"I know they adopted you, but tell me about your 'real' parents."
I hear this statement regularly, as an adopted South Korean. Usually I just shrug these kinds of comments off, attributing people's ignorance to carelessness or lack of education. However, after seeing the world react to the story of Simone Biles and her parents, my heart broke for her, and for adoptees everywhere.
Simone Biles has been named an American hero, role model and is lovingly called the best gymnast in the world after winning multiple championship titles and Olympic gold. But that didn't stop an NBC reporter from diminishing the validity of her relationship with her parents for the entire world to see on Twitter. The reporter eventually deleted his tweet and issued an official apology, but apologies don't cut it. They don't take away from the doubt and the hurt that some adoptees feel when hearing this statement.
When I was younger, a woman came up to my mom at the grocery store and asked where I was from. At first my mom didn't know what to say, because to her I'm her daughter. Period. I'm Katie from Pennsylvania, not Katie from Korea.
Since the day of my adoption there hasn't been a doubt in my mind that my 'adoptive' parents are my real parents. They woke me up for school every morning and tucked me into bed every night. They cheered for me at every sporting event, band concert and school play I ever participated in. They helped me succeed, and comforted me when I failed. They fed me, loved me and raised me to be who I am today. That is what makes my mom and dad my parents.
The word 'family' means so many things today, and being a parent isn't solely defined by birth or blood, but rather by the way one raises and cares for a child. I'm grateful for my birth mom because I know I wouldn't be here without her, but by definition and contract, my mom and dad are here in Pennsylvania. Even though I know that the journey I took to get to my family is unique, my 'adoptive' parents are my real parents and hearing others tell me differently isn't going to change that.