Kira Omans: Conversation Transcript
Hi. Oh, good morning. Good morning. How are you?
We're doing great. How are you doing?
I'm doing well. I'm doing well.
Thank you so much for coming here and joining us and talking to us about adoption activism because I know it's something that's a topic dear to your heart and you've been working with this area. And a lot of us don't really know much in your community. So yet same people coming to educate us.
Thank you so much. for having me.
So, I will start with your first question will be the first question here. Briefly, how was your upbringing and how did you meet your parents?
Yes, so I was adopted from Jhongshan, China, which is the southern province of China in when I was about 10 months old. And as far as my adoption story goes, I was told that I was found on the side of a bridge and then brought to a hospital to address the medical concerns and then I was adopted by my parents at 10 months and I moved to Alexandria and was raised there which is just outside of Washington DC. And I was trans-racially adopted so my parents are white and I have a brother who is adopted from Korea and a sister who is my parents biological child. So that's a little bit about my upbringing.
There’s a global community there. Oh, that's wonderful. So why and when did you decide to be an adoption advocate because not a lot of people who have had the same experience as you have took this path on advocacy.
I think that it really started when I entered the Pacific as Asian American pageant when I was around 1920 years old, and I wanted my platform in that passion to be intercultural understanding with an emphasis on transracial adoption and how my multicultural family very much shaped who I am and how I feel that a lot of the things I've learned through my family can help my community. And so when I decided to make that my platform and I began educating myself, I started becoming more immersed in the adoption community, I mostly just joined the online forums, and I was able to link up with some adoptees in person as well. And just learn about other people's experiences and learn about some of the issues faced with the community and just the more I learned about it, the more passionate I became about it, so that's why I started to become more outspoken and share my voice as both of you do as well.
That’s impressive, I mean, we've talked before, a little bit about the sense of belonging, but when you have found a particular community, and something that's so personal to you, with adoption, did you feel that sense of belonging. Was it an almost like a familial sort of connection? You know, spreading your story and the lessons that you've learned?
Yes, absolutely. And it very much was that kind of instant connection. I feel that it was something that I didn't really know I was missing at the time. But when you connect with people who have gone through something so personal, and so life changing, like that, it really is like they understand you on a deeper level like they understand some really complex emotions that you've lived through. And so when you connect with people like that, it's just really really special.
I'm now thinking like if I was informed that parents are about to adopt a child what do you think most people need to know they can learn before coming into that process? As you're saying this, there's a lot to unpack, because you just mentioned that we move you know you with us, one of your siblings from Korea and another sibling who's who's biological child. There's a lot of emotions, also for like those children coming you know. As you become more aware of the world there's a lot of questions that sometimes parents are not prepared for those questions. So what would you tell someone what was your experience?
Yes, absolutely. I think that one of the main things that I tell adoptive parents who are maybe prospective or they have their child and are just looking to learn more, is to listen to adult adoptees just because when we grow up, because when a lot of people think about adoption, they think about like the babies like the children that are being brought into the families and of course, of course, because that is the dominant narrative surrounding adoption, that's what you see most of media. But what I advise adoptive parents to do is listen to adult adoptees because we are very much a result of our upbringing. So I think that the issues that we see now and that we are trying to work through are things that are instilled in us in childhood. So there's a lot it's it's very difficult and like obviously, I only have my lived experience in transracial adoption. And so domestic adoption has its own set of complexities, but I think that really embracing adult adoptee voices and learning about the issues facing the community will just help adoptive parents and prospective parents be a much stronger advocate for their child.
Sort of segueing from there. We talked a lot about mental health, particularly within the adoption community. Is there or have you seen a growth or any sort of progression in terms of how people are treated or how you sort of get your mind like psychologically or emotionally to sort of deal with these these challenging situations? Do you feel like mental health is taken more seriously now? It's easier to have these conversations than it was maybe 20-30 years ago?
