I am a mixed race transracial adoptee or TRA. I was adopted in 1964 into an established white family with three sons. My family were part of the aspirational middle class and all of the people I knew and loved were white. I was a happy child until I started school and began to encounter racism. This intensified reflecting the existing climate which perpetuated negativity and amplified racist tropes. Content that can only be screened now with trigger warnings was being distributed as normal. My family had no experience or understanding of racism and the context of my adoption prevented them from relating to the impact this had on me so my experiences were met with confusion and disbelief.
To be a TRA is to exist in a state of imposed continuously extended liminality, subject to the shifting attitudes towards race, history and the validity of personal experience. For a TRA belonging and not belonging are concurrent experiences that must be negotiated in an environment that has the legal and social fame-works that for the most part do not sustain this duality. This has to be managed and the work I am undertaking is in order to unpack this management and how it resonates.
Make no mistake, I was a loved and valued member of my home, I belong to my parents and my brothers. The issues that I encountered could never be considered as generated by these people. However, the contexts they inhabited meant that they were ill equipped to support me once I began to encounter racism and this drove a wedge between me and my family that later left me struggling to understand who I was meant to be.
Being adopted opens an individual up to levels of self scrutiny and criticism that are painful. But there are many fault lines in the ways that families are formed. John Banville once wrote “It seems to me that some people choose their vocations by a sort of inspired default, you know? A passionate lack of alternatives”. I reckon that is something that a TRA is seriously familiar with. FWIW, I found that quote in the early 1990s when I was living in Poland sharing my mastery of the queen’s finest swearing to various cohorts of confused polish language students. Recently Banville has presented himself as no friend of the issues that make me me as he’s been railing against the woke movement with the kind of tin eared response that makes me wrap my head in my hands and wonder how his head is wired. But the truth is, I know how his head is wired because I grew up amongst other people with the same wiring.
I’m looking for other TRAs who would be interested in taking part in a portrait project. I want to produce portraits of other TRA adults as they are, representing their achievements, their interests, themselves as individuals. Not as pieces in some weird game of happy families.
You don’t have to sit for me, but I want to know about who you are and the things that have interested you and maybe the spur. Here’s me: I love Robert Plant and the music he makes. I am a really really good cook, I’ve traveled a lot and lived in Poland and Germany. I make art, I help run a darkroom, I love galleries, art and black and white movies in weird languages. Nothing makes me happier than dancing. History is the most important subject in the world. None of those things are related to the colour of my skin but they are just as intimately part of who I am as my brown wrapping.
I want to know about who you have become and to find a way to present it. You don’t have to sit if you don’t want to. But your voice, your experience and understanding, they need somewhere to be acknowledged and I reckon that maybe together we can play our part. I call this project little races because I always felt like I was a race of one because I never heard of anybody else like me.
The work I make is accessible through the selected work links and if you’d like to conatct me, you can fill in this secure and confidential form.