An open letter to my Hermanito: On queer, brown, adoptee love and what comes between

Querido Hermano,

It just didn’t feel right to leave today, on this new exciting adventure without taking the time to say all the things I’ve shared with you in moments, here, openly, for the world to witness our love.   Because, this love, is queer, it is brown, it is an adoptee true love, and it, like us, was never supposed to exist… but like most things that move beyond surviving this brown, queer, adoptee love is resilience embodied.  It is beyond magical and stands on its own two feet, fierce, a force to be reckoned with.

Over the last 6 years we have  become phamilia.   We’ve created a new language of queer love with each other, one that has taught me more about how to love, trust, respect, honor and walk with compassion than any other journey (with the exception of motherhood) that I’ve ever been on.

Over the past 6 years, we have laughed, cried (well, mostly I’ve cried), fought and transformed with one another.  We’ve figured out how to set our boundaries, and how to challenge each other. We’ve learned about affirmation, and celebration and intention and accountability, in real, lived, practical ways.

You have helped me raise my children, a job I don’t think you ever signed up for but took on with true grace and with all the integrity I know you to hold in this world.

You’ve reminded me to laugh, when things feel hard, to keep questioning, to keep listening, to keep learning, and, most importantly, to keep the FAITH.

You have reminded me to not take things to seriously, even when they’ve felt so overpowering.  You’ve shown up to fix things when they’re broken, to soothe me when I’m hurting, to celebrate our phamilia, you’ve shown up for so many parts of our everyday life,  to support  us all in so many ways, and, most importantly,  even when things have been tough, you’ve always just kept showing up.

This IS a brown, queer, adoptee love, what we’ve grown.  It’s something that I’ve only ever witnessed to exist between femmes and their fags… something that is so deep, so true that I believe can only be magically created in a place where two spirits so familiar with gender variance, gender performance and the complexities of the queer brown body meet.  We knew each other the minute we laid eyes on each other- the way that appearances can be deceiving, the way that language can sometimes never explain exactly who we be, and the way that learning to trust can sometimes only be built between spirits.  We created a deep potion between us, brewed together through parts of defiance, of resilience, of hope.  Your fierce fag spirit, my femme diva self, each of us different parts of a story of resistance, each embedded with the historical memory of what it means to exist, as Audre Lorde said, “when we were never meant to survive”.

Today, I am packing my final boxes and saying goodbye to this land, our home together for the last 6 years.   We’ve never lived more than 20 minutes away from each other since we met, and the times we’ve been farther than down the street have been few.

To put into words what it feels like to leave you is hard.  It is hard because it feels like I never hear or see queers lament the loss (even by choice) or their queer partners.   And by partners, I don’t mean the heteronormative partnerships that gain support or visibility through mainstream approval, I mean, the queer partnerships that form out of complex, often un-affirmed unions between two queer spirits when we make phamilia with each other.  So, I am writing this to historicize our relationship because there are so few examples of this sort of relationship available, and I want to make visible what exists and has existed in reality between us.  You have been my brother, my fag, my best friend, my co-parent, and so many titles for so many different years.  In some ways, I think we have grappled for language to affirm what exists between us for audiences whose consciousness have not yet witnessed this queer, brown, adoptee love before and need words to understand a feeling, a meeting of our spirits.   This brown, queer, adoptee love has taken us down many journeys and today, I am saying a prayer and holding a hope that this next journey will only bring us to new depths.  I am opening up to the possibilities that this separation will only create more opportunities to grow with you.

Between packing today I read an email from the phenomenal Alixa/Naima duo of Climbing Poetry, the header said, “raindrop let go and become the ocean”, and inside it read, “ possibility is as wide as the space we create to hold it”.  Never in a million years, would I have guessed what joy, love, and tremendous life lessons this queer, brown, adoptee love could bring to me.   The possibilities are endless if we allow them to enter… I am reminding myself of this today.  That this solid, this magic between us can be held over the miles, that our raindrop selves can be part of a beautiful ocean, still connected even when we are flowing in different directions.

Hermanito, I love you.  I thank you for all you have been to me.  I thank you for the proof that queer, brown, adoptee love can and does exist.  I thank you for being willing to hold this space between us and staying in it.  You mean the world to me.  I am excited to see what our next chapters will hold.  What journeys this life will lead us on, and what great ways the Spirits will lead us to grow with each other.

In writing this, I give thanks to the Great Spirits who knew exactly, perfectly, and exquisitely who to unite each of us with.  I thank them for bringing you into our lives, and pray to them that they protect you, as I know they will.