No, that's such a good question is really, really important, especially to our community where adopted children and this is according to a statistic taken a few years ago. I'm not sure if a more recent study has been done, but it was, I believe, in 2019 that a study was conducted that found adopted children are three times as likely to attempt suicide. So mental health is absolutely a huge problem in our community. Just because a lot of these experiences are so isolating, and so I do think that there have been huge strides made in both in the adoptive community and in our society in general in uplifting the like, the importance of mental health. And so I do think that there have been major strides made and as adoptees have grown up and our voices are being heard and we're pushing for legislation and all of that good stuff. We are definitely being considered and our mental health is being more part of the boyfriend as opposed to something that adoptive parents and the adoption industry and just the public in general didn't really understand was an issue. So as we raised awareness of the fact that it is an issue, I think that the education around it and the language that we're all able to use to discuss it is improving as well.
You just mentioned legislation. Can you elaborate on that? Because I feel like that is something very important that we all need to know so when adoptive communities are pushing legislation like that, everyone else is pushing at the same time. What are the bills and what can we do?
Yes, so one of the main things I fight for is adoptee rights. And one thing that a lot of people don't realize, which I didn't realize when I was first immersing myself in the community is that there is a sizable percentage of the adoption community of adoptees that were brought to the United States and do not have citizenship. And there was a child citizenship, law enacted and an amendment a but that only affects children who were brought to the United States after 1985 that automatically received citizenship. So anyone brought to the United States beforehand who did not have the proper paperwork done, which I believe is the fault of so many different aspects of the adoption industry. It's not just the parents of course. Of course, part of it is the parents but it's not just them. It's a lot of different failures on a lot of different people's parts. And so they just don't have citizenship and are at risk for deportation.
And at this point, it is just I mean, I can't even imagine like this is the like, this country is all I know. I don't speak my native language. I was not immersed in my culture as a child like as much as I've tried to learn and grow and embrace that part of my identity. It's not the same as that being your home. And so adoptees that are deported, they're more often than not commit suicide because it is just such a terrible toll on their mental health and it that's just not their home. Like they're separated from their family, everyone they ever know in love. They're just like in this place that they have no connection to other than being born there. And it was not their choice to be brought to the United States either were adopted. So it's just very tragic.
It's very tragic. Has anything changed yet? I remember we talked about it back during the pandemic. Has anything changed about the law?
Yes, so the adopting Citizenship Act has been passed on the house of representatives floor. And so now they're just pushing to have it passed in the Senate and it's a bipartisan bill. It's gotten a lot of support. This movie that came out, I believe it was last year Blue Bayou, which has brought a lot of attention as well to this issue. has helped put that in the limelight. And so it's passed the House and so we're just hoping to pass the Senate and I think that the thing that people can do is pray to their representatives and just push that this is something that we want to see done. It's something that should have been done a long time ago, this should not have been an issue. This was a lack of foresight. And whenever I tell people about this, they're surprised.
Yes, I was surprised the first time you told me and I was like, “Oh my God, how can how can everybody knew about that?” So he's pushed in, and it's because I cannot imagine, you know, being being adopted and a very young like, 10 months, like you mentioned. And then 30 years later, you're told that you don't belong, where you spend your entire life, and how that can you know, mess up your mental health. so that you don't know what you're gonna go back to. It's a lot of issues. And I think it's important that we all take responsibility on taking care of one another. Yes,
Yes exactly. And there are templates and petitions and ways that you can donate all on adoptees for justice. If you just search Adoptees for Justice on social media or online, like you'll find their website and they have a whole page where you can look at all of those things and if you search Adoptee Citizenship Act, you can learn more information about it. But regardless of your politics, it's just very much like it shouldn't be it seems like a common sense issue.
Yeah, absolutely. It is. It's for sure. As we're talking about mental health and all these things, you made a statement about privileged voices in the adoption community and how they profitoff of children. What were the words?
I think, to piggyback off of what the team saying yes, we can move in we're in response to and you have to correct me but there's something that happened in the media where family I guess had said that we will adopt your, your your babies or your children or something. Yes, making rounds, but many people wouldn't have paid pay attention to that. I mean, as much attention as they should. It obviously caught our eye and you have made a statement on that. But we wanted to delve in a little bit deeper into because you use some language that was very it made me think it was it was seen as almost startling, drastic yet how easily we overlook how other people are affected, particularly people of color. And so yeah, you said the privilege voices and the adoption community and there's there's a whole bunch of things regarding my profit over children. And so yeah, can you speak on that?
