Closure: One Adoptee’s Journey to Finding Her Biological Family
Angela Tucker is a twenty-eight year old social worker, wife, and transracial adoptee. In 2013, she opted to share her journey to find her biological family with the public through film. The cleverly and simply titled documentary Closure, was directed by her husband Bryan.
Recently, I had the pleasure of viewing the film and interviewing Angela. The film is deeply moving and thought-provoking, not only for adoptees, but for all triad members, their families, and adoption professionals.
Rachel: Why did you decide to turn your search for your biological family into a documentary? Did you hesitate to share your story?
Angela: I had asked Bryan to film some specific moments during my search as I feared that my level of shock, fear and anticipation would shroud my memory of the event. My goal was to simply have footage for my own keepsakes. I was working as an adoption caseworker during the time I was searching and was noticing the general fear prospective adoptive families felt towards openness in adoption and the lack of adoptee voices within the adoption education materials. Bryan asked me if I was open to sharing some of the moments during the search and reunion in the form of a documentary for the purpose of educating others and starting necessary conversations. It did take some time for me to be open to this idea. I knew that I could trust Bryan to portray all angles of my adoption story in a respectful and unbiased manner, and I knew that I could ask Bryan to withhold certain aspects of the search from the film as some moments were to be private. My family and I have lost a lot of privacy in sharing this documentary, but we’ve gained more than we could’ve imagined both personally, and in the global adoption discussion.
Rachel: I remember watching a Dr. Phil episode a few years ago where he said that a child’s greatest influencer is his or her same-sex parent. I’ve thought a lot about this in terms of my own children’s adoptions and our relationships with their biological families. In the film, you seemed happy to meet your biological father, aunts and uncles, cousins, and siblings, but it appeared you weren’t satisfied (no true “closure” obtained) until you met Deborah, your biological mother. Do you think some adoptees have a greater desire to meet their same-sex parent vs. meeting other biological relatives? If yes, why was this?
Angela: Both my [adoptive] mom and dad have had great influences in my life. With specific regard to my closed adoption, I spent the years of wondering about my birthparents quite fixated on my birthmother. I fantasized and wondered about both of my birthparents, but felt more of a severed connection with my birthmother, which may factor in to why I focused more on her. Upon meeting my birthfather I found myself realizing that he too was a huge part of my story that I hadn’t given much consideration to.
Rachel: You share in the film that originally, you envisioned yourself going about your search alone yet you were thankful to be surrounded by your husband, parents, and siblings as you sought out your biological family. Can you describe what their support meant to you? Do you think you would have done as extensive of a search without your family’s support?
Angela: Having my family support me through this search validated my feelings that learning my roots and being able to make sense of my story is important. My mom told me that if she were in my shoes she would’ve wanted to know information and make this journey as well. This affirmation helped me to know that my desire was not unnatural, and allowed me to feel confident moving forward. I was aware of the potential hurt that my family members could’ve felt, and the fear of being replaced, but I attempted to vocalize to them that this was not my intention.
Rachel: There is a lot of debate about nature vs. nurture. I love what author Lori Holden shared in her book The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole: there is no hierarchy; both matter. What do you think about nature and nurture (and the combination of the two), especially now that you have relationships with biological family members?
Angela: I think all of my parents—birth parents, foster parents and my [adoptive] parents—have left an indelible marker on who I am. It is exciting to now know where some of my facial expressions, mannerisms and body type come from, but it’s most comforting to know that many more of my traits, hobbies, worldview and outlook on the status of humankind comes from how and by whom I was raised.
Rachel: You and Bryan did something interesting in the film, or should I say, what you didn’t do. You were honest and determined, yet you didn’t over-share your feelings or tell your audience what to think about your journey. You seemed to have an “open arms” attitude toward your audience, as if you were beckoning your viewers to answer the question, “What do you think?” Was this intentional?
Angela: Yes, this was exactly the intention. In no way did I ever want this film to be a recipe for how or when other adoptees should search, how transracial parenting should look, or feel. I am an introvert and a private person by nature, so sharing as much as I did in the film was a lot for me. I feel that one’s own story is a privilege with whom and when it is shared. I asked Bryan to keep my voice to a minimum, not just for my privacy, but also because there are so many other people who are impacted by an adoption arrangement and their voices also deserve to be heard.
Rachel: What do you hope triad members gain from the film? What about adoption professionals and the general public who may know little to nothing about adoption?
Angela: The film is simplistic enough that it can speak to the general public, but detailed enough that adoptive families may be prompted in to having tough conversations. Closure is complex enough that adoption professionals can use it as educational material, and it’s non-prescriptive so that people can make their own inferences, judgments and decisions. Most importantly though, each member of the triad is respectfully represented and given the honor they deserve in sharing their feelings. It is my great hope that adoptees will understand their very natural desire to learn about their roots, that adoptive parents and the rest of the family can see the importance in supporting the adoptee, and that the stereotypes surrounding birthparents can be nulled a bit.
Rachel: Of the triad members, adoptees have been, in my opinion, the most silenced. Adoptive parents are often the most catered to and the most heard, followed by biological parents, and then adoptees. I have especially found that agencies focus more on the parents (adoptive and biological), and there’s little education to prepare either party for what challenges the adoptee may face and what he or she might need. Why do you think this is? And do you feel that films like yours, as well as blogs, books, and articles, are changing the public’s perception of adoptees?
Angela: Adoptee voices are slowly becoming more and more heard. I also feel that birthparents’ voices are heavily steeped in hurtful stereotypes, so seeking out and listening to birth parents’ experiences may also help to balance the scales a bit. It seems that the general public is fearful of what adult adoptees may have to say about their own story. There continues to be a lot of pressure put on adoptees to fully accept their adopted life as “better than” or “healthier” or “more American.” These views have successfully made it difficult for adoptees to both acknowledge their life as different and possibly better in some ways but still speak to the loss and painful feelings that we adoptees tend to feel.
Rachel: What does closure mean to you? Is closure a journey or a destination?
Angela: Closure is a journey. I’ve learned that gaining understanding is ultimately not about the outcome, but rather the beautiful struggle and embracing new realities together with both my birth family and my [adoptive] family.
Rachel: Though the focus of the film isn’t on race and race relations, it certainly is something to consider and reflect upon. Today many transracial adoptive parents I know are working to embrace and integrate their children’s racial culture into the family. They are open to change. There are more resources about adoption and transracial adoption than ever before. From your experience, what are a few things adoptive parents should do to ensure their transracially adopted children grow to be racially confident adults?
Angela: Exposure to other cultures—not just that of their own—but an overall awareness and an ability to understand the world in the context of their own race outside of the veil of white privilege. When transracial adoptees exit their childhood home they no longer are granted some of the unspoken and invisible privileges that they were afforded when in the presence of their Caucasian parents. It’s important to prepare the adoptee for their adult reality as a minority in America.
Rachel: Finally, what can we expect from you and your husband in the future? Another film? A book? And how can your fans get in touch with you if they have a question or comment?
Angela: Bryan has a couple new film projects in his queue—centering on social justice themes. In addition to my full time job, speaking at adoption conferences, and attending screenings for Q&A’s when I can, I am collaborating with my birth mom on a literary piece, which is exciting, and simply a great way for us to get to know each other more. I always welcome folks to join the discourse on the Closure Facebook page, or interact with me on my blog at www.theadoptedlife.com.
Have you seen this film? What did you think about it? Share your thoughts below.