We have been really fortunate the last couple of years to share a number of spaces with KADs, taking in all of their wisdom and stories and experiences. Sometimes it is via our Twitter feed, sometimes it is sitting in a conference meeting room. Sometimes it is just us adoptees, sometimes spouses and other family members join us. But always there is a common theme: KADs are crying out in frustration, begging to be heard.
This was most explicitly stated in a recent KAD relationship session at KAAN 2016 in Pittsburgh. We were the only KAD couple in attendance, but everyone in the room was a KAD who was currently or recently in a romantic relationship. We talked a lot about frustrations and difficulties, which I think to some extent, is just human. It can be easy to attribute all of the issues we encounter in life to being adopted, but some things are just shared among all people, including relationship struggles. Interpersonal relationships are universally difficult across the board.
But that’s not to say the topic of adoptee identity should be dismissed. It certainly carries weight, though every difficulty shouldn’t be attributed to that as an easy way out. A particular participant was in a relationship with another POC (person of color), who experiences a number of similar struggles such as discrimination and racism, but not all. And therein lies the problem. The POC partner kept saying that they “got it,” that they understood completely whenever the KAD expressed any sort of frustration or difficulty. The KAD would say, “But you DON’T! You don’t know what it is like to be without even a single family member who looks like you. To have so many unanswered questions about your past. To have no medical history.” And on and on and on…
So here’s the thing. KADs both need and desire allies. But allyship does not equate with adoptee identity. Being an ally does not make you an adoptee. There is no way for you to understand the adoptee experience without being an adoptee. Period. Listen, we love and appreciate you! Thank you for your support. We need you. But you need to hear what we are saying.
Your job is this: to listen.
This goes for all adoptee allies, whether they are adoptive parents, spouses, siblings, or friends.
In this world of constant static, the #1 thing adoptees need are safe people/places where they know they will be heard. Not competed with (“Oh, if you think that’s bad, listen to this…”). Not patronized. Not given attempts at answers and solutions. Not “fixed.” Not lectured. Simply listened to.
And this is the difference between a true ally and one trying to get a bit of spotlight time. That’s it. An ally listens in an attempt to constantly educate themselves. The other shouts about things they know nothing about. An ally doesn’t seek to build their own platform. The other does all they can to gain attention for themselves.
So the call is simply this:
Be quiet and listen. Loudmouths and “fixers” need not apply.