Yours always, in Spirit and Truth.

-tk

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Statement of Haiti from Adoptees of Color Rountable

* this is the statement I made reference to in my last blog, find it here: http://www.adopteesofcolor.org/ *

Statement on Haiti

This statement reflects the position of an international community of adoptees of color who wish to pose a critical intervention in the discourse and actions affecting the child victims of the recent earthquake in Haiti. We are domestic and international adoptees with many years of research and both personal and professional experience in adoption studies and activism. We are a community of scholars, activists, professors, artists, lawyers, social workers and health care workers who speak with the knowledge that North Americans and Europeans are lining up to adopt the “orphaned children” of the Haitian earthquake, and who feel compelled to voice our opinion about what it means to be “saved” or “rescued” through adoption.

We understand that in a time of crisis there is a tendency to want to act quickly to support those considered the most vulnerable and directly affected, including children. However, we urge caution in determining how best to help. We have arrived at a time when the licenses of adoption agencies in various countries are being reviewed for the widespread practice of misrepresenting the social histories of children. There is evidence of the production of documents stating that a child is “available for adoption” based on a legal “paper” and not literal orphaning as seen in recent cases of intercountry adoption of children from Malawi, Guatemala, South Korea and China. We bear testimony to the ways in which the intercountry adoption industry has profited from and reinforced neo-liberal structural adjustment policies, aid dependency, population control policies, unsustainable development, corruption, and child trafficking.

For more than fifty years “orphaned children” have been shipped from areas of war, natural disasters, and poverty to supposedly better lives in Europe and North America. Our adoptions from Vietnam, South Korea, Guatemala and many other countries are no different from what is happening to the children of Haiti today. Like us, these “disaster orphans” will grow into adulthood and begin to grasp the magnitude of the abuse, fraud, negligence, suffering, and deprivation of human rights involved in their displacements.

We uphold that Haitian children have a right to a family and a history that is their own and that Haitians themselves have a right to determine what happens to their own children. We resist the racist, colonialist mentality that positions the Western nuclear family as superior to other conceptions of family, and we seek to challenge those who abuse the phrase “Every child deserves a family”  to rethink how this phrase is used to justify the removal of children from Haiti for the fulfillment of their own needs and desires. Western and Northern desire for ownership of Haitian children directly contributes to the destruction of existing family and community structures in Haiti. This individualistic desire is supported by the historical and global anti-African sentiment which negates the validity of black mothers and fathers and condones the separation of black children from their families, cultures, and countries of origin.

As adoptees of color many of us have inherited a history of dubious adoptions. We are dismayed to hear that Haitian adoptions may be “fast-tracked” due to the massive destruction of buildings in Haiti that hold important records and documents. We oppose this plan and argue that the loss of records requires slowing down of the processes of adoption while important information is gathered and re-documented for these children. Removing children from Haiti without proper documentation and without proper reunification efforts is a violation of their basic human rights and leaves any family members who may be searching for them with no recourse. We insist on the absolute necessity of taking the time required to conduct a thorough search, and we support an expanded set of methods for creating these records, including recording oral histories.

We urge the international community to remember that the children in question have suffered the overwhelming trauma of the earthquake and separation from their loved ones. We have learned first-hand that adoption (domestic or intercountry) itself as a process forces children to negate their true feelings of grief, anger, pain or loss, and to assimilate to meet the desires and expectations of strangers. Immediate removal of traumatized children for adoption—including children whose adoptions were finalized prior to the quake— compounds their trauma, and denies their right to mourn and heal with the support of their community.

We affirm the spirit of Cultural Sovereignty, Sovereignty and Self-determination embodied as rights for all peoples to determine their own economic, social and cultural development included in the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the Charter of the United Nations; the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The mobilization of European and North American courts, legislative bodies, and social work practices to implement forced removal through intercountry adoption is a direct challenge to cultural sovereignty. We support the legal and policy application of cultural rights such as rights to language, rights to ways of being/religion, collective existence, and a representation of Haiti’s histories and existence using Haiti’s own terms.

We offer this statement in solidarity with the people of Haiti and with all those who are seeking ways to intentionally support the long-term sustainability and self-determination of the Haitian people. As adoptees of color we bear a unique understanding of the trauma, and the sense of loss and abandonment that are part of the adoptee experience, and we demand that our voices be heard. All adoptions from Haiti must be stopped and all efforts to help children be refocused on giving aid to organizations working toward family reunification and caring for children in their own communities. We urge you to join us in supporting Haitian children’s rights to life, survival, and development within their own families and communities.


It’s been a long time… I shouldn’ta left ya.. without a…

dope blog to let you know:

Dear truthandhealing readers,

There is SOOO much going on!  As some of you may know, my family has been preparing to make a journey of sorts for quite some time now.  There’s been lots of ups and downs towards this eagerly awaited, hugely anticipated journey and we (especially ME) are/am just realizing that this whole PRE-journey deal is ACTUALLY PART of the whole journey.  Sometimes, even when I feel like I am walking in spirit, I lose sight of all that is happening around me and get lost in the destination.

There’s been a lot of mixed feelings about where we will end up and, to be completely honest, I’m still not sure.  There is a piece of me that wants to follow my heart only and pay  no regard to  very real and scary factors like, well, where will I work? Or, how am I gonna pay the bills? Or, how am I gonna make sure the kids get what THEY need out of this deal?  Or, how safe is safe when you are a queer brown person?  And mostly, are both of my top two chosen communities going to be able to give me (and my kid) the security/community/love/compassion/creativity/plainolqueerness that we need to keep us feeling like good/excited/creative/lovely queers back?

But even with questions looming, I am realizing that this part of the journey is just as valid as  getting to where we are going and finding the answers to those questions  will be.   I guess it’s on this end of the journey that the questions about who we are and what exactly it is we are looking for are coming up.  They aren’t getting answered, at least not in full yet, but they are sitting on the surface of our souls and letting our minds/heart and bodies embrace them.  And, to be honest, in embracing those brave questions (some of which are above and some of which I’ll share with you soon), we are learning to embrace ourselves and our family even more.

How important family/tribe/community/belonging is to me has been a theme for my entire life.  In my life as an “adopted”(stolen) displaced kid there has been no way to avoid wondering, thinking, questioning and almost semi-obsessing about where I came from and WHO I came from.  In my case, by who, I don’t mean literally WHO my biological parents were/are.  Though that piece was definitely important to me, as a little person I hungered SO deeply to understand WHO MY PEOPLE were/are.  All I really knew was that my ma’s last name was Tunchez and that she was Mayan, a tradition and culture that was practically devoid to me once my U.S. (adoptive) parents brought me here (against my will, if I dare be honest).   This experience of wanting to understand my culture, know my people and feel altogether isolated from my own history has been coming up a lot for me lately, especially with the recent (and predictable) case of American’s held in Haiti for attempting to “rescue” (read: take without legal authority/ ie. kidnap) Haitian children.  I have A LOT to say about that as these people were missionaries (as were my “adoptive” parents, who also never had legal papers for me at first, more later) and epitomized the predictable response of American’s/ Wealthy Nation’s  saviour mentalities.  I’ve thought a lot about whether adoption altogether is off the table for me and I don’t have a solid answer for that yet  but I do want to say, that in this case the ease with which these missionaries felt entitled to enter another country and take these children is representative of the larger issues we see in the cycle of ongoing international adoption cases. I’m going to call this cycle the International Adoption Industrial Complex (I’m not sure if I’m actually the first person calling it this and would love to hear if other folks have heard this term before) and it looks like this:   in Haiti, as well as in other countries that experience high rates of international adoptions with children landing/ being displaced to the U.S., we witness a cycle of Economic and Environmental Racism– devastation at the hands of wealthy nations (frequently including, if not headed by the U.S.) that includes the depletion of the countries natural resources and then eventually easily accessible adoptions (read: displacement and  removal) of the countries (brown) children into the hands of eagerly awaiting (white) American parents.   Now, the fact is, the country has been depleted of most of its resources, so, in some cases, the  families and mamaz of these children may feel like a better alternative to keeping the children in ongoing poverty is to put them up for adoption.  There’s no debating that. However, what becomes an issue is that, instead of working to create a world were resources are shared more equitably and where families can stay unified and are not at threat of being torn apart due to lack of resources, environmental and economic devastation (including corporate led/ funded wars)  the U.S.  benefits by contributing to these devastations and then in-sourcing children and ultimately, making these children one more imported commodity.

What does it feel like to be cast into a world where you are viewed as an  imported commodity?  Well,  I think that is what a lot of international transracial adoptees are talking about.  Here’s some examples:  it’s being brought to school for show and tell by your brothers and sisters (yes, that still happens) or having people impose their ideas of what was happening in your country ONTO you or being told your exotic or having folks expect that you know how to cook that food they eat “over there, where you’re from”.  It’s all of those things PLUS it’s being the only brown kid in your school or the only brown kid in your family circle, it’s realizing one day that your parent’s don’t have any other brown friends or being taken to African dance class each week for your  “cultural exposure”, when you’re from say, GUATEMALA… (just sayin, it happens people)… it’s not seeing positive reflections of yourself and having to imagine what a powerful brown person (who comes from the same geographical location as you do) even looks like, talks like, dresses like.. and I could go on and on.

It’s painful. It’s hard and it can leave you feeling pretty vulnerable until you actually find YOUR people. Now, as I mentioned, my family is on a journey to find home. It’s something that we are trying to open our hearts, spirits, bodies, souls to.. and part of that quest for me (24 years after being brought here) is still about finding positive reflections of me.. of my kids.. for us all.  As a parent, I am walking with spirit in understanding that THIS  IS the responsible thing to do and also, as a parent, I want to demand that  U.S. American (white) parents who continue to bring brown children from their countries and into their homes,  figure out a way to support their children in THEIR identity development, finding spaces where they can see positive reflections of themselves, encouraging them to discuss the very real, every day experiences of racism and other oppressions that they will experience in the US, preparing to be strong allies (learning what that even means) and really truly being prepared to support that kid when they want to go home and find the essence of who they are, were they came from and how they can make home again.   Finally, I  believe that it is important that these parents really examine what role they play in, and how they’ve benefitted from,  the International Adoption Industrial Complex.

Last month I signed onto a statement on behalf of the Adoptees of Color Rountable.. I’ll post it above and link to it here: http://www.adopteesofcolor.org/

Please check it out.

So, dearest readers, please bear with me as I continue down this journey, even when I am taking breaks and know that I am committed to this blog and to continuing to write about adoption, home, journey, figuring out next steps and so much more.

xo.

Haiku for Journey #1:

paths to home within

pass over body, heart, soul

through spirit we land

quick note on Haiti.

the situation in haiti is painful, critical and incredibly important.  as someone who came from a country that has experienced its own share of loss and devestation due to active imperialism i see the ongoing issues in haiti as far greater than this most recent earthquake.  i stand in solidarity with the haitian people and our need to support the rebuilding efforts in both immediate and ongoing ways and i ask that we look closely at the leading factors (many of which we contributed towards) that led haiti into the economic crisis it has been in.  i feel so glad to witness so many people who are willing to think critically about the systemic issues that have impacted the country of haiti WHILE simultaneously supporting the people’s of haiti through ongoing fundraising efforts, raising visibility about the current situation,  educating ourselves about the history of resistance that the haitian people have embodied, y’all  and creating spaces for support through community building and sharing resources with local haitian descendents.

here are a few things i’ve found informative and interesting that have been written about the current situation in haiti.  i’ll begin with the one that pertains to this blog’s theme (adoption):

1. a shout out about this ADWATCH article.. my most favorite suggestion (though they are all brilliant) is in the comments:

I’d add – Don’t adopt a Haitian Child. After disasters there is often a heartfelt desire and a rush to adopt “Orphans”.

The problem is they are often not orphans – and even when they are, where possible it’s better for then to be cared for by extended family or adopted within their communities.

At times of disaster when families are trying to reunite and child protection systems are weaker is not the time to “fast-track” international adoptions and remove the important safeguards that should normally be in place to protect the best interest of the child.

2. the always brilliant and **incitefull** sisters of INCITE Women’s Health and Justice Initiative have authored this letter, I love this part:

As many of us work to figure out appropriate strategies to support the people of Haiti, it�s important to note that the people most vulnerable–namely, women, LGBT folks, people with disabilities, incarcerated people, children, and elders–can experience a slower unfolding of specific crises that are consequences of the original disaster and the social conditions that preceded the disaster.For example, women experience the most negative consequences of catastrophic events, particularly with regards to higher rates of injury and death, displacement, unemployment, increased incidents of HIV rates, sexual and domestic violence, increased poverty, and the disproportionate responsibility for caring for others.  This is especially true for women marginalized by race, sexual orientation, gender identity, class, health, ability, age, housing, and legal status.  Additionally, in times of crises and environmental emergencies, poor and marginalized women, who are least responsible for the horrific conditions in which they live, are often blamed for their poverty and become subjected to regulatory population control policies through family planning, poverty reduction, and so-called environmental protection programs.
(and some of their suggestions)
EDUCATE YOURSELF & YOUR COMMUNITY!

