Labels and More Labels

Adoption STAR’s Founder/CEO Michele Fried discusses the impact that various labels have had on her (and her family members), including the one she’s very fond of – “Mommy.”

Michele Fried
By Michele Fried

“I once was at a loss for how to point out who my son was on the playground. Rather than pointing out his color (he was the only Black child present), I said, “The boy in the stripped shirt!”

I am no longer afraid to provide a label. My son, Zack, is the gorgeous Black man standing over there!

Zack is my oldest, the first to call me mommy. He was Adopted. He is Black. He is Gay. I emphasize the words with capital letters because today they are labels. While to me, he is simply my son. Other labels in our family are like neon signs: Down Syndrome. Purple Haired. Arrived as a Teen. So while the world is fighting labels, we have chosen to embrace them. My husband and I instilled in our children that the word “different” was to be embraced. We felt if our children embraced difference then the labels thrown at them would not be viewed negatively. Who has Down Syndrome? “Me, me,” responds our 25 year old still to this day!

It is with these very labels that we have become who we are today. Zack embraced being Adopted, Black and Gay and entered a field in which he is one of the most sought after speakers. He succeeds immensely in his role as Client Relationship Manager and Supervisor of the Administrative and Intake Departments at Adoption STAR and he is a Mentor for so many touched by adoption. He is also a Son, a Brother, and a Friend. He shines brightly with these labels, too.

For as long as I can remember I wanted to become a mother. 27 years and 4 months ago, I became a mother. My Mommy label is way better than Founder or CEO, both of which I hold in the adoption field.

In November of 1987, three-day old Zack was handed to us. All these years later, it still hits me with such intensity and I am forever grateful to still be on this journey.

Ten children later, it is still mom, mommy, mother that I want to be labeled. It’s even okay if you call me an adoptive mother. I am not yet a grandmother, but I already have ideas for what I would like to be called. Nona is my thought.