Search
Close this search box.

112 – My Whole Life Is a Success

Andrew called me from Connecticut after a move from Maryland. He told me that he’s been through a lot in his life. He’s a transracial, international adoptee who grew up in a predominantly white community there in Connecticut. He shares how he strode to overachieve in athletics and performing arts to try to overshadow his brown skin, the unmistakable mark of being an adoptee in his community. However he credits his strong Catholic faith for getting him through everything, including coming out as a gay man. This is Andrew’s journey. 

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Andrew (00:02): On top of all the other portions of my identity, I prayed my little heart out because as an adoptee here, as someone brought into this family, my biggest fear was that they could potentially send me back because I’m gay. So with that fear, I prayed even harder.

Damon (00:32): Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? This is who am I really a podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members. I’m Damon Davis and on today’s show, you’re going to meet Andrew. He called me from Connecticut after a move from here in Maryland, Andrew told me, that he’s been through a lot in his life. He’s a trans-racial international adoptee who grew up in a predominantly white community there in Connecticut. He shares how he Strode to achieve in athletics and performing arts to try to overshadow his Brown skin, the unmistakable mark of being an adoptee in his community. However, he credits his strong Catholic faith for getting him through everything, including coming out as a gay man. This is Andrew’s journey.

Damon (01:36): Andrew was born in the Philippines, but grew up in Brookfield, Connecticut. His parents were white and they had one son who was biological to them. And six years, Andrew senior, when she was pregnant with Andrew’s brother, the doctor told his mother her pregnancy was so difficult that having another child was not a good idea. When Andrew was adopted, he was about 10 months old. His parents received him at the airport. Andrew said, growing up in that area was quite an experience. He was loved, accepted and cared for as part of the family. But back in the late eighties, trans racial adoptions, weren’t as prevalent as they are now, especially in a small town in Connecticut. He said his mother experienced a fair number of interesting encounters with members of the community.

Andrew (02:28): So, I mean, this was all stories told back to me, um, as I have grown, but, uh, there was one time when she had me in her, in the baby carriage. And, uh, she was in the department store shopping around, um, and a fellow shopper looked into the carriage you see me the, uh, the Brown baby, the Brown son that adopted, um, and looks back at my mother almost with a face or perplexed face, um, and simply asks, why did you do that? Um, and that was, that was one of the first moments that my mother and family experienced something to that effect because prior to that, they already had me and showing me around the community. And, uh, I grew up Roman Catholic. So, uh, you know, meeting all the fellow parishioners and neighbors and, and loved ones and they received nothing but positive feedback of, of acceptance. Uh, but this is one of the first occurrences that I have been told that my mother remembers experiencing racial discrimination.

Damon (03:44): Andrew said his mother was shocked and surprised in that moment of negative feedback about her interracial adoption in the face of broader acceptance in the community. It must have been confusing. So I figured it must have been tough growing up in a predominantly white community as an adoptee.

Andrew (04:02): It was an experience because, you know, I was, I was noticeably not from my parents. So that story of being adopted and being essentially delivered to my parents and family was an ongoing story that I always heard growing up. Um, because that was their way of, that was their way of being clear and open about my adoption or where I came from. Uh, for me being one of the few Brown people of color of my, my students, my fellow classmates and everything, it was challenging. You know, I, I carry a very positive spirit. I carry a smile, um, along the way of life, um, growing up and, and even today, but as part of this community, as part of this town, and as I stood out, as I do, there’s a bit of pressure that is that way over me about that. Um, and I think a lot of that difference that I, the differences that I have, uh, being adopted, um, being Filipino and brown in a sea of fellow students and classmates and friends, I think that’s part of the, the motivation that I had behind, you know, doing well in school and playing soccer and just excelling and trying to do the best and excelling as most I can to combat those questions, I guess.

Andrew (05:44): Um, so that people didn’t see that I was different. What they saw was a student, they saw a scholar, they saw an athlete, they saw a singer, they saw, um, a member of a prominent member of the parish. It didn’t see a Filipino boy.

Damon (06:00): Did you get the feeling that your efforts to sort of overachieve worked? Did you feel like you were hiding in plain sight?

