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How does your session connect with the ideas of representation and visibility?

Our presentation is on behalf of VOICES, a BIPOC Adoptee Community. Our mission is to provide safe, inclusive, and supportive spaces to come together, share our stories, build connections, and access adoptee-centered programming, so we can build power, shift the narrative around adoption, and disrupt the modern adoption industrial complex. Our presentation, Creating & Losing Family as BIPOC Adult Adoptees, will be an extension of the local storytelling events to continue building on the intersectional representation of BIPOC adoptees. We recognize the layers of identity and experience that our community holds and attend to a network of BIPOC adoptees that span race, gender, age, adoption components, and other lived experiences. Our BIPOC adoptee storytellers will span a range of identities and experiences while all discussing the creation and loss of family as adults (a subject that holds distinct nuance for adopted people). We will create a space that centers autonomy, safety, and care for these folks to share a piece of their story with community members. During the presentation, we prioritize our well-being to create safe environments that foster authentic visibility. At every storytelling event, we will lean on the power of language to set clear expectations with audience members so all attendees have the choice to engage and show up authentically. By tending to our community’s needs, we are able to create a platform that allows for true visibility and healing.

What does "representation" mean to you? 

Representation is being able to see yourself in others based on a unifying identity or experience. Representation should span and be integrated into a breadth of areas including entertainment, education, healthcare, research, politics, and more. Adoptees often have to create representation for themselves, taking the initiative to engage in social, political, and creative efforts that center on being adopted. Documentaries, books, the Adoptee Citizenship Act, work with Planned Parenthood, and other projects are reflections of how our community is and wishes to be represented. Our marginalized identity of being adopted is often invisibilized because of assimilation and erasure, and we are often disregarded in the creation of systemic practices. Our experience is, however, more easily represented as a story to be consumed. Depictions of being adopted created by non-adoptees continues to perpetuate harm to our community. Stories are precious windows into another person’s experience, and should be told by those that lived it.

What does "visibility" mean to you?

Visibility is experiencing being seen for your authentic self. Adoptees continue to reclaim the narrative around adoption through community organizing and professional contributions in a wide array of fields. BIPOC adoptees have published books speaking to their experience, driven political change, conducted adoption-related research, and been consulted on stories about adoption. They have had the opportunity to contribute to building a more dynamic sense of visibility in the broader context of society. But these are largely exceptions. We have been historically isolated from one another, and it has taken time for generations of adopted people to reach the point of making these contributions grounded in our collective voice. Adoption agencies, religious institutions, and political systems continue to hold immense power over the depiction and practice of adoption, reunification, and other adoptee experiences.

How are "representation" and "visibility" related to one another? 

Representation and visibility are both pillars in understanding oneself and others. Having intersectional, nuanced mirrors to see yourself in and through others creates a sense of belonging and understanding. Connecting with people over a shared experience gives us the language and a reference to better understand ourselves. Representation and visibility both require the active participation of those with more power and those with less power. Creating representation and visibility requires the redistribution of space from those that have historically held it, alongside the active participation of those that seek and deserve it. Representation is having a voice in the story or a say in the room. Visibility is experiencing safety we co-create so that our community members can express themselves honestly and be held. Both acknowledge that the most qualified folks to speak on an experience are the ones that have experienced it firsthand.

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