Yes, absolutely. So yes, you are correct. That was in response to “we will adopt your child”trending on Twitter in response to some of the legislation that was passed, and just speaking from my experience as an adoptee. I think that a problem arises when we as a society do not humanize adoptees we do not humanize the children that we should be trying to help and that who should be at the forefront of this process. Because they're the ones who have suffered the loss and I think that when we do not humanize adoptees or any marginalized community in general like that is when the harm comes is when we don't think that those people are capable of deep thought and emotion. That's when harm comes to those communities.
So my issue with that is that it was just very one sided. It was very much like that we will adopt your child like hey, the adoptive parents, like we'll take the child rather than thinking about what's best for the child. Like what would have been best for them in that situation. It was very much like the way that a lot of the adoption system. I think a lot of the problems arise when it starts to prioritize profit over the child the demand versus the actual need. And the because there are many articles released about how international adoption has become a booming industry. And so there is a lot of unethical practices that arise because of it and it's it's very, it's very problematic because there are human lives, involvements. It's not just a business.
I'm lost for words, because these are things that have been happening over the years and we see a lot and you there's humans involved in it. And as you said, there's a loss. Because that child is losing, you know, you are needing a new family, you've lost everything. There's a lot of mental health problems going through all of these things that when you think more about the profit now than the actual child. You don't even get the opportunity to think about their mental well being.
And again, I mean, I know I didn't before I started speaking with you. I didn't know too much about the process of adoption and some of the more shady practices that go on as I was talking about. So like many things in life when you sort of peel back the layers. It's far more complicated. There's a lot more going on than what meets the eye, you know, originally, but this is something that is like you said, it's a human rights issue as well. And it's sad to think about how many lives have been negatively impacted due to poor practices. But, again, the conversation that we're having right now, hopefully, this is you know, these are the many steps that that we should be able to take to create more positive change.
Absolutely. And it's complicated because that's the dominant narrative, right? Like that's the narrative everyone is fed if the adoptive parents rescuing the child, and now they're a big happy family and everything's fine now without consent, and it's very much through the lens of the parents and the lens of the adoption agency, because that's where they benefit is from parents wanting children and children needing families, but it's so much more complicated than that. It is so not black and white. It's not just a positive experience. And so, as someone who had what on paper is a perfect adoption experience, I love my family. I it was ultimately like a positive thing for me.
There I still have a lot of problems, and there are still a lot of problems within like, and so that's something that I tried to emphasize when I speak about these things. Is that I'm not just an angry adoptee Who's mad that I was adopted. No, I love my family very, very much. And I can still see the problems in the system in ways that it should be improved. And also if someone had a negative experience like if they didn't have the perfect on paper family experience and they should also be listened to and their voices shouldn't be devalued. Just because there's a stereotype. adoptees like having abandonment issues and anger issues and just like being angsty and having problems because like those experiences are incredibly valid when you're looking at the system and you're looking at ways that it needs to be improved.
Do you feel that adoptees who have had positive experiences like yourself….do you feel like there was at one point a disconnect between themselves and then the people who didn't have a great experience?
Oh, absolutely. And I we use a term for this in the adoption community like this exactly. What you're describing as coming out of the fog is very much where the rose colored lenses come off. And because when you've lived your whole life with that positive adoption narrative, you just like, oh, like I'm special, like my parents chose me like all this good stuff. And like some of that can some of that can be good. I don't think that parents need to be hammering into their child like the Chinese have adopted when they're like growing up. That's not what I'm advocating for at all.
