Thursday, November 12, 2009

AFAAD Gathering

The long-awaited AFAAD (Adopted and Fostered Adults of the African Diaspora) Gathering took place last weekend in Oakland, CA. Friday through Sunday between ten and 30 mostly transracial adoptees (TRAs) gathered to share stories, discuss the myriad of issues we face in our uniquely bi-cultural positions, exchange notes on the shape of adoption in our various states, and share advice and support for those who are thinking about searching or are in the midst of searching for birth family.

It was refreshing, just as I knew it would be. To be around people who understand wholly the experiences I've been through--and have often experienced them in some form or another themselves--is still something new, something I didn't have for my first 25 years. So many of us TRAs grew up feeling tremendous isolation, within our communities and often within our families too. I wasn't the only one whose racial heritage was withheld from the adoptive family for one reason or another. I wasn't the only one who struggled with her hair. :)

Many of us never realized the impact our adoption would have as we moved into adulthood. It's annoying to face these issues, to deracinate our identities and admit that when things have gone wrong in our lives it might be a ghost of that first broken connection with the birth mother. Exhausting. But--like all things frail and human--full of hope.

Personally I've come so far this year alone. No longer do I have inexplicable, blooming anxiety every time I see my parents. No longer do I feel overcome with grief that I don't understand. I have found peace about my incomplete search. It's okay I'll likely never have a true relationship with my birth mother, that we might just keep exchanging occasional letters and phone calls that rarely move beyond pleasantries. It's okay that I might never find my birth father. I might never see his face and measure it against my own. Hold his arm next to mine and weigh our skin tone. Get a good look at his hair. Tell him if only I'd known growing up that he was black it would have made all the difference.... It is safe now.

As for adoption-centered gatherings as a whole, I think I prefer ones that include all members of the triad--adoptees, adopted parents, and birth parents. It can be helpful to remember the perspectives of all parties involved, to see the struggle of others too. The voice of the adoptive parent does not have to drown out the voice of the adoptee or the birth parent. No one's struggle supersedes another's. It takes more work sometimes to get there though, patience too. Fierce compassion when you might just want to go off and cry instead. And for those moments sometimes it's important to just be with others like you.

So, I urge anyone out there who is adopted and has never met another adopted person to find a gathering or a conference or a support group of some kind. Depending on where you are on your journey it is comforting--and sometimes downright crucial--to have someone you can talk to who will just get it.

Some say the devil's greatest trick is convincing the world he doesn't exist...I say his biggest trick is convincing people they are alone in their suffering.


wren said...

L -
I agree - loneliness is one of the greatest hurts. So glad you were able to go to Oakland. I miss seeing you in class...
until soon -

Peppermint Patty said...