Punchline: You’re adopted.

“They’re the smart one in the family. They must’ve been adopted.” 

“They’re the only one with freckles. We say they must’ve been adopted.” 

“They’re the weird one of the family. They were probably adopted.” 

The statements/jokes listed above are hurtful. I’ve spoken on this before, but I am encountering more and more adoption jokes. To many, adoption is not a part of life. It’s just something other people do to start a family. To these same people, adoption is likely seen as beautiful. So, if that’s the case, why would a joke about adoption be wrong? 

Those jokes highlight differences. They other people. Sure, the attribute might be positive and uncommon in the family. A joke about adoption would appear to make adoption seem like a great thing then. 

People make jokes about adoption thinking about the act only… they don’t think about adoptees. As an adoptee, I see these jokes and immediately think about how I’m different from my family. I think about how the joke implies that the ONLY way I could be a unique being is through adoption. 

The worst jokes I see are often by parents trying to be funny. “Oh, my son didn’t clean his room… anyone want to adopt him?”. I read this and think about what must be wrong with me to have been relinquished.

Adoption jokes make adoptees’ stories and existences a punchline. No matter how innocent the joke may seem, it hits hard. No matter how innocent the joke may seem, I know that people are inherently afraid of what’s different. I know that the difference being highlighted, either good or bad, must be explained away. How can it get any easier than explaining it with humor and making adoption the punchline? 

The next time you encounter this (or maybe you are the one making the joke), first ask yourself why someone is trying to highlight this difference between a person and their family. Then think about how an adoptee will feel seeing the joke. Think about all of the complexities that come with adoption being whittled down into a single punchline. What will you do next?

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