Updated: Oct 26, 2019
The purpose of this page is to further connect with the KAAN community by sharing diverse perspectives surrounding adoption while centering adoptees’ experiences. Here you will find blog posts and additional creative content from and for folks within the adoption community. We hope these posts will serve as both a learning tool and a way to build community beyond the KAAN conference.
The blog is overseen by KAAN’s Education Committee, who is currently made up of Erica Gehringer and Kyle Ashlee. To introduce the blog and ourselves, we decided to create the first post! So here we go!
Tell us a little about yourself (short bio)
Kyle: I am a social justice educator, scholar, father, and white partner of a transracial adoptee. I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota with my married partner, Aeriel, and our daughter Azaelea. My work focuses on exploring and understanding power and privilege in order to advance justice and equity. I currently serve on the KAAN Advisory Council and work to engage white adoptive partners and family members in supporting the adoptee community.
Erica: I am a queer, transracially adopted Korean adoptee who grew up in the Midwest. I currently live in Seattle with my wife and two puppies. Right now, I work as a social worker for Washington State’s child welfare system, and I also serve on the KAAN Advisory Council! My hope on the council is to bring to light race, gender, and sexuality issues within the adoptee community.
How did you hear about KAAN? Why did you decide to join the Advisory Council?
Kyle: I heard about KAAN through my wife, Aeriel. My first KAAN conference was in St. Louis, in 2015. To be surrounded by so many adoptees was incredible. I remember having some of my first conversations about the adoption journey alongside other critically conscious white partners and family members of adoptees. It truly changed how I think about adoption and how I support Aeriel. The next year, a spot came open on the Advisory Council (AC) and Aeriel encouraged me to apply. Since then, I’ve been serving on the AC with the goal of engaging partners and family members of adoptees in the KAAN community.
Erica: When I first went to college, it was the first time I left my 96% white hometown. I took an “Introduction to Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies” course taught by Emily Lawsin. That class was the first time I ever took the time to really question what it meant to me to be Asian American. During office hours, Professor Lawsin told me she had another Korean adoptee student in the past who had attended KAAN and told me to check it out. KAAN was the first space that I had encountered that actually seemed to “get” what it meant to be both Korean and adopted into a predominantly white family. After attending about 4 or 5 conferences, I was approached to apply to be on the Advisory Council. Since then, my goal of serving on the council is to engage queer and trans adoptees and loved ones.
What types of topics have you presented at previous KAAN conferences?
Kyle: As I’ve said, my goal is to engage white partners and family members of adoptees, and so many of my KAAN conference presentations have focused on these topics. For the past two years, I have been leading a session called, “Just Believe Them: Partners and Spouses Supporting Adoptees”. These are discussion-based sessions where partners and spouses of adoptees come together to discuss how they can best support the adoptees in their lives. Additionally, I have led a session titled, “White Adoptive Families Critically Exploring Whiteness.” This session gave participants an overview of whiteness as a system of racial oppression, and how it impacts the adoption journey. I would like to continue presenting on topics like these at KAAN in the future, and I also hope to see more sessions on these topics from others!
Erica: I believe I’ve led about 4 or 5 LGBTQ+ centered sessions. Each time they have evolved with different people and different topics. I remember that the first LGBTQ+ session that we hosted was super small (like 5 people), and at this past conference I was happy to see the most attendees I’ve ever seen (about 20!). So, it does seem like the interest is growing to have a need for such a session. I’ve also led two panels for two consecutive years called “Starting the Race Conversation” and “Re-Centering Conversations about Race.” Both of the panels were led by transracial adoptees, and we discussed the importance of talking about race within (and outside of) transracial adoption as well as the importance of centering people of color’s voices when talking about race.
What do you attribute your passion for education and resource sharing?
Kyle: Education has always been incredibly important to me. I came from a working-class home and neither of my parents were able to attend college. As a result, they always stressed the importance of education in my life and following that path has provided me with incredible opportunities. I’ve worked as an educator for the past 15 years and I take great pride in facilitating opportunities for others to learn and grow.
Erica: Similar to Kyle, I, too, find education to be important to me. It is one of the ways I’ve been able to learn more about myself and others. My parents did not attend college either and stressed the importance of education in my life, so it’s definitely been a humbling and privileged experience to be able to access the education I have so far. I also think the great thing about education is that it doesn’t have to necessarily come in the form of school, which is why I am happy that the internet and blogs exist! My hope is to be able to use our blog as a way to make learning accessible to others and learn from others within our community.
Obviously, we have two different experiences within the adoption community. Why do you think it's important we work together?
Kyle: As the partner of an adoptee, I have been on a journey to better understand the adoption experience since I met my wife nearly ten years ago. Early on, she helped me to see that adoption was an important part of her life, as well as an important issue that impacts many individuals and families around the world. Once I began learning more about adoption, I also realized that my dominant identities (White, Male-Identified, Heterosexual, etc.) afforded me the privilege of not having to think about many of the challenges that adoptees face everyday. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to be a loving and supportive partner, I would begin making every effort possible to learn about and advocate for adoptees.
Erica: I think it’s definitely important to have folks who aren’t adopted engaged in adoption issues, especially when it’s coming from people who really listen to adoptees and help them fight for the issues we want. So I am appreciative of those loved ones who really care and advocate for us.
What perspectives do you hope we gain from this blog?
Kyle: As many as possible! Primarily, I am interested in centering the voices and perspectives of adoptees. There is an incredible richness of experience within the adoption community, and the more we can provide opportunities for those different experiences to be understood, adoptees will be better supported and advocated for.