But as I've grown up and become an adult, and have sought my own education, I have realized that everything's not perfect, everything wasn't great. And I have my own mental health problems. Because of that, even as much as my parents. I believe they did the best that they could with what with what education they had at the time. Absolutely. And so it's, it's just definitely lost my train of thought for a second. But it's, it's definitely a kind of a world shattering moment, or I don't think that there was like a moment where I saw something and I was like, *GASP*, but I think gradually over time, as I was exposed to different narratives other than my own, and expose to people that weren't, that didn't just have this positive like viewpoint of this system. It was, I mean, it made everything more complicated, but it definitely opened my world and I, I don't want to live in ignorance. I want to be able to serve my community and how am I supposed to do that? If I don't understand the community that I'm serving?
That's very true. Someone, one of our community members, Michelle Madrid for shouting her out she had a comment, if you can see “anger is one of the five stages of grief. We feel anger as adoptees because we are grieving loss.”
Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. And you need people to you need your community. You need the resources to be able to deal with that it's it's huge. It's I mean, like to have that much loss into like, I mean, as a transracial adoptee just like having your homeland, your culture, your language your your family robbed from you. At such a young age. And like learning to deal with that and understand that is really, really hard and incredibly isolating. And so that's where so many of the mental health issues arise is just not having the resources to deal with it and ignoring it doesn't make it go away.
So no, ignoring things and never, never really helps. At what age did you realize that you have that loss? How good and how did you come back to them when you realize wait a minute, there is a whole identity of me. There's a whole culture and the whole thing that belongs to me that I can't reach.
I definitely felt it growing up without having the language to understand it or process it. I mean, it's just very much internalized. It's just very much part of me of not feeling Chinese enough to fit in with any of the Asian American community but not looking white enough to fit in with white people, regardless of being raised in white adjacency. And so, I think that, that just lives with you, your entire life. And so growing up, like learning to embrace that duality of my identity was really difficult and I didn't have the language or the resources to be able to open up about that. And so that part that was really difficult.
Yeah. I was gonna go on a tangent about that. It's just not gonna take away from that at all. Yes, but we have we've spoken about identity. Moving throughout life trying to find yourself within communities that don't necessarily outwardly reflect who you are, if that makes sense. And just trying to find an anchor point. Maybe within yourself to where you can stand on your own and feel like regardless of what I go through, or what do I experience I will always have a good sense of identity within myself and then therefore may be able to share myself with my community at large.
And so in, you know, being people of color, it's never easy to to find that sense of identity when you're torn between all these different people telling you how to act how to behave. You're not this nope because you behave like this and vice versa. And so, I mean, it's just another layer of complexity when when maybe another subcategory. And so yeah, I mean, it's, I think, ultimately having compassion and again, having these conversations Yes, because I've already I mean, again, every single time we talk, I feel like I learned more and more, not just about you, but about how to interact with or engage with this particular subject matter, and how we can all open our hearts to just being a little bit more understanding about how to you know how to live this life and how to treat people.
Yeah, as you were saying that I wonder like when your parents told you to, to Chinese danceand all those things. I wonder if you know, the conversations they were having, of like the study was more for you to support you know, you find yourself more and even with your siblings.
So I wonder how you know the conversations in your house and how we were able to connect, like, how was that with your growing up siblings and finding yourselves and coming together? Because even when you are all when you even when you all seem, you know, biological siblings? Yes, feel like have different needs and wants.
Of course, yes, absolutely.
So how was that? How was it for you?
I mean, like you said, I and all my siblings. And I like we were very much alike. There was no difference between us at all like that was like we were We're siblings. And but it was interesting, like I was enrolled in Chinese dance and my brother was enrolled in Korean drumming and my sister felt left out. So my idea is to let her join our debt, like the Chinese dance troupe because she wanted to do what I was doing. And that was really special. And I think that I do commend my parents for giving me and my brother especially that outlet to become connected to our culture, because Chinese dance is very much the way in which I feel connected to my culture today.
To have that from a young age was incredibly valuable to you to view we'll always be able to go back to that because, like, I might not have been raised in a Chinese household but I know this part of my culture so much, and this is my entry point, really to learn more about it. It's through this art of dance. And so I'm not sure if my brother had the same experience with Korean drumming. I don't think he was as into it as I was. And again, that like you said, even biological siblings like have their own paths, their own. So I think we very much behave in that way too.
