Archives for posts with tag: BAAF

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 Observer Article: How a generation of orphans fared…

 

As one of the Hong Kong Adoptees involved in this study I feel that I am qualified in some manner to speak on this topic.

Identity is a strange concept – easy to dismiss if your existence, your facial features, your place in society is not challenged. But for those of us who do not fit neatly into the accepted and perceived norms of UK society and culture it is an entirely different matter.

 

People say that things have changed that we have moved on. As a British-Hong Kong Chinese/East Asian and transracial adoptee I beg to differ. My front line experience both in the work place and on the streets is that racism and prejudice is if anything, alive and well, kicking, spitting and slamming the door in our ethnically defined faces.

This study I hope would be taken for what it is, perhaps the first step into better understanding the condition, the challenges, the traumas and the legacy that transracial adoption leaves. It can be both positive and negative. The influencers of that are those who have the power to effect change, policy makers and the family makers. Those who seek to aid people who wish to adopt. This study is by no means a doom and gloom study. But neither is it a fairytale “and they all lived happily ever after”. There are cautionary tales in there; there are red flags that we as a responsible society ignore at our own peril. Adoption is not about the needs of the adopting family, it’s about the needs and what is best for the child. If we society seeks to endorse and continue to support transracial adoption then it must take responsibility for what transracial adoption can do to a child. It must therefore surely put in place processes, procedures assistance and guidance that will minimise and negate the negative effects. It has to acknowledge and accept a wider spectrum of human and cultural expression. Inclusion of all aspects of the child and embracing that and accommodating that not ignoring, devaluing or” stripping” away those components. Transracial adoption should in my personal view be the last resort when all else has failed.

More research needs to be done and more transracial adoptees need to be heard and listened to that cover the full spectrum experience. But those voices need to be listened to and not dismissed. Who amongst us has the right to dismiss another’s experience – we may not agree with that experience, we may find that experience difficult to relate to, but just because we have no knowledge or understanding of that experience by no means should belittle or negate the validity of that experience.

 

 

     

    This is a copy of the presentation that I gave at the BAAF conference looking into the prelimnary resluts of the British Chinese Adoption Research

     

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    Hello my name is Lucy; I was one of the 106 Hong Kong Chinese foundlings that came over to the UK during the late 50s and into the 60s as part of the Hong Kong Project.

    A white family adopted me like many of my fellow foundlings. The family that adopted me already had a son of their own plus, a Chinese daughter that they had adopted from the same orphanage in Hong Kong; though we were not related save having come from the same children’s home in Hong Kong. For me the experience of being adopted was both positive and negative. Especially in my formative years.

    Attitudes of the day, I think dictated how the people who adopted me chose to deal with the fact of me being of a different race and culture. It was a subject that we did not talk about. It was the elephant in the room. I was curious and as I grew up I become more and more curious. Pushing to know more, who was I? What was I? 

    It has taken many years of therapy and personal soul searching to reach the place that I occupy now. To have found a balance and contentment with who and what I am, or perhaps what I am not.

    Let me make it perfectly clear that I am profoundly grateful for having been adopted. Had I not been I’m sure that I would not be standing here today addressing you as I do now. I certainly would not have become the person that I am. Or have entered the creative arts sector as a professional. I have had to fight my way through silence, prejudice and out and out racism from a very early age.

    Having been rejected at infant school by the incumbent school bully to the institutionalized racism which sadly still creeps along the corridors of industry even now in the 21st century in supposedly multicultural Britain. I personally have had to come to terms with the fact as someone who looks to all intensive purposes to “be” Chinese that I am and always will be “incomplete”.

    The loss of my mother tongue and my cultural heritage marked me out to those in the Chinese speaking community as someone to be wary of, as someone not to be trusted, not Chinese. For those from the indigenous Caucasian community I was an outsider. A foreigner. The reasons for not being able to connect with my birth culture and language are many and varied, but mostly ‘of the time’. The clean break attitude was what was considered the best approach.

    Now there is no excuse, no reason why a transracially adopted child cannot retain cultural and linguistic links until such time they reach their majority and may decide to set aside such matters. But at least they will have the basic tools to be able to communicate in their own language should they ever need or feel the need to do so.

    Something, that when I was younger hit me very hard. The feelings of rejection, the feeling of inadequacy, embarrassment of not being able to respond to a fellow countryman, followed by the looks of suspicion.

    I did not have the advantages of language courses, of the World Wide Web or the opportunities to learn. I am neither pro nor anti Transracial adoption. But I would say, it is my personal view, that transracial adoption should be the very last resort.

    Identity is a strange beast; it is overlooked and taken for granted by those who do not have to question who or what they are in society. But for those of us who do not benefit from the reflection of society’s mirror re-enforcing our physiognomy it is elusive. Making us wander the no man’s land between two cultures, two lineages two distinct “what might have beens”. To ensure that children remain in their country of origin. This should be the first choice.

    For those of you that are considering transracial adoption I salute you. It is challenging path that you have embarked upon.  But take it from one that has trodden that road. As parents you have the onerous responsibility of equipping your children with all the tools to deal with life and that includes the unsavory and negative aspects of life.

    It is crucial that we assist those children who are being uprooted from their country of origin to be placed for adoption in another country and make their journey of self identification easier.

    I would hope that in this day and age of information that no transracially adopted child would be kept in the dark about where they came from. That they would be taught their mother-tongue and get to know in depth their culture and heritage. And I am not referring to a cursory Sunday school that teaches children a few traditional songs by rote and does a few collages about the moon festival.

    I was not given the choice of whether I retained my Chinese name, learnt to speak Chinese or was instructed in Chinese culture and heritage. It is something that for many, many years left a gap in my being, in my identity. It is something that I never fully come to terms with.

    Incomplete as I am, I am now whole. I am proud to be who I am a child of both the East and the West. But it has been a long and difficult road and one that I would not willingly wish onto another.

    In spite of the challenges of being Chinese and transracially adopted I have survived. I have prevailed. The challenges that I encountered as a child, the bullying, the prejudice and racism have in some ways made me what I am today.

    I would not be here if the history of this country had not tied Hong Kong to it’s apron strings. Hong Kong would not be the Special Administrative Region of China that it is to day had the British not taken it as a crown colony

    And I would not be the proud British-Chinese actor, writer and filmmaker that stands before you now.

     

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    Yesterday I attended a private event. I am one of one hundred Hong Kong Adoptees that was put up for overseas adoption to families in the UK. The first organised group of trans-racially adopted children to the UK. 

    The BAAF have undertaken a research study, I was one of many full participants in this study (specific details unfortunately I cannot divulge as the research findings have not been fully analysed yet).

    I spent the day and evening in the company of Hong Kong adoptees many of whom came from the same orphanage that I had. Looking at this sea of Chinese faces and the mixture of British regional accents at once gave me both pleasure and sadness.

    We have all learned to exist. But for many of us we are still lost, abandoned and incomplete. Neither one thing nor the other. Mistrusted and more often than not rejected by the UK Chinese community because many of us do not speak Chinese. Un-recognised by the host country we walk in no man’s land. We are the ghosts in an already invisible community.