I will do my best to conform to belong. This thought came to me as I thought about my involvement on the Facebook page Transracial Adoption Perspectives. It’s a great group that gives non-white adoptees a voice that has often been ignored.
Conforming to belong is a norm for us adoptees. Transracial adoptees have pressure to conform because we don’t look like our families. Some would say conforming is a survival mechanism, if we feel like we might be rejected by our family for some reason. Maybe I felt that way because I was trying to make up for the hardships my mom experienced after my adoption. I was making up for it by trying to fit the ideal daughter type that my mom wanted.
This need to belong is inherent in all adoption stories because a child is leaving one family to join another. This need to belong is especially strong for me, because for me to belong, someone had to feel pain. Therefore, I had to make that person’s sacrifice worth it. I had to not just belong, but perfectly conform.
When I want off to college, I had the same ideal that I would find myself and find my identity whenever I wasn’t studying hard to maintain my academic scholarship and have a shot at getting into CU med school. I found myself and I found a set of Christian friends who really did genuinely want to be my friend and hang out. I couldn’t complain because they were nice, didn’t mind giving me rides when we would go do stuff like late night Wal Mart or Ice cream runs.
As time went on, I wanted to continue to be accepted by my friends and the leaders of my college youth group. I wanted to be accepted as one of God’s successful adoption stories as we were all adopted by Christ. So, I found myself wanting to conform to the ideal of a good Christian college student. I wanted to ace every Bible question my small group leader threw out. I wanted to be praised for knowing the finer details of doctrine and doing as much community service as my schedule would allow. I really believed I was doing the right thing, and yes, volunteering at food banks and in Sunday childcare is a good thing, but I did it to be loved.
Unfortunately, I did some unloving stuff to conform. God loves Truth, so I believed that telling people how He viewed ‘culture wars’ issues was my civic and spiritual duty, especially if I was confrontational abou it. My other friends would do this and get approval from our small group leader and college group leaders, so I followed suit. A large part of me truly thought I was doing the right thing, but deep down I wanted to continue to be accepted by my group and be one of God’s good kids, because it would be a shame for Him to waste an adoption on a bad kid. As my ‘Christian resume’ grew, my view of God became small.
After a few years out from that experience, I felt myself mellowing out and being able to think about both sides of issues instead of just reacting in a way I thought I should.
I thought my involvement in political and cultural issues was waning and becoming less intense. Then racial tensions came to a head in the mainstream media and in our national conversations (Thanks, Trump.) Then I joined Transracial Adoption Perspectives and began reading articles posted about race relations from non-white aka People of Color’s perspective.
I felt myself sliding into that need to conform my posts to belong to the group of other transracial adoptees in the group. Here was a group of transracial adoptees who started a group to give their peers a safe place to discuss all aspects of adoption, and they let me be a part of their group. Was I ‘woke’ enough? Have I shed enough white thinking to belong to their group?
I don’t mean this in a bad way or to diminish the experiences of my fellow adoptees. Some people have had terrible experiences and faced outright racism from their families who were supposed to love them and their community that was supposed to support them. That is never okay.
But I need to take a step back and ask myself if I’m saying something or agreeing to fit in and be accepted by a group, or do I believe something because I have indeed come to the conclusion that said idea is true?