Your parents were very smart thinking for you, you know? Yeah. So I commend them as well.
Yeah, I want to remind the community if they do have any questions, anybody has any questions? Or any more time comments for her? Don't be afraid to leave them in the comments below. We're going to shout you out and then in your comments, everybody can see how kind you are.
Yeah, so what you've been also speaking about this publicly. What type of responses do you get? Like what are the most exciting responses you get?
Oh my goodness. So I've written a lot of articles. And so I feel like as far as public perception, that's where I get a lot of my public opinion. I've spoken on many podcasts and I when I lived in the DC area and before the pandemic, obviously, I was doing a lot of speaking at events and on panels and all of that good stuff. So I when I write about my experiences, that's when I feel like I get the most individual responses. And I think that I I just really love it when adoptees will reach out to me and this was in particular in actually, it was Michelle Majid. I wrote an article for her platform, and about separation anxiety as an adoptee and I received so many wonderful responses from adoptees and I do love my responses from adoptive parents. Like it's so rewarding to me when I first shared my journey on deer adoption. Just about my upbringing, being bullied finding my identity coming into my own and how much farther I still had to go.
But I received comments from adoptive parents about how that helps them understand some of the issues their child might be going through, which is of course, like, wonderful, but I think that it just really touches my heart in a very special way. In response to that essay on separation anxiety for adoptees who say I feel really I felt really heard. I'm reading this just I felt really understood and that's very much what I want is you don't have to agree with everything I say like you're not you're not going to everyone has their own experiences and thoughts and opinions. Like that's not what I want at all. It's very much that I just hope that my perspective broadens understanding like you like you were saying just everyone I talked to can teach me something. And that when adoptees see my words and feel like they're being heard or that their voices out there or that like they have some representation like that's truly truly special and why I do what I do.
That's amazing because what you do is very special, especially because sometimes we go through things and the sink we're the only ones who are going through ships or anything motions you're going through and you just you just feel like Am I going crazy? Why am I thinking this way? But when you find out that somebody else has been through the same thing you're going through and learning how they have a canvas or how they deal with it. It's a very Yeah, I think it's a very strong tool to have.
Oh, definitely. And when I was growing up, but I just want it like I wanted someone to tell me that I wasn't alone. That the things that I was feeling like you said they're not crazy, that I had a reason to feel this way. And so often because as a society or a view of adoption is not as complex as the lived experience actually is. I felt that my feelings were being invalidated so much like you don't have any reason to feel this way like you don't remember your life in China. You don't have any like that doesn't this doesn't make sense, like why you would feel this way. And there is a reason that I feel this way like I end and I feel like I just started going to therapy last year because I was so convinced that I was fine, and that I had no reason to feel that way. And suppressing those emotions. Like I said earlier, it doesn't make them go away and so I just started seeking help like last year, and I learned so much about myself and felt like a lot of my experiences were very validated and just like I wasn't alone, and that's just such a huge powerful message.
It's a simple thing like simple reminder because we can all get very wrapped up into our own world and then forget that people care about us.
So, Mary Flint says to to a to as asked you a question here says hey, “Kyra. Have you ever had anyone open up to you with a bad experience as an adoptee? If so, how did you advise them?” Great question.
Yes, I have. I definitely have. I and a lot of times I more often than not I feel myself not giving advice as often as just listening. And I think that that can also be just a huge, like very powerful because a lot of times adoptees when they're seeking these online forums, don't have the, like real life support from their loved ones who may not understand what they're going through. And so just for someone to like sit in like you're very much going back to what we were just talking about and say like I hear you like I understand this, like I didn't live your life but I live my life and we have very parallel experiences. And this is hard, like this stuff is hard. And I really find that more often than not be it like if I do give advice. It's very much just “take care of yourself.” Like don't put so much pressure on yourself to have things figured out because you're gonna be figuring things out for your entire life everyone is with their experience. It's a journey.
