Susan Harris O'Connor

5 Statements That Prove Adoption Discourse Is Happening. Yay!

Mid-January, Bryan and I traveled to the Northeast to do a short tour with the film, meeting with adoption professionals, writers and others prior to the screenings of Closure. Thank you to the many folks who played a role in allowing these memories to be made, wonderfully challenging and respectful conversations surrounding the ethics of transracial adoption to be had and new meaningful friendships to have been forged.

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We are so grateful for these experiences, but find even more meaning in knowing that the film is affecting others and is spurring on conversation. Fellow transracial adoptee, Susan Harris O'Connor mentioned to me before we went on stage for the Q&A that in all of her years speaking about adoption, she'd never been on a panel made up exclusively with transracial adoptees (myself and April Dinwoodie - pictured below). What a success! On a daily basis, I receive wonderful messages from so many folks from around the world - making it clear to me that many folks are ready to further the adoption discourse. This makes me so proud to be a part of this film that allows space for these conversations to be had in mature and meaningful ways. Here's an anonymous sampling of notes that come our way:

Thank you so much for your inspiration. Seeking truth and pushing past old secrets brought pain to the surface, encouraged release, and relief. Your love, for each other, for all members of your whole family, led to more love. Thank you, thank you, thank you.  ---anonymous

I have now watched this film three times, and each time I do I am amazed by something more that I have taken away from it. Last night, it was your adoptive mom...and her gracious, warm, open and loving heart. Watching her love and support you though this was touching and I was very struck by the part of the film where when talking with your birth aunt she deflected away from the negativity and brought the conversation back to you, and your purpose in your search! Go mom!!  ---adoptive mother

One of the most poignant for me is how really amazing it is to see this sort of story told in this way. The participants put themselves on the screen and allowed all those of the world a peek into this incredibly emotional journey. In the past couple of months I’ve drawn away from blogging, the only way I can describe what I’ve been going through is that my world of adoption has had a growth spurt of sorts, and much like how I always responded to physical growth spurts while I was growing up, I’ve turned inward and gotten quiet. This movie was a reminder of the power in using my voice to tell my story.  -- A birthmother

I was very impressed by how gracefully Bryan handled the camera and his presence in so many intimate (and tenuous) family moments. I'm amazed that this is his first film and that he's never had any formal training.  ---A filmmaker

As I get older, the pain of my closed adoption grows more because I now have children of my own, who want to know as well...because I don't know from whence I came, I feel like I am not as completely here as I should feel. Good or bad, the need to know has not diminished for me, and neither has the sense of grief and loss. --- An adoptee

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A Worthy Voice: Trans-racial adoptee; Susan Harris O'Connor

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As a trans-racial adoptee, adopted in 1964, I think one of trickiest things I've had to navigate over my lifetime is holding on to my respect and love of self, family and others, while being bombarded by messages that overtime are really attempting to psychologically erase me and my family from being. It's been done in so many ways;

'would you have preferred to have a Black mother?'; 'do you think you wouldn't have struggled if you had a Black mother?'; 'you're just a White girl, you don't have a Black girls body'; 'do your parents really love you?'; 'why are you hanging out with her?'; 'how do you know her?'; 'why is she here?' etc. etc.

Negative comments and gestures about me and my connection to my White parents have played themselves out in so many ways for so long that quite frankly I'm so surprised I am left with strong self-esteem.

So, what are the things that helped me with my self-esteem? Although I was raised in a White environment, later to make friends with African Americans and other people of various racial backgrounds; my parents were incredible. A couple of lessons they taught me as a child and things they demonstrated that have stayed with me a lifetime...

1. Never apologize for who you are, for there is nothing wrong with you or this family.

2. Judge a person by actions not by what they say.

3. Choose your close friends by how they treat you not by what they look like.

4. My parents clearly and consistently demonstrated to me that if companies were known not to hire people based on race then we were not to spend money there.

5. There was not a piece of gold or a diamond in our home due to 'blood' money'. My parents led by example. They showed me what it meant to be respectful of myself and my Black adopted brothers who were all adopted from foster care.

6. As a young adult, I remember when my white sister began dating a man who would eventually become her husband/father of their two bi-racial children. Both my mother and father didn't even blink at the racial difference. Powerful message!

I truly believe these ways of conducting self as parents really contributed to how I view myself and why I can be proud of my family, regardless of what others may think. And, when asked whether white people can raise children of color it's pretty easy for me to say... 'yes, I would not have traded my parents in for anyone.'

How are others attempting to instill a positive sense of self within their child(ren)?

Susan Harris O'Connor, MSW.  Author, The Harris Narratives: An Introspective Study of a Transracial Adoptee  all rights reserved by author of post 1/2014