Why Talking About Adoption Feels Like Coming Out

Over the past year, I’ve thought a lot about what direction I’d like to take with my writing. Why do I write? What are my goals? One topic that kept coming up is the role creative people play in society, how they often use their art–whether it’s painting or photography, writing or music–to give voice to others who aren’t as easily heard. Does “artist” equal “activist?” I’ve discussed this quite a bit with my friends at Flycatcher and at Kennesaw State University, where I’m a graduate student.

Until now I haven’t been entirely comfortable with the label “activist,” probably because I haven’t been entirely comfortable with publicly speaking my mind. That’s not to say I haven’t done it. I’ve always had a tendency, in fact, to speak up and take a stand. For example, my first published essay was written in response to the BP oil spill. And my friends and family could give examples of situations where I’ve made them uncomfortable because of my insistence on vocally taking a stand.

This past year it’s been more a question of how far I’m willing to go. The question hit home with me during spring semester, when for a biography class I wrote about a prominent adoption reform activist (I hope to say more on that at a later date). I’m an adoptee myself, and much of the creative writing I’ve done over the past four years has focused on adoption in one way or another. In the past, I’ve written letters and left comments on sites in support of adoptee rights, yet I haven’t told many people besides my husband that I’ve done those things. I’ve been hesitant to identify myself as an activist.

In the family I grew up with, we didn’t talk much about too many things, not feelings or politics, certainly not art or literature. Then I worked in a corporate environment for nine years, and if you know anything about large corporations, you know they don’t exactly encourage outspokenness. I don’t mean to sound like I’m laying blame here. My point is just that meaningful discourse wasn’t part of my everyday life until rather recently, so I’ve been inclined to temper my inclination to speak up. I’ve been afraid of people’s reactions. I guess that’s why talking about this now feels like coming out.

But I realize now that if I’m going to be a successful writer, first and foremost I have to be honest. I can’t continue to live in fear of the fallout from what I want to write about. I have to be true to myself. And the truth is, in my heart I’m a literary activist, someone who wants to use the written word to educate and to try to bring about change, whether it’s through stories, poems, essays, articles, or posts like this.

So, if you stick with me on this blog, you’re going to start to see more posts directly addressing adoption-related topics and issues. I am an adopted person, and that fact has influenced so much of my life that I must write about it. I simply must. Adoption isn’t the only topic I write about though, so this won’t become an adoption blog per se, but I do want to dedicate a portion of this blog to the major theme of my life. I hope that you’ll continue to follow along as I take this journey.

2 thoughts on “Why Talking About Adoption Feels Like Coming Out

  1. I really like ths blog, Karen. I felt the same way when I first started writing. . . . it’s true that you have to decide whether you care more about what other people think or about the creative impulses and desire to be an activist (along with the honesty). So very well put.


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