Adoption runs deep and doesn’t stop at the adoptee - it goes beyond them. I’m not an adoptee, but I have gone through similar experiences. I want to really emphasize the word similar because I will never be able to understand an adoptee because I’m not an adoptee, but I am a child of an adoptee – and have grown up in the adoptee community.
My dad is Tim Holm who is a Korean adoptee from the first generation of adoptees and has been a prominent leader in the Korean adoptee community (although he disagrees on this) and my mom is Kim Holm, a Korean woman who has also been involved in the community due to being married to my dad, and has realized that my dad being an adoptee also affects her, making her a part of this community. Because of my parents, I started to also get heavily involved in the Korean adoptee community from being just a member of the community to being involved in the planning for various international events. I have worked with the International Korean Adoptee Association (IKAA), an organization co-founded by my dad, since 2009 as well as planning and directing our local Korean adoptee camp for teenagers here in Seattle with Korean Identity Development Society (KIDS).
I’ve come to really enjoy what I do for this community because it is a part of me. But it hasn’t been easy…well nothing in life is ever easy, but I’ve had my share of discrimination experiences. I’ve grown up a little differently from other Korean kids in my neighborhood and the Korean adoptees I’ve grown up with due to my mom being born and raised in Korea. My mom raised me to be fluent in Korean and understand both of my American and Korean cultures and to not be ashamed of either. But I’ve gone through times where I was ashamed of both of my cultures and felt out of place.
There are some adoptees who have already decided in their own mind that I don’t belong in their community and have no right to be involved in the way I am because I’m not an adoptee. And that hurt. I’ve also been accused of receiving special treatment from my parents, whether it was when I was a camper or when planning events, and that’s not true. Many don’t see the pressure I get from planning these events because of who my parents are and the expectations they have of me. I’ve started doing large-scale events when I was 16 dealing with adults and government officials and I think many forgot I was still a kid. But even when I do something that ends up being successful, I still get criticized at the fact that I’m not an adoptee. And that hurt too. It felt as if I wasn’t wanted and didn’t belong in a community that I knew was a part of me.
Another thing that hurt a lot was how the Korean community shunned me throughout my youth. I considered myself a Korean American just like all the other Korean American kids, but they treated me different because my dad was a Korean adoptee. I remember in elementary school, a classmate had told me that her parents told her to stay away from me because I am an “orphan’s daughter” and was told to not to associate with “my kind” because orphans are lower class. It wasn’t until I was in high school and going into college that those Korean families were looking down on my family, even though my dad is a certified public accountant for a local firm with some pretty big clients and managed our family company. But before that realization, I was more hurt at the fact that they didn’t play with me because I thought we were just the same; I spoke much better Korean than they did (I was fluent, they weren’t), I grew up with the traditions and cultures, and I ate the same food. I wasn’t too different other than the fact that half of my family is Swedish American and my dad being adopted.
Because of these experiences, I had some identity issues and questioned who and what I am. I even remember when I was five, I thought I was the adoptee and had a huge meltdown but was hit with a big reality check: I wasn’t adopted and my mom gave birth to me, that was a shocker to my 5 year old self. From the time I was born I was involved in the adoptee community, to the extent to where I thought I was an adoptee.
I’ve gone through ups and downs in my life from being ignorant to both cultures at different times in my life to really questioning who I am and where I belong because at some point, the adoptees weren’t so open, the Koreans weren’t so open, and the White society weren’t so open. But as time went on, I’ve come to realize that I am a Korean American that is a second-generation adoptee. Adoption doesn’t stop at the adoptee, it goes on to their family, their spouse/partner, and children.
- Jackie Holm