Andrew (06:10): Yeah. Those efforts work. And to be honest, I didn’t actually think about that until I just said that and share that with you. And I don’t, I don’t think it was a conscious decision that I need I can give was a subconscious decision that was made in my, my young mind and young bodied mind that I need to do this so that people don’t see the other,

Damon (06:36): Given Andrew was living in a predominantly white community in the 1970s and eighties. I figured it must have been hard for his parents to help him connect to his Filipino heritage. He said, every summer, the adoption agency held summer events for all of their clients and for the adoptees to reconnect as a community. It was an opportunity for Andrew to meet other adoptees. Many of whom were Filipino. His parents have since shared that there wasn’t much information on transracial adoption back then. So it was tough for them to know how to navigate raising an adopted person from another culture. Ironically, there was a strong Filipino culture in their area of Connecticut that had their own community group, which Andrew availed himself of through the church,

Andrew (07:25): But being Filipino and being adopted into my white family. I didn’t give myself the opportunity to learn more about my culture because I wanted, I didn’t want to feel more different than I already was. I didn’t want, I also didn’t want to make my parents or feel badly that I, if I were to learn about my culture and then be become less of a Wheelock and more of a Filipino, if that makes sense.

Damon (07:59): Yeah, it absolutely does. You ended up sort of, it sounds like straddling two worlds of the clear physical identity that you have. That’s undeniable as any person looks at you as you’ve traversed the community and not wanting to stand out at the same time, you know, but having that curiosity about yourself on top of everything else, Andrew shared that he’s a gay man. He said that growing up, the thoughts and feelings arose during puberty starting when he was about nine years old. But remember he was raised Roman Catholic and homosexuality was way more frowned upon in Andrew’s youth

Andrew (08:43): Grappling with that. And trying to understand that on top of all the other portions of my identity, I prayed my little heart out because as an adoptee, as someone brought into this family, my biggest fear was that they could potentially send me back because I’m gay. So with that fear, I prayed even hard for sign for some type of understanding to that as to why I was having these thoughts and feelings and, and what does it all mean? Uh, and that carries through the majority of my middle school years. Uh, and it wasn’t until I was probably 12 or 13. Uh, I was sitting, I remember this specifically, I was sitting in my Catholic church and the priest gave a Homily. He gave a homily about how God doesn’t make mistakes, how he creates each and every one of us for a specific reason for a specific person purpose. And in those words, and in that homily is when I ironically enough accepted my sexuality of being a homosexual while sitting in the Roman Catholic church.

Damon (10:14): That’s incredible. Wow. That must’ve been a virile conflict though, to be sitting in a place where what you have accepted about yourself is not accepted in the, in the physical building, nor in the organization that you are in that moment, participating in that must have been a real conflict.

Andrew (10:31): It was, uh, it was, it was crazy. And, but everything happens for a reason.

Damon (10:37): He said, everyone’s coming out. Story is very different. When I asked Andrew, if he had other gay and lesbian friends, he could turn to, or confide in, he shared that his coming out was very unique. He reminded me that he was very active in sports singing lessons and other extracurricular activities. So there was a lot of time in the car with his mother. He told his mother about his sexuality one day, riding along with her.

Andrew (11:05): A lot of my coming out was through my mother because, uh, I would tell her first, and then she would talk to my father because, um, I’m a bit of a mama’s boy. And, uh, it was more comfortable that way, I guess. Um, so I never verbatim told my father that I am gay directly, but my mother spoke on my behalf to him. Um, and then in regards to the town itself and my peers, like I told you, I grew up in this town and, uh, the coming out process in a social sense was not challenging for me because everyone essentially already knew, uh, that I was going to be that I am a homosexual.

Damon (11:52): Really, how do you mean that?

Andrew (11:54): Just, I mean, I was a, a very, I don’t, I don’t want to say flamboyant. Um, I think a lot. So I enjoyed that. theatrics theater, you know, I was comfortable with that. I was comfortable with myself even before I knew it, you know, as I did come out and the coming out process what’s ironic is that even when it came to the extended family that I have on my mom’s side and my father’s side, they all also already knew the only people that, uh, I heard that from my father’s side of the family, that they believe that the only people that didn’t know that I was gay were actually my parents.

Damon (12:41): That is really funny. Then how can you tell me a little bit about how this came out in the car that particular day?

