May 26, 2023
My name is Katie and I’m the marketing and communications coordinator here at FriendsPDX. As a kid, I often felt in between. I grew up in Salem, OR which is home to a smaller Asian population compared to those in Portland, Eugene, and even Corvallis. In classrooms when I did have Asian peers, many were from Asian families and as a transracial adoptee raised by a single white mom, I felt very different. My mom made sure I had access to culture by enrolling me in Chinese language classes, participating in adoption organizations like Families with Children from China, and reading books with Chinese folklore and characters among other things. But there was always a palpable sense of otherness despite the connection with my Chinese heritage.
In middle school, I started attending Holt International Adoptee Camp (despite not being adopted through Holt) and found community. It’s a camp that’s led by and for adoptees who often find themselves left out of the adoption narrative that’s dominated by (typically Caucasian) adoptive parents and adoption agencies. Experiencing a week of being surrounded by people who looked like me and shared similar loved experiences was life changing. Holt Camp helped me process and learn about racism I had experienced, adoption, and my identity. I’ve stayed involved with Holt Camp since my first summer as a camper in 2008.
Today, I’m a big advocate and lean into the question of “if not me, who?” I’d like to destroy the model minority myth, educate folx on the systemic racism at the root of our society in an effort to drive change, and have (consenting) international adoptees lead the conversations about international adoption. If I can be a voice and vessel for change and feel able to take that on, then it’s almost a given that I should be doing that work. But it's taken years to get where I am. In 2019, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and since then have spent many hours in therapy. It's been challenging at times, but rewarding critical self-work that I know will benefit me going forward and I wish all people had access to those resources.
Outside of advocacy work, I’ve found myself becoming more me through my tattoos. The best way I can describe it is that with each addition, it feels like I am taking a step closer to being fully me. I encourage anyone and everyone who constricted by “rules” whether that be societal norms, parental preferences, or what have you, to fearlessly charge forward, find support, and take the steps you need to in order to become yourself. Be brave. You got this. You are worth it.
May is Asian-American Pacific Islander Month. FriendsPDX recognizes that there is debate among how to properly recognize those of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage in a way that is respectful and conscious of the fraught history these groups have faced. Within our program, we have year-round cultural activities and programming for the FriendsPDX community to embrace, learn, and love their identity.