How Feeling Like a 'Product' as a Transracial Adoptee Impacts My Mental Health
My name is Nicole Monique Beede and I am a Black transracial adoptee (TRA). Most people, even some TRA’s, don’t know or fully understand this definition of this label. However, adoptees can face significant trauma in a system that doesn’t prioritize the needs of adoptees. If you can relate to the following, know your experiences are real and valid.
I was born Monique Kendick, a name chosen by my biological mother. Upon adoption, Monique became my middle name and was replaced with Nicole. My adoptive mother (who I call mom) knew the importance of keeping the name I was born with, but she still decided that Nicole would become my new identity.
Within the first 30 days of my existence, I had experienced birth, loss and love. My name change was evidence of this. My adoptive mother Pat was a victim of trauma. Pat grew up in an abusive, alcoholic, Irish-Catholic household in Boston, Massachusetts. After marrying and divorcing her high school sweetheart, she stubbornly decided to become a single mother via adoption.
In 1993, she turned to one of the 3,000+ adoption agencies in the United States. The fact is, adoptee voices in my experience are silenced by adoption agencies, and by design. “Adoption” is an industry. So, let’s break it down. The term “industry” is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary in many ways, including:
1a: manufacturing activity as a whole
1b: a distinct group of productive or profit-making enterprises
1c: a department or branch of a craft, art, business, or manufacture
1d: systematic labor especially for some useful purpose or the creation of something of value
Within these definitions, I focus on the terms value, profit-making, systematic labor and capital. But what exactly is value? More often than not, “value” refers to a numerical quantity, often in the form of money, especially in the Western World. We desperately try to quantify everything, yet we forget that numbers leave out important information.
Quantities, like money and time, are relative. And when quantities are relative, it ultimately means that a product’s value differs in every context. So how does this apply to my adoption and the story of so many other humans? It provides insight on how to recreate the narrative.
Let’s step away from limiting quantities and focus on the experience of adoption. Let’s stop ignoring the real “customer” experience (the experiences of adoptees) and realize that the customer has been incorrectly defined as adoptive parents. It makes sense: Prospective adoptive parents possess capital (money, medical resources, “acceptable” homes, etc.), along with desperation, grief and loneliness. They are an easy target market to manipulate — the sense of urgency is already there.
So what does that mean for adoptees, foster youth and children of non-white families? We are automatically seen as products.
Existing as a product has its side effects. While the consumers (adoptive parents) often have support from organizations that cater to them, the product of the adoption industry, adoptees, are left as an afterthought. While this is never the rhetoric that the adoption industry is advertising, adoptees get the message.
We know that the industry sees us as disposable. We know that the industry tells us to be loyal to our “owners.” Unfortunately, until members of the adoption industry come to terms with their systemic toxicity, adoptees will continue to be preyed upon.
So back to me: In February 2020, I began to wake up. In my deepest meditative state, the truth became undeniable and the white-capitalist rhetoric “lies” I felt a product of dissolved. I now knew that a collective energy/spirit was at the root of everything. I now know that when diseased, this “root” hinders all future growth.
So, let’s plant a new seed and grow it with love, truth and unity. In my life, this process has involved detaching from what I have been taught by authorities and refusing to stay silent any longer. Silence leads to isolation and negative emotions that manifest in aggression. We will not change the industry of adoption with more anger, fear and secrets.
All of that being said, I will continue to share my experiences. I will encourage other adoptees to do the same (especially Black transracial adoptees, adoptees of color and adult adoptees). It is not selfish to speak your truth. No one is forcing other people to listen. However, group energy is powerful.
Let’s inspire each other to thrive in our own unique truths, our complete stories. There will always be pain in adoptions, but expecting adoptees to “remain grateful” while denying the darkness of trauma helps no one. Together, let us defeat the darkness that comes from isolation. Light defeats darkness and this particular healing light comes from honesty. Let’s get deep, label our emotions, process them and stay LOUD while doing so. Together we will shine.
Header image via Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash