Lisa Marie Rollins

Are Adoptees Selfish For Wanting To Search?

One of my birth sisters was placed for adoption just one year before I was born - I am hoping that someday I'll get to meet her. Is my desire to find her being fueled by an attitude of entitlement? Since I was able to find all of my other birth relatives does that somehow mean that I should be able to find her too? When does it end? When should I draw the line? I have seven siblings in my immediate [adoptive] family, many nieces and nephews, parents, aunts, uncles and have had host of foster siblings over the years, yet I want more. I want so badly to meet my birth sister. Is this desire selfish?

This question has been posed to me many times over the past year during the Q&A's after Closure screenings. Folks have asked this question in a myriad of ways:

Your adoptive family is so great! Why would you need anyone else?

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What if you find out something that you wish you hadn't known?

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What if your birth sister doesn't want to know you? Doesn't she have rights, too?

Debate.org posed the question "Should adopted children be allowed to seek their biological parents without their consent?" Aside from feeling slighted by being continually referred to as an adopted child, I find this question irksome as it inherently suggests that an adoptee learning of their roots and kin is somehow not our right. 19% answered "No," one comment read:

The adopted child should get down on his knees and THANK GOD who intervened on the child's behalf and provided warm, stable, loving parents, and I for one (who is an adopted parent, a REAL parent, btw) would be insulted if my kid told me he wanted to seek his bio parent.

I'd like to suggest that the person who left this comment view Lisa Marie Rollin's one woman stand up show entitled Ungrateful Daughter. Lisa, an adult adoptee turns the "Why can't you just be grateful?" question in to a comedic fare.

Perhaps adoptees are labeled chameleons since we have difficulty understanding when we are allowed to have a say and make a choice. Our birthparents decided to create us, and then somewhere along the line someone (the State, birthparents, foster parents etc.) decided that we should live somewhere else. So, we adjusted and acclimated to new smells, new rules, new schools, new bedrooms, a safer/different environment etc. How are we expected to grow into competent, strong adults if decisions are continually made without our consent? How will we learn to navigate which decisions are ours to make and which aren't?

I'm grateful that my [adoptive] parents raised me to pursue my curiosities, to strive towards satisfying my incessant existential questions, and to simply try things - even though I may fail. I'm thankful that both my birth family and my adoptive family support me in this endeavor as unfortunately, this isn't the case for all adoptees. I'm glad that my family understands that my desire to search and learn more about my roots does not simultaneously cease my desire to be a part of my [adoptive] family. Finding my birth family has never been an attempt to replace anyone else, but simply an effort to find myself. Selfish? Maybe...although I'd wager to guess that I'm not alone in my human desire to know how and why I'm alive, or, more simply, to be able to see a physical reflection of myself in someone else. I'm thankful that the great majority of people are able to access this information with relative ease. What makes me (and other adoptees) jealous is that those who question our motives to search are often the same people who brazenly take for granted getting to know foundational knowledge about their life. Adoptees are keenly aware of this injustice and in the absence of this vital and axiological information we search, and search and search (and sometimes we have to defend ourselves while we're at it).

"I Wish I Was Adopted"

I have had the honor of being involved in many interviews and conversations about adoption which have offered lots of opportunities for me to further the adoption discourse. There is a certain thrill that comes from being vulnerable and answering questions off the cuff as there is no great way to prepare for the questions that will come my way. I enjoy the spontaneity and the sense of unscripted-ness these interviews provide as there is room for truth and the conversation can flow in any direction that seems important at that moment. However, I have been thrown off by a  statement that sometimes gets tossed into my conversations. The statement: "Your family is absolutely amazing. Makes me wish I was adopted" has been a tough one for me to figure out how to answer.  When Bryan is present I am glad for the opportunity to exchange glances with him, silently inquiring "did you hear that, too?"  Bryan often tries to soften the blow in his wonderfully understanding way by making assumptions as to the more likely meaning of the comment. I generally know the intention behind the statement, but that doesn't lessen the sting or make it any more acceptable. Words are important. My friend and fellow adoptee, Amanda Woolston has heard this sentiment many times as well. She rationalizes the statement in this way; "It was said mostly in high school during times where teenage friends just didn't feel like their parents "got" them. [...] They saw being adopted as an opportunity to be a free and unique individual in the midst of genetic strangers who would just embrace whoever you were. It was an opportunity to be a blank canvas and invent oneself ."


Even with the recent media surrounding rehoming of adoptees, there continues to be a general love for the 'rags to riches' stories, a certain fascination with the projection that adoptees are grateful for a "better life" (check out adoptee Lisa Marie Rollins' show Ungrateful Daughter).  I routinely receive messages of love and praise regarding Closure as folks seem to view my life as quite idealistic and use words like strong and determined to describe my steadfast drive for answers and the years sleuthing to find information. Although there is certainly truth to those adjectives, I feel the need to make sure its known that the only reason I had the opportunity to personify these traits is because of an inability to know my own truth.  Although a portion of my life has been communicated via a movie format, my life is not the Annie story. Closure moviegoers tend to get swept up by the hope and romance of the impending reunion with my birth parents and forget about the pain, separation, confusion and abandonment that had to have been present in order for my adoption to have even taken place. There is no adoption without tragedy somewhere along the line. Although my uniquely beautiful [adoptive] family is wonderful, wishing to be adopted isn't a compliment. I'd propose that the actual intentions of a comment or tweet of this nature is something more akin to; "Sometimes I wonder how it'd feel to be part of a family without any genetic ties or biological expectations."

You wish you were adopted and I wish I didn't have to wait until my adulthood to know who gave birth to me. Different viewpoints I guess...

Whether you're adopted or not, how might you respond?