That’s heartwarming, yeah. Be kind to yourself. Because that's all you can do. There are things that happen in my in my community where we stay there things happen around you that they happen, you can't stop them, but the way we respond to them that's the only thing we have control. We can blame for how things go around us. But in here, that's the most important part that we can be able to control the response. Yes. So I like that you tell them to take care of take care of themselves.
“I've learned so much from Kira about the adoptee community in particular. Now, it really makes me reevaluate how adoption is portrayed in media, especially in films and TV that only show positive experiences. Thank you.
Thank you, Juliet. That's my best friend!
It's very important, even when you see things in films and TV is important to when you meet someone who actually have that lived experience to ask questions. Asking is never, never hurts. Yes. So you don't want to assume just ask the questions. Everything you've been asking yourself, ask and see if they can, you know, somebody cure or give you more. Yeah, exactly. They're curious.
So before we wrap up, what would be your message to anyone? It's something that you live by? something that you would like to see in the world more.
I think that I mean, what I hope to see more in the world of is empathy and just people continue to like we said, Be curious, rather than judging people be curious. about their experiences and why they feel the way that they do. I think that when there's more empathy in the world, and there's more understanding, just we all live richer lives and and just to reiterate what I said before, like every single person that you meet knows something that you don't so I think that having that open mind, to learn from them and to have a deeper understanding for your world is going to help you serve it better and also serve yourself better it's a it's it's good for yourself to open your mind to new experiences, because I mean, we can live our lives and we can love the people around us that much fiercer.
Oh yes love, love, love, love.
Sending you so much love. Thank you so much, Kira. You're amazing. You're amazing. Friend. And oh, there's more. There's more questions.
So I returned to just the rest of the question. “So what is your advice on adoptive children struggling with the personal decision on if they should try to reconnect with their birth parents for closure, if that's an option for them?”
That's such a good question. It's very, it's so it's such a personal decision. And I like I mean, just speaking from my own experience, I've gone back and forth on it so many times where I was just like, I feel like I should do this. Or I don't really want to for my own sake. And so I think that I can just like it takes time. It's something that I feel like if you're ready for it, you'll know when you're ready for it. I think that going just like taking the proper amount of time to really think about what that process is going to entail and if you're able to have the mental and emotional capacity to do it. I think that that's really what were the what the evaluation should be is what are the possibilities that this could go in? Am I equipped to deal with that right now? Because I know for myself, I'm not in any way able to deal with the emotions that would arise by following that.
And so I think that in that in that case, you just really have to prioritize yourself and your own mental health. And even if you start to go down that path, and it starts to become difficult, like just you again, like I was saying earlier than most advice that I gave us to take care of yourself and in like every in every respect to like whether it's like discovering your culture or like exploring the possibility of reconnecting with your birth parents just like always prioritize yourself. And that decision is one that should not be taken lightly. So I totally understand struggling with that because it's a it's a big decision and but it's also not irreversible or well once you meet them it's like that's, that's the part that you have to prepare for. And that's the part that is going to have a lasting impact on your life. But choosing to begin the search is is not irreversible is what I should clarify. Once you meet someone you can't unmute. Yeah going starting that journey, though, if you feel at any point that it's taking too much of a toll like you can you can pause and take a moment for yourself and just reevaluate.
always safe to talk to someone.
Yes, yes, exactly. So I've definitely seek the adoption community. I feel like definitely talking to other adoptees who have done this before can really help. There are those resources online and forums and just around the community. There are people who are in reunion with their birth parents and I think that reading their experiences and seeing what it was like for them and putting yourself in their shoes can really help you understand if you might be ready for that.
Yeah, that's really critically, that's really important. Yeah.
Thank you. Thank you for joining. Yeah. Thank you so much. For sharing your wisdom and your expertise.
Thank you so much for having me. Oh, I love you both so much to I'll, I'll do anything you all ask me to. I love talking to you both and I learned so much from you both. Whenever I speak to you, you're both so eloquent and articulate in such strong voices in your own communities and just our global community at large. So I'm just so grateful that we met and that we're able to talk about these things because it's so important.