For many of adoptees who were adopted as babies, our lives begin on our “gotcha” day. What we don’t often realize is that we come pre-packaged with our own mythologies. For me, my story often begins with “I was born in 1993 and adopted from Daegu, South Korea at six-and-a-half months old.” I have never needed to ponder what happened in those 6.5 months, but now that I have “come out of the fog,” I’m at least a little curious.
Jump forward to today, and I’ve entered the second year of my podcast that centers Korean Adoptee voices and I’m looking for ways to reclaim language.
A quick dictionary
- Coming out of the fog is a term that gets thrown around a lot in adoptee circles (at least, the ones I’ve been in) and typically refers to the moment your life changes because you realize you’re adopted.
- Self-racialization is a term I first heard from Glenn Morey, a first-wave Korean adoptee and guest on The Janchi Show Podcast, that essentially means “to fully realize yourself as an Asian/Korean body.”
These terms are related, but not the same. Self-racialization does not specifically refer to (transracial) adoptees, nor is coming out of the fog specifically related international/transracial adoptees. However, for the purposes of this post, I will specifically be writing through the lens of my own experience as a transracial, international adoptee from South Korea to white parents in the U.S.
Coming out of the fog of white supremacy
My friend and scholar, Sarah Williams, posted this on her Instagram: “Adoptees are ‘coming out of the fog’ of white supremacy.” This was the moment when the phrase “coming out of the fog” made sense to me.
When I first heard the phrase and tried to conceptualize “the fog,” it always seemed to fall flat. My co-host, Patrick Armstrong, mentioned in an episode of our podcast that the phrase originates from author Nancy Verrier in her work The Primal Wound. Nancy is an adopter, and a single, white parent. I point out these demographic facts not pass judgement, but instead to highlight the point-of-view.
For too long, adoptees have lived without their own language.
Adoption Apocalypse: a new way forward.
Dear adoptees, I would like to present ‘adoption apocalypse’ as a new way forward. Although “apocalypse” has come to be known as a term synonymous with “the end of the world,” its original Greek meaning meant a “revelation” or “uncovering,” (hence, the Bible’s Book of Revelations). I believe that moments where we must reckon with our adoption, in the fullness of its meaning and influence on our lives, is an apocalypse of sorts, end-of-the-world baggage very much implied.
My own apocalypse.
My first adoption apocalypse was in 2020, after the murders of George Floyd and Vicha Ratanapakdee put both Asianness, Blackness, and the systems that keep us down at the front of mind. Combined with the unique time period I found myself in (living in a red Midwestern State in a city that was 95% white, having to wear a mask) and the fact that I was living away from my white parents, this moment could be summed up as, “oh shit. I’m Asian.”
While this was not the first time I had this realization, it was the first time that I had this thought away from my parents. In every other place I had lived, my parents had always been around (ever more briefly, but still) to clue other whites in on my status as “adopted by white people.” I had wandered out of the fog, and realized there was no more fog left to be found. The world lay before me, clear as day—my life was in potential danger. “Grocery shopping while Asian” was a moment of danger. “Walking while Asian” was a moment of danger. No one knew my parents—there wasn’t a hall pass I could show to say. “No, it’s cool, I’m basically one of you.”
In this new, post-pandemic, post-apocalyptic world, I was introduced to anxiety and fear. In this new, #VeryAsian world, I’ve found belonging, community and acceptance for all of who I am in ways I could not have imagined.
My apocalypse changed the way I saw the world, myself and everyone around me. It is the moment my wife and I began our interracial marriage, and the moment I rejected whiteness. It was not the moment I opted-in to Asian Americanness, but it was the first step on that journey too.
Apocalypses bring anxiety and hope. They reshape who we are and how we live because they are so deeply tied to our identities. If you have gone through this yourself, I hope the language helps you explain what happened—if only to yourself.