stop using adoption as an insult

and end adoptees’ status as society’s last acceptable targets

Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash

In some circles, it’s acceptable to insult adoptees and adoption because it implies not good enough. Not good enough to stay with your “real parents,” not good enough to be cared for by “real family.” By default, you’re less than. As an automatic misfit, there’s no way you’d stand a chance at navigating societal bullying if your adopted status is disclosed.

It’s an insult casually thrown at non-adoptees, a sibling competition to prove how easy parents can both lie to and dispose of you. Typical recipients are black sheep, wandering outside of their family’s constraints and thus become targets for a real trauma-filled lived experience. The assumption? If you were worth anything, you’d be worth keeping.

Adoptee activists must confront these jokes, this use of adoptees’ lives as a punchline, this idea that society sees you as a pitiable second choice. It casts adoptees as forever outsiders. And every time you use adoption as an insult, you’re trapping adoptees as disposable castoffs.

But when adoptees fight back, they’re dismissed. Like other abuse victims, they’re accused of being overly sensitive.

Somehow, adoptees are simultaneously encouraged to take pride in their status, to feel lucky, loved, and grateful. But set against a backdrop of fear, hate, and misunderstanding, it’s impossible for adoptees to find that suggested sense of security.

If this is how the non-adopted community views adoption, there’s something either seriously wrong with society or seriously lacking in adoptee activist support (we need more of it). But the issue is that adoption’s either seen as all good or, clearly, all bad.

Adoption is neither of those things, falling instead within a murky gray area of love and loss and hope and anger. These “jokes,” though, hurt anyone who’s been forced to relinquish a child, been forced into a family they did not choose, or actually found happiness as an adoptee, only to be painfully reminded of their unwelcome status.

You can help fix this. Promise me and any adoptee you know that you’ll stop using adoption as an insult (if you’ve done it, shame on you) and you’ll confront this mentality with the same concern you’d express toward other minorities. Hate must end with you, the non-adopted community, because adoptees have been speaking out about this for years and need your help.


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Sunny J. Reed is a New Jersey-based writer. Her main body of work focuses on transracial adoption, race relations, and the American family. In addition to contributing to Intercountry Adoptee Voices and Dear Adoption, Sunny uses creative nonfiction as a way to reach a wider audience. Her first flash memoir (‘the lucky ones’) was published in Tilde: A Literary Journal. Her second piece (‘playground ghost’) is due out by Parhelion Literary Magazine in April 2018. She is currently at work on a literary memoir.