Adoption is NOT a joke

By Sarah, writer at @sarah_eternally_endo)

In a personal blog, adopted adult and Mum through adoption, Sarah, talks about the harm and hurt caused by jokes around adoption.

Unfortunately, jokes regarding adoption are something I have grown up hearing. All the way through my adolescence to as recently as last week; from school friends, colleagues, in movies and in books, across social media and on greeting cards, which is what has prompted me to write this today.

Growing up I had much more of a ‘brush it off’ attitude, at least on the outside. As a child you feel the feelings, sometimes big feelings, often with little or no understanding as to why. This comes with emotional development. Yet these feelings I can still remember.

As a teenager and young adult, I continued to push the comments aside. I don’t like confrontation and struggled to understand my own feelings around my adoption let alone attempt to educate others. Now, as an adopted adult who has had to put a lot of work into unpicking my emotions around my adoption, I feel a responsibility to use my voice as an adoptee and now an adoptive mum to help educate others. I do this in the hope that my son and other children won’t have to go through the same experiences. This is all about education.

So, what’s the problem I hear you ask? It is just a joke. It’s not intended to hurt, or cause upset. Often, when jokes were made, and comments were passed, the people around me had no idea I was adopted, so I know it’s understandable to see that these comments weren’t said to cause intentional upset. But it did upset… it does… it always will. 

Here are just a few so-called jokes that I have read or heard over the years. Please take a minute to read these and put yourself in the shoes of an adopted child, an adopted adult, an adoptive parent, a birth parent…

“Your Mum’s so fit – what happened to you? You must be adopted.” – heard in a conversation.

“Yeah, my brother’s a freak – we always tell him he’s adopted.” – heard in a conversation.

“I look nothing like my other sisters – they always tease me and say that I’m adopted.” – heard in a conversation.

“Mum, thanks for not giving me away at birth.” – read on a card.

“Mum, am I adopted?”  – “Not yet no, I only put the ad out yesterday.”  – seen on social media.

“Thanks for not putting me up for adoption.” – read on a card.

“Dad, am I adopted?”  – “No, not yet, we can’t find anyone that wants you!” – seen on social media.

“Carry on being naughty and I will put you up for adoption.” – heard in a conversation.

“Kills 80 people in 2 days – he’s adopted.” (This is from a HUGE movie that I watched not long ago with my son.)

As an adoptee I do not have to imagine how this would feel.

I know how it feels.

I can tell you that every single time I read or hear a joke like this, part of me feels worthless. Yes, I still feel like this.

Being adopted should not be used for comedic effect. It’s portraying damaging, negative stereotypes of adoptees.

This is what I have taken over the years from these jokes, how I have interpreted how the world sees me…

UNWANTED

UGLY

REJECTED

BADLY BEHAVED

STRANGE

DIFFERENT.

And how does that make me feel? Quite simply, ASHAMED.

Ashamed of my story, ashamed of my adoption. So many internalised negative thoughts thanks to someone else’s words.

When people make jokes about adoption, they are making a joke about childhood trauma.

Yes, that’s right adoption – the actual adoption itself – let alone the child’s history, which leads them to adoption is a trauma.

Let’s just sit with that for a minute.

Do we still find it funny?

With that in mind, does childhood trauma and loss or adoption seem like a good punchline for a joke now?

This article was also featured on the Adoption UK website at Adoption is NOT a Joke

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