Respecting diversities you may not know about

A voice from the adopted population


One hidden kind of diversity takes on no physical form: adoption. With only around 2.5% of the world’s population having been adopted, we are in the minority.

This has become very apparent to me because I come from an adoptive family. My youngest sister and I were both adopted. We have often faced ignorant curiosity and have on multiple occasions encountered questions that are either unanswerable or simply nobody’s business. People at FPU, as far as I have noticed, are generally good at respecting diversity; however, there is an ignorance when it comes to understanding the adopted population. People don’t have the knowledge they need for respectful conversation.

Jesse Butterworth, the father of an adopted child, is known for his rule of thumb. He discusses in a youtube video, claiming that “if you wouldn’t say it about a boob job…”, don’t say it about adoption. This video explains that, generally, people do not mean to say insensitive or uneducated things to those who have gone through the adoption process, but rather they lack the insight that would help them ask the right questions.

Let’s talk about what you shouldn’t say to an adopted person.

Please do not speak of adopted people or children like we are acquirable objects.

Please do not speak of adopted people or children like we are acquirable objects. Don’t ask the parents “Where did you get them from?” or, my personal favorite, “Did you get to pick them out yourself?” Please don’t feel sorry or empathize for the children who have been adopted. Adoption is not a bad thing, so don’t make it seem like it is. Please know when to stop talking. And most of all, please don’t treat our parents like saints.

This is easily the most frustrating thing that my mom hears on a daily basis. When people find out that she and my dad have adopted, they give her special treatment. It is uncomfortable for her because my parents simply chose to build their family through adoption. She believes that it is no heroic deed to love my sister and I, and finds it insulting when people act like it is. She thinks that it makes it sound like it is some saintly act to be parents to her children and to love them as people.

As students attending a very diverse university, it is important for us to be respectful of that diversity and approach such things with sensitivity and grace. The goal is for all students to feel comfortable on campus, which should be a place of growth instead of a place where they have to answer uncomfortable or insensitive questions. That being said, it takes effort to truly respect diversity in lieu of ignorance.

There are three types of diversity: demographic, experiential and cognitive. Demographic diversity has to do with a person’s origin, such as their gender, race and sexual orientation. Experiential diversity includes a person’s hobbies, affinities or abilities, and cognitive diversity is how we approach problems and think. These types of diversity are not separate from each other, but rather form a cohesive trilogy of components that make each and every person unique, enhancing societal diversity.

In order to respect diversity in our context at FPU, it is important to take these three types into account. Keeping these in mind will help alleviate ignorance on, and off, the FPU campus. The adopted population embodies not one, but all three kinds of diversity. Being adopted is a demographic diversity, in that it determines where we are in relation to where we have been; even our affinities are partly shaped by our experience as those who have been adopted. How we approach problems and even our way of thinking is tied to the fact that we were adopted. They are all interconnected, and come full circle to make the adopted population a little more complex than your average demographic.

It is complicated, I know, and that is why approaching this topic should always be done with sensitivity; curiosity should never take priority over knowing what your questions and remarks imply or neglect. So, when you find out that someone you know is adopted and curiosity emerges, make sure to carefully think about what your question could imply to that person. If your questions or comments make that person out to be strange or of lesser value than they are, you should probably leave it behind.

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