E. Kotapish: Mexican-American Adoptee
INTRO: Fellow adoptee E. shares part of her story with us. She writes about her last name. We get a glimpse into some of the nuances and reflections, not to mention possible internal dilemmas, that can come packed in a last name, for many adoptee
By E. Kotapish (March, 4, 2021)
I have brown hair like my father, the man who raised me. The other half of our little family is my brother and mother who both share lighter hair. However, none of us share blood.
What we share is a last name. Kotapish.
I remember when I first had this realization of this Czechoslovakian surname, or perhaps it was a sense of ownership. Because of my brown hair and lighter, olive skin I pass. I pass as a Kotapish. Although, our last name is still “exotic” enough for people to ask “what are you?” So, to avoid oversharing I simply respond with “It’s Czech.”
Not “I am Czech.”
What I say is “it’s” which is in reference to my last name.
The usual response is acceptance without question — I mean why would they. But it sometimes feels like my answer alleviates discomfort. The curtain of the unknown has been lifted, and the answer is pleasing enough.
I have no idea when I started sharing my true identity, but eventually I did share with people who more than likely were my friends. In order to explain how a girl with a Czech last name and white family is Mexican requires me to share that I’m also adopted. It’s not that I’m ashamed, embarrassed, or even mad about being adopted. It’s just something that’s personal.
So looking at it like that, as something personal, no wonder identifying with my true culture was such an ordeal.
As a 29-year-old-woman, being Mexican-Ameican is something I am trying to embrace more and more. With this exploration comes an imposter syndrome feeling. It’s possible it’s all in my head, but when you are rarely immersed in your true community growing up where do you even begin? It’s not that I’m coming from a place of conscious rejection, but if I’m being honest I was cast away under the guise of it being for the best. No matter how great your adoptive parents are and fortunate your life becomes because of their world, you still carry a trauma of abandonment. Not belonging.
I find myself using this disclaimer that I was raised by white people. It’s the truth, and it’s my excuse. But I don’t need an excuse, so it’s a new goal to stop saying this. My last name is Czech but I’m Mexican.”
Written by: E. Kotapish