Andrew (12:46): I can’t specifically recall the conversation and how it transpired and how it came about, but it was very nerve wracking, uh, to share that with my mother and definitely remember my heart racing and my mind going back and forth, do you do this, or do you not do this? Do I had to keep telling myself that this isn’t a mistake, Andrew, this is who you are. And I think to be honest, as I’m thinking about it, one of the things that, one of the stories that I heard growing up about how, um, people come out or they don’t come out at all, um, and they, they lead a life of a heterosexual offense. Um, they get married, they have children, but, um, behind closed doors or in their privacy, um, discreetly, they are actually not heterosexual. And that lie, I couldn’t do. Um, you know, I already led a life of being very publicly different. Um, so for me to potentially Harbor this portion of who I am, I couldn’t do, because I couldn’t lie to myself about being adopted. I couldn’t lie. I can’t lie to the world about being adopted. So why am I going to lie to anybody else about being a homosexual

Damon (14:17): Andrew’s father is a very devout Catholic. He used to go to church every single day. When I asked Andrew about whether he ever talked with his father directly about his sexuality. He told me they’ve had some rough times,

Andrew (14:32): Unfortunately, in this process, in this life, uh, there was about two years that my father and I didn’t actually speak, it was 2009 or so, um, where I had a boyfriend, a longterm boyfriend of about three years or two years at that time. And I think I was still living at home. However, my boyfriend lived in Maryland cause, um, so we were playing on distance, but when my boyfriend would come to visit, he couldn’t stay in this house. He couldn’t stay with my family. And when I looked at that, when I experienced that, and the reason that my brother, my father and I didn’t speak with, because when my brother was growing up and he had girlfriends, even in high school and college in general, the girlfriends were always able to sleep over and stay over. But because I’m a homosexual, I wasn’t able to have my boyfriend stay in this house.

Andrew (15:35): And because of that, my father and I didn’t speak for a good two years. Now cut to today and since then, uh, he is, um, and he actually has apologized, uh, for that period of time because in his spiritual studies and everything and life, you know, he’s learned and been more open to this, this, this, and this is how the world works. Now, these days.

Damon (16:06): How did you receive his apology?

Andrew (16:07): Um, I received it humbly and with humility. Uh, what’s interesting about anytime my family comes to me with their apology or they, they present some emotional aspects of themselves or share something emotional to me. What’s interesting about that is directly is because I’m adopted and not actually genetically part of this family. I always knew, I always knew what was going on. I always had a sense of what my family and family members were experiencing when my father apologized, I already knew he was sorry.

Andrew (16:55): Um, but sharing those specific words meant a lot. And now I’ll go further to explain my brother who was six years older than me. There was a good portion of my lifetime growing up where I felt like I didn’t have a brother, uh, because he had his own baggage and issues going on in his life I have good eye, but when I needed a big brother, he wasn’t able to be there for me, but when he apologized to me, it was very difficult for him to do so for his lack of being a good brother. Um, I also knew that he was sorry. I knew before, and I understood why he did what he did. And that’s, it’s almost like I’m part of this family, uh, but also I am oldest and the observer of the family. If that makes sense. How do you mean that?

Andrew (17:57): Um, I mean, it’s like any part of family, right? We understand each other. We, we understand the interworkings of each other.

Damon (18:07): Andrew says he wants to search for his biological parents, but he hasn’t taken any active steps quite yet,

Andrew (18:14): From what I learned and researched for any adoptee, it’s not an easy process. And being an international adoptee from the Philippines, it’s going to be even more of a challenging process for myself also to the fact that the adoption agency that my family adopted me through was actually no longer in existence. Um, and back when I was adopted, um, in 1986/1987, the Philippines, and south had been going through a lot of turmoil and difficulties. So background story on that is the adoption process for my parents. Apparently there were two other tiny, there were two other children prior to me that they were supposed to adopt into their family. Uh, but the paperwork got lost in a trolley accident. Um, and the paper work got lost again due to some other unknown incident. So what I do know in my biological parents is my mother’s name, Emilia, Kathylax and I have the birth certificate from that.

Andrew (19:28): And that’s it. Um, my father, my biological father was a tailor. Uh, I don’t know anything besides that. Uh, the only reason that I giggle and laugh and smile, and I know that is because when I was in kindergarten, I think it was around this time in the holidays when we had an arts and craft project. And, um, it was a tree with preppies underneath. And then there was a stitching that went around the tree with green yarn and I used a plastic needle and I did that project. And when I brought it home, my mother looks at it and she says, these two are selves. These are incredibly even stitches. And I ended the stitch on the corner so that it would be a perfect 90 degree angle when I had to turn the corner. And then she, she remembered that my father, my biological father is a tailor. Uh, so that’s something that is genetically part of me,

Damon (20:28): Really fascinating. Wow. How is it that you got your birth certificate with your biological mother’s name on it? If you haven’t really done anything to search,

Andrew (20:39): That was, that was through the agency that they, that came with my record.

Damon (20:48): That’s really cool. What Is your intention for searching? I mean, well, first let me ask you this. How come you haven’t tried to search?

