Spoiler alert: my parents are my real parents.
With my parents and sister. Image: Supplied.
My name is Garrett. You may know me from Instagram as a Lifestyle Influencer – I usually talk about clothes, skincare, food and all that fun stuff. But today, I’m going to be talking about something a little different. What you may not know about me is that at one year old, I was adopted from Bangkok, Thailand.
It’s not something I hugely broadcast on my Instagram. Not because I am embarrassed or ashamed in any way, but mostly because I just forget. You see, I have always known I was adopted - being a different ethnicity to your parents makes this pretty obvious. But the main reason is that I actually don’t know any different. It’s kind of like asking someone, “What’s it like going to boarding school?” It’s kind of hard for them to answer if they have always gone to boarding school and didn’t know otherwise.
In case you were wondering, I have been showered with love from my family here in Australia my whole life and have wanted for nothing. However, from the types of questions I get asked when people learn of my adoption, or when they meet my parents for the first time – this isn’t always obvious. So, I thought I’d play myth-busters today and answer some of the most common questions I get asked about being adopted.
Top 10 Questions I Get Asked About Being Adopted
Let's settle this once and for all. Image: Supplied.
1. Are you really adopted?
Um yes, a silly one I know but it is #1…I’m not sure why I would be lying. I know people who feel like their personality is different from their families and might jokingly say, “I swear I’m adopted.” Not joking.
2. Do you know your REAL parents?
Yes. I call them mum and dad. On a serious note, this is a very touchy question for some people and a little insulting, as it carries the undertone that I don’t classify my parents of 22 years my 'real' parents and that my biological parents are my ‘real’ parents. It’s 2021…can we just accept that families can all look different?
3. Did your adoptive parents ever have kids of their own?
Yes… my sister (who is also permanently fostered) and myself. As far as we’re all concerned, we are their kids and they are our parents.
4. Who are your biological parents? Why did they give you up? Do you want to meet them?
Another touchy topic. This really depends on the person too. For me, I have no recollection and there is not current record of them. Who knows, maybe I’m Thailand’s version of the lost Princess Anastasia. Keep in mind though, for an adopted child who may have been adopted at an older age or have more memories, they might not want to talk about it, which must be respected. They do not owe you an answer.
5. Have you always known you were adopted?
Going back to what I said before, it doesn’t take much to realise my parents are white...but they have never kept it a secret and always have been honest about. I know in some instances this may not be the case and some children may not know, perhaps they are the same ethnicity as their parents. Personally, this question doesn’t bother me, but I wouldn’t suggest asking everybody.
6. How come your parents waited so long to adopt?
This is a good question and one I hope will help educate people on just how complicated and lengthy the adoption process is here in Australia. There’s the initial expression of interest into local or inter-country adoption, preparation for the adoption seminar, pre-screening, submitting an application, actual screening of the applicant, assessments. The list goes on, but generally this means people will be a little older than the average parent when they finally get approved to adopt!
7. Do you feel any connection with Thailand? Have your parents wanted you/gotten you to connect with the country?
This is a tough question. While I was born in Bangkok, I don’t particularly feel any sort of cultural connection with Thailand. This will definitely vary from person to person, but for me there’s no real connection or longing to go back. My parents did try hundreds of times when I was younger to enroll me into a Thai language school, but as any young child, that was the last thing on my mind. Who knows though, perhaps I might look into it once I finish my studies.
8. Has this encouraged you to adopt yourself? (Kids or pets!)
Definitely! I can’t pretend I don’t know what my life would’ve been like if I wasn’t adopted, because I do. I wouldn’t have the education I do now, the access to healthcare I do now, I wouldn’t be writing this article and I definitely wouldn’t have a family or a home. So, to give another child who would otherwise end up on the streets at 12 years old in some countries is a no-brainer to me.
9. Do you feel 'different?'
Not at all, my story may be a little different to my peers, but we do have a lot of similarities. They have families. I have a family. I think it would be a different story if I were older when I was adopted and had some memories from the orphanage. But my life with my parents here in Australia is the only life I know.
10. What should I definitely not say to someone who was adopted?
I get it. It’s interesting and we’re all curious to some extent. But please go about it from a place of respect. If you learn that someone you know is adopted, don’t discredit their parents by using terms like ‘real parents,’ and always make sure to ask if they feel comfortable talking about it first.
So overall, I hope this small piece from myself gives you an idea of what to say and what not to say. Or, if you have asked these questions in the past, might help you think about the way you might rephrase or approach these topics in the future.
Garrett McNamara is a Melbourne based media personality, Influencer and full-time Marketing and Psychology student. In fleeting moments of spare time, Garrett spends most of it getting blow-waves in a hair salon, running a local book club and all that comes with being a media-slashie (Content Creation / Podcasting / Writing / Creative direction). Garrett’s personal topics of interest include pop-culture, all the best tv dramas and eating brunch. You can follow Garrett on Instagram at @garrett_mcnamara.