• author
    • Maya Stiles Parsons Spier

      Columnist, Editor-in-Chief
    • September 3, 2018 in Columnists

    One of these things is not like the others

    I wish people understood a little bit more about what it meant to be adopted, what it means to be adopted.
    Ben  (Adoptionbeat.org Adoptees Gallery )

    Cindy McCain, front left, sits with her children Jack, Jimmy and Meghan during the service in Phoenix. From left to right in the second row are Doug and Sidney, John McCain’s children from his first marriage, and the McCains’ adopted daughter, Bridget. Ross D. Franklin/AP [Original text]

    CNN’s picture essay (John McCain Memorial pictures on CNN) on Senator McCain’s funeral shows his wife and grown children sitting together. Their three bio kids are in front. Two of his kids from a previous marriage are behind them. Only one of those children is not pictured for a total of seven.

    And beside those kids is his and Cindy’s adopted daughter. Identified as such. Set apart. Not quite a real family member. Never mind she is as much their child as the bio kids. That she grew up just another one of their kids — because that’s what she is. Just another one of their children. Period. No need to carefully announce that she’s adopted. It’s obvious in that “one of these things is not like the other” fashion that adoptees of color in a white family deal with all the fecking time.

    Listing her separately reinforces something we adoptees live with daily — the sense that we are not as real and authentic humans as the rest of our families or the world. We are asked things like “are you their real kid?” or, better yet, “do they have any real kids?”

    I have actually replied, “No. I’m the little simulacrum they purchased in lieu of an actual child. If you’re really quiet, you can hear my gears spin.”

    We are also asked about our real parents. Yeah, the real parents who changed our diapers, mopped up our barf, put up with our adolescence and then very likely sent us to college? You mean those real parents?

    Seeing how they culled this daughter from the family hurt more than I expected. Life is hard enough without forever feeling like an intrinsically lesser being. But in fact, there’s more to the story. She’s not his only adopted child. Senator McCain adopted his first wife’s sons from a previous marriage. (How their family came about.)

    Yeah. There are three adopted children, two of whom are pictured, and guess which one is set apart.

    This adds a whole other level of cruelty to this photo and its caption. One child is set apart. One child is other. Note the difference.

    As an adoptee, I take the treatment of other adoptees damned seriously. Even in wonderful families that welcome us as their own, there are issues adoptees must address and work through. For me, aside from my adoptive family being abusive enough to leave me with severe, chronic, combat-type PTSD, there was that sense that I lacked my own identity. That I was “nobody from nowhere.” Mind you, as far as I was concerned, having been adopted at the age of three weeks, my parents were my real parents. My brother was my real brother. Every relative I knew personally was real in my heart and mind. But their ancestors — those were theirs, not mine. No connection.

    Apparently adoptees, when asked to draw a tree, commonly draw them without roots.

    The fact is, adoptees are pretty common. Most people know at least one. We’re generally pretty ordinary. But our beginnings do not mirror those of most people and we rarely forget it. We rarely forget that the faces we call family do not mirror our own. Their voices do not sound like ours. All too often, they’re as alien in personality to us as complete strangers. Genetics, even of personality, is quite real, and our differences can be painfully isolating.

    One of these things is not like the others. Again.

    So it is painful and enraging to see, once again, an adoptee culled from her family as if she doesn’t belong. Not real. Second rate. Also-ran. Less than. The fact that she was the only adoptee mentioned and she is from Bangladesh where her brothers are white just compounds that cruel “othering” that she’s probably had to deal with for her entire life.

    Enough already. We’re the children of our families. Good families, bad families, they’re still our families. Our parents are our real parents. Our siblings are our real siblings.

    Got it?


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