Andrew (20:55): I haven’t tried to search, I haven’t tried to search because I wanted to do it on my own. I didn’t want my family to help fund my search. Um, I also wanted to be able to come into that potential meeting of my biological family with, with a stronger career, I guess, and feel some type of that I’m coming to the table with, this is what I’ve done with my life, and this is what I’ve succeeded and excelled in. Uh, but at this juncture of my life, my whole life is a success.

Damon (21:46):

So why do you say that? I love it. I’m just curious to know why, why you say that.

Andrew (21:50):

Cause that’s, as we, and I have talked to you and shared in this time together, a lot of stuff I’ve been through and, and gone through and gotten through, despite all the odds I might have felt were against me. And, you know, if, if I wasn’t in a good place, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. And with those words, there was no reason for me not to feel like I have succeed and excelled in life in order to meet and potentially work on finding my biological mother and or family.

Damon (22:41): Why not go ahead and start trying.

Andrew (22:44): That’s the 2020 goals, sir.

Damon (22:49): Oh, that’s great to hear. Andrew told me that he’s always been someone that others turn to for life advice, to the point that others have suggested he should be a therapist. So I asked him, given his breadth of experiences and the mental strength he finds within himself now. What kinds of advice he gives to others? Be they gay men, adoptees, transracial and interracial adoptees or anyone else

Andrew (23:14): From my life. And from my experiences when it comes to dispensing and sharing advice and suggestions on how to navigate, coming out, how to navigate, being adopted, how to navigate this world in general, being different, feeling different. It hasn’t been easy for myself. Um, but, but perseverance is something that has carried me forward. And, and honestly my faith has really helped carry me forward, uh, which is ironic in what I shared with you earlier about coming out to the Capitol and accepting my sexuality, sitting in the Catholic church, because of that experience set up practicing Roman Catholic. I still sing in church. I still go to church every time I get an opportunity to do so in a new city. Um, and with that, you know, people sometimes are turned away from religion. So based on the recipient or the audience, if you want to put it in theater, the term, the best advice that I always try to give is lead with strength and lead with the power that you have within you. And while, while adversity we face, if we look around us and you see the friends and the family and the, and the chosen family through friendships, there’s resources available for you there. And there’s someone that maybe has had a similar experience that can, that can share what they went through, um, and how they trying over, around everywhere, whether that be god whether that be your parents, whether that be your family and friends, sometimes we just need to stop and look around and realize that everything that you need is right around you.

Damon (25:28): That’s great advice. I like that a lot. Well, thank you so much, Andrew, for sharing your story. I really appreciate here and what you’ve been through with open honesty about how challenging it has been, but it’s also really cool to hear that you’re in a place of strength now, and I hope that you will find the resources to pursue a counseling or therapy career if that’s in your heart to do so. Cause I could see how people would connect with you very easily and how you would have something to share back to them. So I wish you all the best. Okay.

Andrew (26:04): All right. Thank you so much. Thank you for this

Damon (26:06): Yeah, no problem, man. My pleasure. Thanks for reaching out. I’ll talk to you later. Andrew, take care, buddy. Have a good 2020.

Andrew (26:15): That’s awesome. You too?

Damon (26:15): Alright, bye bye. Hey, it’s me. Andrew grew up with a multiplicity of factors that made him a standout in his community. He is an interracial transracial gay adoptee of Brown skin in a mostly white community. For some people that would be a lot to overcome and still feel good about yourself. But Andrew speaks of his whole life to this point as a success. And I love that still. I thought it was fascinating that even though Andrew feels that way, he still wants to present more career success to his biological family. When he meets them. For the first time I encouraged Andrew to jump in and get started with his search. We just never know how much time we have with the people in our biological families.

Damon (27:05): He doesn’t know how long his search process could take. And as he said, he’s been through a lot. So he should feel confident that he is enough I’m Damon Davis. And I hope you’ll find something in Andrew’s journey that inspires you, validates your feelings about wanting to search or motivates you to have the strength along your journey to learn who am I really, if you would like to share your adoption journey and your attempt to connect with your biological family, please visit whoamIreallypodcast.com/share. You can follow the show at facebook.com/waireally or follow on Twitter at Waireally. If the show is meaningful to you, you can support me with contributions to keep it going at patrion.com/waireally paypal.me/damondavis or Venmo at Damon L Davis. Please subscribe to who am I really on? Apple podcasts, Google play, or wherever you get your podcasts. It would mean so much to me. If you took a moment to leave a five star rating there, those ratings can help others to find the podcast, too. If you’re interested, you can find who am I really and adopt the memoir on amazon.com. I hope you’ll add my story to your reading list.

Who Am I Really?

Find the show on: