Repost: Christian’s Story: An Airman’s Experience with Transracial Adoption

In honor of “National Military Appreciation Month” we are reposting Christian’s Story from January 7, 2013.

The new year always brings me a sense of renewed spirit and the opportunity to discover great new experiences in my life. This of course happens with reflection on experiences from the passed. I am very blessed coming into the new year. I have a loving and supportive family, both adopted and birth. I have a diverse and wonderful circle of friends all over world. I am honored to serve my country and have been awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal and Airman of the Year for my wing. The past six years of my life have been profound and meaningful. A lot of this coincides with my relationship with Adoption STAR.

For those of you that don’t know my life, I was trans-racially adopted in 1977. I was three years old at the time. My brothers, one older and one younger, are biological to my parents. I never remember being told I was adopted. It is something I have always known. The extended family received me well with some minor adjustments mainly in the political correctness department. My memories growing up are of loving relatives who treated me as one of their own. My parents were good about advocating me when people would discriminate. Being pioneers of trans-racial adoption, there was a lot my parents didn’t know, but that’s ok. They did well as parents and were never intimidated by my biological history. They freely offered the limited information about my birth parents to me and even offered to do a search when I was a teenager. At the time, I thought I had no interest. I will explain this later on.

In 2005, a friend came to the area to make an adoption plan for her unborn baby with Adoption STAR. I shared my perspective as an adoptee and supported her in her decision. I even met the adopting family as well. Although she was strong in her decision to place, it of course was an emotional experience for her. Seeing this prompted me to understand what my birth mother went through with me. I made the decision to connect with my birth family and began a search. With the support of STAR I moved forward and within months had located my birth mothers family. My birth mother, Constance, had passed away the year before and was survived by no other children. My mother, Diane thought it would be a comfort for the family to know a piece of their beloved was alive and well. Constance was survived by her parents, sisters, brother, nieces and nephews. I boldly moved forward and initiated contact. I am pleased to say I have a great relationship with my birth family to this day.

Having my adoption life come full circle has been enlightening. Many unanswered questions and curiosities have been satisfied. I do however, see the continued need for adoption education and outreach. Being a volunteer in the adoption world, I am sensitive to how the world perceives adoption. Unfortunately, stories like mine never make the media. No drama, just a classic happy ending. If a crime is committed by an adoptee, the media never fails to mention so. In the movie Avengers, Thor responds with “He’s adopted” when commenting on his brother’s crime. Now don’t get me wrong, these things don’t personally offend me. It just shows the need for me to share my life and experiences to help diminish negative stereotypes.

I am reminded of my friend Mike who I met on my last deployment. He is an adoptee and would randomly tell strangers about his birth family. Understanding his need to share his story, I opened the conversation and we shared. He told me about when his parents told him he was adopted and what he felt at the time. He also told me about his search and reunion and what a positive experience it was. I did share my concern with him about who he discloses his adoption story to. Sharing his story with people that don’t understand adoption runs the risk of having to endure insensitive and sometimes rude comments. I have always had a thicker skin and being transracially adopted, the situation was exposed for public scrutiny. Thankfully I had wise, supportive and loving parents to guide me through the rapids. My friend and I did support each other as adoptees and strengthened my belief that commonality heals all. Only people that share our experiences truly understand what it is we go through. In the New Year, join me in my resolution to further adoption Support, Training, Advocacy and Resources.

Lets show the world the blessings that adoption can bring and advance understanding adoption.

christianeshelmanChristian is a Senior Airman, (SrA) (E4) and will proudly put on Staff Sergeant (SSgt) uniform in February. He is a Grand Island resident, born in Rochester NY. He enlisted in the NY Air National guard in June 2008. He’s been deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). He’s an air cargo specialist, moving everyone and everything, everywhere. He earned an Associates in Applied Science in Transportation through the Community College of the Air Force and is currently a full-time student and a junior at Empire State College. His professional goals include helping veterans.