  • Research Haiti�s amazing history of resistance, resiliency, and self-determination
  • Educate your community on the colonial history of deliberate impoverishment, control, debt, dependency, and neglect in Haiti
  • Educate yourself and your community on the intersections of gender, violence, and disaster vulnerabilities
  • Examine how the crises of disasters and gender-based violence are connected to the social, political, environmental, and economic issues you may work on
  • Analyze how the violence of disasters and colonial legacies (and realities) undermines the sovereignty and self-determination of a people
  • Identify patterns of how women, LGBT people, and people with disabilities are particularly impacted by disaster and conflict situations in, for example, Haiti, New Orleans, Palestine, Afghanistan, the Congo, the U.S./Mexico border, Native reservations

ORGANIZE!

  • Convene organizing teach-ins on the history of Haiti, its historical connection to New Orleans, and the role the U.S. government has played in the underdevelopment of Haiti through invasion, occupation, and neoliberal supported policies
  • Reach out to Haitian immigrants and Haitian-Americans in your community who may need support
  • Support progressive democratic and human rights movements in Haiti and campaigns calling for debt cancelation and those to eliminate foreign aid restrictions that privilege US based contractors over Haitian labor
  • Support the capacity of the Haitian government to rebuild its institutional and physical infrastructure and provide sustainable and equitable public and relief services to it�s own people free of neoliberal mandates
  • Ensure that gendered perspectives are mainstreamed within humanitarian programs and long term recovery, both in recognizing the leadership roles and facilities of women and other marginalized communities to guide these processes and the specific vulnerabilities of marginalized communities in times of crisis and national emergency
  • Mobilize women of color & queer/LGBT people of color in your community to develop and share organizing strategies to address crises like these both abroad and here at home
  • Share organizing models and build skills to strengthen our grassroots organizing

DONATE!

3.  and I have a new-found love for the ILLDOCTRINE blog.. and really appreciated THIS perspective on haiti.


in peace y solidarity y’all.

adoption article.

As an international “adoptee”, I have frequently thought about what it would have been like to grow up with a family in Guatemala.  It isn’t the adoption itself that I have struggled with, per se… it’s the fact that the family that “adopted” me did not prepare themselves to responsibly handle the needs of a  transracial adoption.  For them, it was their needs that were being met but they didn’t have the insight or tools to realize that bringing a child from another country and displacing them in another culture, surrounded by a predominantly white and economically privileged community, would bring up issues for the child(me).   There is a lot more to say about this… and I will… but for now I’m sharing this part because of the article I’m citing below.  The Guatemala govt. will be re-opening adoptions to international families in 2010 with new ideas on how to regulate the adoption trade. This article brings up some really interesting points and ideas about adoption including more what appear to be more thorough desires to keep Guatemalan adoptees in Guatemala.  Hope you all get a chance to check it out.

“People said Guatemalans don’t want to adopt, and they certainly don’t want to adopt other Guatemalans. This breaks that myth,” Solorzano said. “Guatemalans did want to adopt. They just couldn’t compete financially with Americans.”

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/the-americas/091222/guatemala-adoptions

More about Hunger stike for adoptees(abductees).

Just a quick follow up to the articles I posted earlier.

check this out:

http://threedaysforthreedaughters.typepad.com/

and this:

http://fsobrevivientes.blogspot.com/2009/09/campana-tres-dias-por-tres-hijas.html

More about adoption in the news.

“What we say and what we do ultimately comes back to us so let us own our responsibility, place it in our hands, and carry it with dignity and strength”Gloria Anzaldua

For those of you that read this:

Guatemala Pushes for DNA tests of kids adopted in U.S.

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5B741820091208

This is another article that will give you some context for the above referenced article:

http://www.startribune.com/local/63909282.html?elr=KArksUUUycaEacyU

In my investigation of adoption, on very real emotional and theoretical levels, I find myself always most  impacted by the  intersections between systemic and institutional practices that do not support ALL  families and/or that contribute towards tearing apart families, and, the individuals that benefit from these practices.  I recognize that  we have to take a look at all aspects of this discussion AND I own my  desire to begin to radically reform these practices and look at solutions that do not include displacing children from their families due to lack of resources.   I believe we must be more critical of the  practices that international adoptions have been routed in and I think we all need to take responsibility for addressing the displacement of so many children.

As an international adoptee, I am working to figure out how to  engage in this work in ongoing and radical ways that come from a place of both compassion and justice.  Are you another international adoptee? I’d love to hear your thoughts about these articles and this subject.

As you can imagine, I have lots more to say about these particular articles but right now I have to go be mama to my own hungry babes.  Hope you are enjoying the blog!

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