When an adoptee has the floor, do not derail the conversation to prove how woke you are.
My name is Lillian飞岗 Schmaltz, and this is my story.
October 15, 1994, I was born in Nanning, Guangxi. Approximately 3 days later, I was found at the local police station and brought to the Nanning Social Welfare Institute. From there, Mother’s Love (a private orphanage) chose me to be nursed back to health and then matched me with a foster family to live with until I was adopted in April 1995. I have been able to confirm several parts of my story by finding and reconnecting with those I was with in China. I’ve chosen to share bits of my story that I am most comfortable sharing. Thankfully, my adoptive parents have always made sure my story is only mine to share. I will always have complete control of what information I release and what subsequent questions I answer.
In 2015 the One Child Policy ended, and I was filled with many conflicting emotions. I was forced to confront my full story again and acknowledge a policy that took away a family and gave me a family. To process those emotions, I penned an essay that I now consider the true start to my advocacy.
Fast-forward to 2017. When I began my PhD, I had moved to an entirely new city and knew no one. I was struggling with imposter syndrome and general graduate school stress. The first place I went to make connections? The Chinese adoption community online. I had stayed away from these online communities before. I grew up in a city with a fairly active Chinese adoption community and then went to a college with a large Asian community, so I never needed to turn to the online community for connection. I figured for a new city it would be the best place to start.
On the 2nd anniversary of the policy ending, my 23rd birthday, and the 23rd anniversary of my abandonment/finding (I know, it’s always a fun week for me…sarcasm), I shared my One Child Policy essay in a group of over 7,000 people. I had shared the significance of this week in an introduction to my essay. Most people received my words well. A very select few chose to use my essay to prove their wokeness. They tried to get me to prove my story to the group and make it a teaching moment of the inaccuracies in adoption paperwork.
How someone can comfortably tell an adoptee everything they know about their story is a lie, I will never know. Yes, that week was already extremely rough, but it doesn’t matter where I am in my story and how much information I know. Those words will always been triggering. They take an adoptee’s identity (already a confusing and fragile thing) and throw it away.
I knew of these realities. I knew that much of what I was told could be false. I also knew that making blanket assumptions about strangers is dangerous. As an adoptee, I have to hold onto the information I have. I remain wary and open to all possibilities, but to survive, I choose to have faith in my story. And as I said above, it helps being connected to those who were with me in China and can fill in the blanks. Those connections and that validation are just as much a part of my private story as the rest of it.
I also knew what I wanted to share of my adoption story in an essay focusing on my feelings towards the One Child Policy. The encounter was overall triggering, which was apparent in my first YouTube episode (this video has since been removed, because I don’t feel safe having it online anymore). The encounter also inspired me to start my series. As I scrolled around more, I realized how often parents derail conversations when adoptees have the floor. I realized that when I’m sharing very vulnerable parts of myself, my energy should not be going towards defending myself and proving my story to strangers.
I hate that encounter, but I’m also thankful for it (sound familiar?). First, it enlightened me to the fact that many people who appear to be woke aren’t. If they were, they would know how triggering and damaging their statements and assumptions can be to adoptees. Second, it forced me to speak up. It forced me to see just how needed adult adoptee voices are. It may have been an incredibly triggering experience, but it pushed me to the community of adoptees I was looking for.
Some parting words of advice? If an adoptee is willingly sharing their story, remember they are in a very vulnerable position. Our identities were taken from us, and we are now trying to reclaim them. Sit back and listen. Don’t read every story as an opportunity to prove yourself, don’t feel entitled to someone’s story, don’t immediately ignore it because it doesn’t fit your narrative, and never invalidate someone’s story, experiences, and identity for any reason. NEVER. It’s not your story. It’s theirs. Be appreciative they have the courage to be this vulnerable in a society that does not value their voice.
My Adoption Story Pt. 54 | Becoming AdopteeLilly