Transracial adoption, a term that I had not used or heard of until several months ago. This term however describes me and my experience as an adoptee. If you are unfamiliar with this term “transracial” means that you identify as a different race other than your birth ethnicity. For the most part KADs were adopted by white parents, so culturally we were raised white. I am not stating that this a bad thing by any means but many of us lost our ethnic identities, at times I know for myself that I had a difficult time accepting my Korean features.
I tried to diminish the fact that I did not look like my white friends or even that I was a person of color. This especially was true when I started wearing make up. I can still remember in middle school reading the instructions that said where to put the different shades of eye shadow. I laugh now but I cannot tell you how long it took me to figure out that I didn’t have a crease in my eyelid. For a split second I thought I had gotten some foreign makeup that didn’t understand that I was like everyone else.
In my attempts to find that “crease” in my eyelid my make up for awhile looked terrible. I had to figure out on my own how to do my own eye shadow because of my eyes. The attempts at having my make up done by friends or in a department store were out of the question. Most of the time I looked worse after someone else attempted my make up.
Within the last couple of years, I have noticed a shift. The more I started to look into Korea and after my first trip to visit there, the more I wanted to be able to exist in this world.It started slowly, I began to listen to k-pop and eventually started watching Korean dramas and I was officially hooked.
I started noticing that I exist in two different worlds which seem miles apart. It wasn’t until recently when the two worlds started to merge, how different they are and how to exist in both of them is a challenge. There are days where I am extremely frustrated that I can’t speak Korean or struggle with the fact that I’m “not Korean enough”. It constantly feels like that I have something to prove, even if it is only to myself.
Crossing over into Korean culture seems to present more of a challenge. Overall most KADs do not speak Korean and are unfamiliar with the culture this bridge is a little harder to cross. There are so many different things to “be Korean” and even then they can tell we were not raised there. From our mannerisms, clothes, hair, make up and for a lot of us, our inability to speak Korean most KADs could easily be picked out of a crowd of Koreans by Koreans.
There are some Koreans that are envious of us KADs because we can speak English like a native and can blend into American society without a second thought. I guess it’s funny to think about. There are so many traits that we as KADs seem to lack and yet we are envied by the very culture that we pine to be a part of.
What if we reframed the narrative? What if instead of stating that we exist in two different worlds, as transracial adoptees we accept the fact that we have become cultural “chameleons”. Meaning that we have the ability to move between different cultures, whether we are seen as “white” or people of color, we have the advantage to exist in these two vastly different worlds. Instead of focusing on what we “lack” we instead remember that there are two cultures where we can exist. We tend to focus so much on what we are lacking that we forget to acknowledge our advantages to existing in these different worlds.
While also changing the narrative and reclaiming our identities as adoptees, what if we also acknowledge our capability to be these chameleons and celebrate how unique it really is.