I recently came across an interesting concept that immediately made me think of adoption. The author pointed out how people make generalizations and put others into categories in the way they label them. She calls this act of stereotyping, “totalizing” and explains that this is “thinking and acting as if a single aspect of a person is the totality of that person”. For example, when someone says “my disabled uncle” they are drawing attention to and focusing on that one aspect of who their uncle is, instead of simply saying “my uncle” and allowing a person to get to know the many different aspects of who their uncle is.
This idea of totalizing really caught my attention and made me think about how many times I have said or heard someone say, their “adopted daughter” or “biological son”. I don’t think other people mean to, and I know I certainly don’t mean to, make being adopted or biological the sum of a person’s identity.
Totalizing can come out in other ways as well. I am reminded of when my cousin told me she wished our grandparents would not call her their Chinese granddaughter, but just their granddaughter. She wanted to be known for all of who she was, not just that she was originally from China. Someday, when my husband and I adopt, I want our children to see themselves as our children not our “adopted children”. Yes, the fact that they were adopted will be part of their story, but it will be just that, a part, and not the whole of their identity. What about you, have you ever caught yourself “totalizing” someone with one single word?
~Post contributed by Rachel Curley, FLS Adoption Caseworker