was able to come up with 9 of the most frequently asked questions we get when people find out we are adopted. We have both been asked these FAQ’s dozens, if not hundreds, of times over the course of our lives.
I have taken the time to answer the questions as I would answer them for anybody. I am not a spokesperson for all adoptees – I can merely answer these questions based off my personal experiences with adoption and family.
Who are your real parents?
I would tell you that my parents who raised me are my mom and dad. My biological parents are the ones who gave birth to me. People often think that real and biological are synonymous, but I’m here to say that my parents who raised me are just as real.
Have you met them?
I have met both my biological parents and my mom and dad.
Do you have any siblings?
I have two younger siblings and all three of us are adopted from different biological families. We also have three step siblings on our father’s side of the family plus we each individually have biological half-siblings.
When did you find out you were adopted?
I never had to be told. It was always celebrated in my house and there was no single “coming out” moment that had to happen with regard to my adoption.
Were you ever in an orphanage?
Nope, I was never in an orphanage. Orphanages actually effectively ceased to exist in the 1970’s as foster care became a state-funded program in the 1960’s in the United States.
Do you like being adopted?
I love my family and am grateful for the life that all the people in my life worked to give me. I really can’t say if I like being adopted. I like being myself, and I am adopted, so I guess by transitive property I like being adopted. Although, this question is pretty personal to ask someone that you don’t know very well.
Do you miss your real parents?
This is one of those deeply personal questions that I do not personally feel comfortable answering. I appreciate your curiosity, but I cannot answer this question at this time.
Do you like your parents now?
Yes, my mom and dad are pretty cool people. I do like them now a lot more than I did when I was a teenager… and I think they like me more now too.
Is it offensive to ask questions about your adoption?
It is not offensive to ask questions about my adoption. I enjoy talking about it and am happy to help use language that is not harmful and share about adoption in general. I think the more we talk about it openly, the less stigma there will be surrounding it and the more adoptees share their different stories, the more people will understand that there is no singular adoption narrative. That being said, I am not a spokesperson for all adopted people of course, I can only speak to my own experience and respect the opinions of others.
About the Author
O is an adoptee and Boston transplant, originally hailing from the Golden State. She has two siblings who were also adopted from different biological families, three step-siblings, and a handful of biological half-siblings. When she visits her family back in California, she loves big family dinners and spending time with her wonder-dog, Lucy.