Monday, November 2, 2009


Identity is a social construction. Who we are is shaped, in part, by the messages we receive starting at a very young age. It is not just that, of course. And there are elements that are ingrained in us from birth. Our temperament, for instance, is basic building block of our personality. It helps shape our reactions to things that happen to us.

So many different bits play a role in shaping our identity, it's hard to tease them all out and understand how they impact us. All of which leaves us with a temptation to oversimplify the situation. We want to point to just one thing, or a couple of things as essential to our identity. But we have to resist that impulse.

When I try to explain the importance of reclaiming my original birth certificate, it usually results in blank stares. "I have my birth certificate and it didn't affect my identity." Of course, the person who says that cannot really know it didn't affect his or her identity. They've always had that information.

The adoptee who lacks it often can't escape the sneaking suspicion that something magical might be contained in that document. That something essential to identity is hidden there, and they are being kept from it.

While I don't deny I have, at times, been tempted to overblow the importance of my OBC, part of me isn't sure that it's possible. After all, it is a part of my identity, and something I should have.

Maybe even more than the information is what it symbolizes. After all, when I did get my OBC, I already knew what it said. But that isn't why I wanted it anymore. I wanted it because it returned to me a measure of control. A measure of what was lost all those years ago. I got back a bit of power over how my identity could be defined.

There is a power in these kinds of symbols. It is obvious that there is power or groups wouldn't be trying so hard to keep adoptees from them. They wouldn't be trying so hard to keep us from reclaiming this piece of ourselves. And the harder they try to keep them sealed, the more adoptees become convinced that there really is something magical hidden inside.

What could be more magical than a piece of yourself?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a first mother I don't personally have the questions about the information on the OBC. It's all about the symbolism for me. That it is something you should have and the motivations to keep it from you is paramount.

Of course not having the information makes the information important and mysteriously more important.

The response I usually get about sealed OBCs is disbelief. People assume I must be mistaken and then ask why?