Thursday, March 17, 2011

Kiss Me, I [could be] Irish!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!  After serious severe weather this winter, and torrential rains and river/lowland flooding the past couple weeks, I was so happy to wake up this morning to beautiful blue skies, sunshine, and what is expected to be 65 degree temperatures!!  Based on the large Irish population here in Northeast Ohio, I might just say this welcomed weather is thanks to the luck of the Irish!

However, St. Patrick's Day tends to hold a sentiment that differs from the usual green beer and corned beef for those conceived from anonymous donors (especially those from the by-gone era of secrecy  and no records).  For most of us, we are deeply interested in the ethnic makeup of our biological father, and therefore half the ethnic makeup of ourselves.

Earlier this week I was talking to Stephanie Blessing on the phone about the newfound knowledge that her biological father was/is Jewish.  For adult offspring like Stephanie, who have absolutely no information, this tiny bit of knowledge gives her not only hope in learning more about him, but also a small sense of self that previously was unknown.

Often donor-conceived adults and adoptees are questioned and wonder about about what ethnic group they supposedly resemble.  It becomes a sort of game, matching personal characteristics with those characteristics that are stereotypically associated with certain ethnic/racial groups, and therefore trying to identify some bit of knowledge about our own identity.

Growing up I often wondered what ethnicity my biological father was, and eventually concluded it was most likely that he was of Anglo-Saxon descent since I still had light colored eyes and my complexion was somewhat fairer than my mother's dark Armenian complexion, and most of all I have LOTS of freckles (and no one else in my family has freckles).  The freckles and the hints of red in my dark hair always made me wonder if my father was Irish.  So I used to joke that I might be Irish so I might as well celebrate St. Patty's Day in full force (mostly in college.......).

Now, when I finally learned my donor number in 2008 and subsequently received minimal information about my biological father, I learned that my hunch that he was Anglo-Saxon was confirmed.  His mother was English or of English descent.  However, there was no ethnic group assigned to his father.  So, I will still stand by my stance on March 17th, "Kiss me, I [could be] Irish!!"

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The "Oprah Effect"

So I know this is extremely late in posting, but nonetheless, it's something I wanted to touch upon, among other things that I will hopefully get to in the near future.

Oprah's reunion
Oprah Winfrey, in her final season of her show, has sought to blow to socks of viewers in more ways than one.  Whether it's a trip to Australia, shocking interviews or guests, or breaking personal news, Oprah really is going out with a bang.  Her latest explosive episode was the well-anticipated "family secret" that she was bringing to light for her millions of viewers.  Now, this of course is not the first time that the talk show queen has revealed some pretty intense personal information on her show.  However, it seems to be the first time that she has ever been seriously touched by kinship separation and reunion.

I say this because several years ago a good friend of mine, Kathleen LaBounty was featured on an Oprah episode that dealt with donor conception.  Kathleen, along side Wendy and Ryan Kramer, and several others in the DC industry were discussing reunions, and primarily the "heroic" efforts of the DSR to find siblings for every donor conceived offspring in the world!  [Note sarcasm here.]  With such happiness, who could disagree that donor conception is wonderful?!?!

Apparently Kathleen could.  But was quickly hushed, because no one wants to hear something sad when the show's all about sunshine and rainbows!!  Now Kathleen has not been the first person who has gone on Oprah's show to learn that Oprah herself was very pro-adoption/donor conception and has absolutely no tolerance for individuals who believe it is their right to know their biological kin.  Oprah seems to be in the same camp as many recipient moms who see such opinions as being ungrateful whining brats, and feels no qualms with telling her guests that off-stage!

So lets talk about the so-called "Oprah Effect".  It's well documented in pop culture that Oprah has the Midas touch.  Literally.  Everyone/everything she endorses seems to succeed.  She has made numerous other talk show hosts famous (i.e. Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz.....just to name a few) because they started out as regulars on her show.  Clothing, makeup and hair products, even fitness guru's.  It seems to me it must be the goal of any fledgling entrepreneur to want to grab the attention of Oprah to thrive.  She has her own book club, that is probably more respected than the NYT Bestseller List.  It seems any book Oprah uses for her book club becomes an instant sensation -- even books that were previously deemed dusty classics meant to torture high schoolers around the country, like Steinbeck's East of Eden, received a revival of Biblical proportions!

Oprah and her half-sister Patricia
But back to Oprah's brush with adoption.  Oprah discovered, some time ago apparently (and the episode aired conveniently during the time shortly before daytime "sweeps"), that her mother had had a baby girl that she had given up for adoption.  Patricia discovered that it was possible that her birth mother was Oprah's mom, and set out to carefully try to bring the situation to light for Oprah and her family.  I commend her for being so honest and careful at these attempts, because while many of us (adoptees and DC offspring) may dream that our missing biological parent(s) are famous, the majority of us do not discover that our missing family really are celebrities!  I believe the contact between Oprah and Patricia must have initially been made some many months ago, but the on-air reunion was incredible.  First off, the similarities between the two women were obvious.  But what amazed me more than anything was how Oprah, the most powerful and richest woman in the world, opened her heart to her new-found half-sister.

The fact that Oprah explicitly stated how happy she was to have learned of her half-sister and to have reconnected with her gave me at least a small bit of hope that perhaps this experience changed her opinion on the needs and desires of adoptees and donor-conceived adults to seek out their kin.  Obviously the powerful emotions connected to these reunions justifies the importance of these relationships and proves that knowing ones family is a step towards knowing oneself.

If Oprah has indeed changed her opinions on adoption and donor conception and their subsequent needs to find their biological family, I would hope that she would entertain in the future more open discussion about this topic as well as some of the more corrupt sides of these industries with the help of her new half-sister.  And if her golden touch on everything else perpetuates onto a newfound understanding of the deep desires that adoptees and donor conceived adults feel, she may be able to help us change the collective mind of America and abroad to one that is more sympathetic toward the losses associated with adoption and donor conception, which should be considered if not paramount at least as important as the losses associated with infertility.