Pact Fall Fundraising Gala Speech

Pact Has Changed My Life Forever

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In my mid twenties, I embarked on an adventure back to my first home in search for my family in India, in search for what is rightfully mine. With my future children in mind, my dear friends and I documented my travels that ended up eventually becoming a feature length film. Unexpectedly, knowledge of my film began to travel through the adoption community. And that’s how I was introduced to Beth and PACT. Beth was so kind to invite me to the Pact Family Camp to present my film to adoptive parents. She was the first person to call me a transracial adoptee. I had never heard of that label before but it was exactly what I needed to hear. Something so small as two words helped me settle years of confusion about my experiences and my place in my family, with white parents.

With no expectations about what camp was going to be like, I packed my bags and drove up to Lake Tahoe. As I drove up the driveway, I saw a little brown child running across the street towards the pool and their white parents following not too far behind. My heart sank and tears began to flow. That was really the first time I saw myself from the outside. 

Opening ceremony welcomed all families into the conference room. I will never forget when Beth asked all adoptees, foster care youth and alumni to raise their hand. I saw at least a hundred hands in the air! This rush of validation, acceptance, and unconditional love went through my body. Coming from a family that didn’t speak about my adoption, India, my first family, adoption language, or the possibility of searching and reuniting, I was absolutely overwhelmed to see so many other families built like mine, all in the same room. I immediately knew that I was where I was suppose to be.

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Since my first Pact Family Camp in 2014, I have met, listened to and became close friends with other TRA’s, Foster Care Alumni, natural mothers, and adoptive parents. In fact, they are the reason I moved to Oakland earlier this year. Together they all have honored my voice, my experience, and gave me credit for being an expert in adoption. Through the authors, bloggers, filmmakers, theatrical performers, and poets that PACT has exposed me to, my perspective have expanded around race, gender, sex, identity, parenting, and language. The most precious gift that I have received from PACT is my support group for TRA’s of Color. I’ve been allowed to cry, mourn, express anger, laugh, and roll my eyes without having to defend myself. I am not alone in this and my self esteem and self love have heightened to a level I have never experienced. I consider everyone that I have met through PACT an extension of my family. A family that understands me as a whole person, without having to say one word.

So tonight, I am here to celebrate and highlight the work of the dedicated, strong, insightful, gracious and compassionate staff members, including all the counselors, volunteers, panelist, and board members of PACT. Transracial Adoption is complex with so many unexpected challenges. But with the all trainings, webinars, annual family camps, consultations, education, support groups, placement services and more, PACT truly is a leader in providing the best opportunities to learn how to move through the challenges with the adoptee’s best interests at the core.

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Myself, along with so many other adoptees and foster care alumni have been given the open space to share our experiences, joys and challenges. We hope to create a better experience for those that walk this path beside us and behind us, and sometimes before us. I want to personally thank you all for coming tonight and supporting the much needed services for those that are the most vulnerable. I am proof that PACT can change lives and support a healthy and open narrative around adoption. Thank you Beth and my dear PACT family for making me a better person. I love you all dearly.

 

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American Adoption Congress Conference

Like I previously mentioned, I was asked to attend the AAC conference and share the film, YOU FOLLOW. I was ecstatic because I had heard nothing but great things about the conference and not so great things about the conference. Attending has been something that I have been wanting to do for the last few years, but due to finances and the dates, I never really made it possible.

To be asked to attend to screen my film was something truly special. I felt that I was really making an impact on the adoption community and given the space to not only make my mark on adoption reform through my experiences and film, but to also connect and be seen. I am so thankful for the experience and to connect with so many other adoptees and professionals that were not only supportive, but also role models. I came out with a sense of pride to be among so many talented writers, creators, performers, filmmakers, poets, actors, screenwriters, and activists that share the same common threads, Adoption Reform and solidarity.

So now the real experiences come forth. What I knew going in was that the conference was challenging, emotional, and educational. Some of my friends couldn’t attend the whole conference and had to leave the second day due to intense triggers. Some respondents mentioned that the conference was predominately older white folks, although that is currently changing.

Along with their opinions, I was going  in knowing how I felt from the last adoption conference that I attended, PACT An Adoption Alliance. Talk about emotionally triggered at every moment you are in contact with the other attendees, and adoptive parents.

I packed my bags, the DVD’s, my oil diffuser and I was off. I arrived only a few mins after my dear friend Reshma, began her presentation on grief in adoption. She is a fellow Indian adoptee and is currently editing and producing her documentary, Calcutta is My Mother. She gave her audience a shout out about my film screening the next evening as I was trying to walk in discretely with a huge travel backpack and side bags. So sweet and embarrassing. I loved it!

I finally got to hear her story and actually get to know her since we first “met” on Facebook. Gotta love FB. The one thing that I appreciated about her story is that she proved the “your mother was probably poor and a child prostitute ”  dialogue that some Indian adoptees hear. Well, believe it or not, that is not always the case for female Indian adoptees!

Anyways, the next morning I said hello to all the familiar faces I could find and met new adoptees, birth/ first mothers, professionals, search angels,  and adoptive parents. I jumped in as presentations as possible. All the topics that were presented interest me. I learned about how we, adoptees are four more times likely to commit suicide and/or be admitted for mental health/addiction issues. I learned more birth/first mother’s stories and how to identify micro/ macroaggressions.

The evening arrived and it was time for me to meet my dad, stepmother, and brother. I invited them to attend the screening and by my surprise, they were able to attend. It was important for me to have my father see me share the film to an audience and listen in on the Q and A. They enjoyed the final cut of the film, my brother handled the merchandise table, and my stepmother shared what she has learned about adoptee’s perspective. They were proud of me. There was so much that I learned at the conference, so I highly recommended that they attend another adoption conference because as my parents, they would learn so much! There didn’t seem to be much interest when I mentioned it so I can only hope at this point.

I was relaxed and calm the whole time. My essential oils helped but I did notice that as I was sitting in the presentations, I would find myself rocking back and forth. I seemed to have slipped back to the moments when I rocked and soothed myself. I think my surroundings also contributed. To my surprise, I was not all tense and on edge like I was when attending PACT. The reason was that most of the attendees were adoptees and open professionals. I was surprised because most of them could be prejudged as adoptive parents. Ha, I got fooled. The demographics were different and it made a difference. Not a huge difference, but a difference.

Going back to how I mentioned that the presenters are becoming more diverse, I could actually see it. In the previous year at the conference, some writers from The Lost Daughters presented as well as a few other POC. More POC presenters was an intentional choice and the board member’s level of awareness made it possible. I felt very welcomed and emotionally safe. I was proud to be part of other adult adoptees of color contributing to the adoption movement, not only via #flipthescript, but also in the educational realm of adoption.

Although I did enjoy myself, I left with suggestions of course. I mentioned in the survey I was asked to fill out that POV’s from adult adoptees that are experiencing an open adoption would greatly be appreciated. For me, there is a lot of support and advocacy for open adoptions, but I personally don’t know of a group of adoptees in an open adoption advocating that it worked. Also POV’s from non-adoptive siblings would also be beneficial because within the research and blogs, there seems to lack a space for them to share how adoptions has affected their life. They are an equal part of the family where adoption influences their family role and relationships. I would like to know what my sister may be feeling before I ask. Seems weird, but I think it would help.

Reflections and suggestions aside, would I attend again? Yes, I would love to attend again!