Love, Not DNA – Discussing Adoption and Ideas of Family
Family comes in all shapes and sizes. I grew up in a very typical rural Irish family with at least six aunts and uncles on each side, huge family parties and spending all my time with my cousins in my grandparents’ garden. It was around the time to go to school when I was first introduced to different kinds of families.
Two of my closest friends came from one parent families, one through divorce and one through death. From this young age we see so many different kinds of family units that our image of “normal”, what we expect a household to be is completely changed.
Today, I’m talking to one of my good friends Carl about his experience with family. Being adopted, how does his concept of family change, and what was it like growing up in an interracial household?
J: Tell me a bit about yourself.
C: My name is Carl Sayers; I am 20 years old and I have been living in Ireland for nearly my entire life. I am an adopted son currently living at home with my parents along with my older brother. My parents adopted me into their lives when I was only a couple of weeks old from Guatemala, a country which is located on the border of Mexico in Central America.
J: What age did you start realizing you were different to your family? Did your parents tell you about the adoption or did you figure it out yourself?
C: For me, I don’t really recall a time where I felt like I had to figure out I was different to my family. I never questioned it nor did I feel out of place in any way. My skin didn’t match theirs and in my eyes that was okay.
My parents have told me the story of where I was born time and time again and to this day, and it’s quite comforting and reassuring to know that even though my adoptive mother did not give birth to me, I was loved just as much as any other child was and is for a matter of fact.
J: What was it like growing up?
C: Having spent most of my life in Ireland, I have to say it has come with its ups and downs. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to be adopted by two loving parents who have both helped to raise me and become the man I am today. Of course, life is not an easy sail. It comes with its challenges but I always say that you just learn how to handle these things.
As a child, I do believe I was an easier target for bullies but I do have to say growing up was fairly stress-free. One moment I can recall on in relation to facing a challenge occurred a couple of years ago before a summer holiday with my parents. My mother and I were leaving our two cats into the local cattery for a few days. I was given the task of taking our cats out of their carriers and into their home for the week.
Just as I was about to leave, a woman working there had mistaken me for a foreign exchange student from Spain. Given my appearance I can understand why she said what she said, however, I do believe it is extremely important to never judge someone by the colour of their skin or by their appearance in general.
J: Living in a small town, were there a lot of questions or stories about your family or was the local area accepting of it?
C: Having grown up in such a small town in Ireland, I was lucky enough to be raised in an environment that is inhabited by individuals from all races and religions. I am currently living in a neighbourhood where many of its residents come from a variety of different cultures.
It was comforting to me knowing that I was not going to stick out like a sore thumb. I think the fact Ireland is now in a time where we are surrounded by people of all colours and religions, it has definitely made my time growing up in Ireland a little bit easier.
J: Do you feel like the experience shaped you as a person?
C: I have always been a person who believes that any experience, be it good or bad, can really help define the nature of one’s personality. I always believe that life is the greatest lesson you will ever be taught.
J: Do you feel like you’ve faced any stigma or discrimination, either from being a person of colour or for being adopted?
C: People hate what they don’t understand. Instead of spreading love and kindness, society has allowed itself to spread hate and negativity through the words and actions of people. I have always been a firm believer that, everyone has something that they are discriminated against.
Whether you’re tall or small, black or white, male or female, gay or straight, discrimination has no filter. For me it’s my colour. Can I say that I am 100% comfortable in my own skin? Of Course. Do I ever get the sense I am seen as a target or threat instead of a citizen of this country? Always. I think the most important thing to remember in regards to being different is, don’t ever let anyone ever tell you that you are of lesser value simply because of where you come from.
J: How important do you feel representation is in tv and media?
C: In my opinion, I feel that representation through film and TV is one of the most important and effective ways to spread awareness of real-life issues and it has become more evident in a variety of different TV shows and films for audiences of all ages.
Growing up as a child I was always grateful that I could learn my numbers and letters from some of my favourite characters, however, children today are slowly being introduced to real world issues and I think this is an incredible opportunity to make them aware of what’s going on in the world around them.
TV offers a sense of comfort for its viewers, by dealing with relatable topics in a very real way while in a fictional world, I think it’s a wonderful way to open viewers minds to the controversies we are faced with on a regular basis.
J: Seeing the situation in America, do you feel that racism has gotten worse in other places? As a POC living in Ireland, have you experienced any negativity due to the problems there?
C: While I would like to say that racism itself has slowly faded over time, I simply cannot ignore the fact that so many men, women and children are constantly being discriminated against because of the colour of their skin or because of the religions they are faithful to.
As a POC living in Ireland I do feel a more aware of my appearance and I will admit there are times where I feel like everyone is staring at me despite the fact, I am not the only foreign individual in the country. Ireland is full of people from different countries so why do I feel like this? I guess my answer is that I am constantly being made aware of the consequences that comes with my appearance.
J: Lastly, what advice would you give to families of an adopted child?
C: If I were to give any advice to parents and families who are considering adopting a child or who may already have an adopted child, I believe that family is more than blood and DNA. It’s about love and understanding.
For a lot of children, being adopted can be a difficult thing to understand and it can even be quite scary, however, my parents always reassured me that all children should be loved unconditionally no matter the circumstances.
We hope this interview gave a fresh perspective on your definition of what it means to be family. Below are some resources if you’d like to learn more about adoption: