Well, now I know I am not part Jewish. DNA tests for adoptees like me are a game-changer.
That’s the thing about being adopted. I was at the mercy of other people’s stories about me.
In my early thirties, my adoptive father told me I was Jewish, although he could not provide any details. So, despite having grown up in a Mexican American family, that is what I believed.
Until I requested my adoption information from Los Angeles County. My birth mother was 37 years old at the time of my birth and of Mexican descent. No Jewish anything, anywhere.
By the time I met my birth mother, she was in her 80s. She happily shared my background information and family stories. My DNA results support everything she told me. She didn’t know my birth father well. It was a fling—he was not involved in her life.
When I asked my adoptive father why he believed I was Jewish, he couldn’t remember. To him, it wasn’t a big deal.
To me, it was my identity. Mine.
When I expressed my frustration he said, “Mexican, Jewish, whatever. It doesn’t really matter, it’s pretty much all the same.” To him, maybe. Not to me. His claim threw me into an identity crisis for almost a decade.
Dealing with adoption issues and sorting through all those complicated feelings can be exhausting. So, I took a break. When my dad died, it was like I wasn’t an “adopted child” anymore. I just was.
Fast forward a few years and those ads for DNA kit started getting my attention.
I got to thinking about my birth father. I had 50% percent of my story, but what about the other half? Finally, I felt ready to find out.
I just got the results!
After hearing folks say, “You aren’t Mexican!” or “You’re not Latina!” I can now say I am DOUBLE Mexican American/DOUBLE Latina—by birth and adoption. To be fair, my married name is Monroe. Most people could not pronounce my maiden name. I am now using a family surname as my pen name—Castaneda—and it feels right.
I’ll be honest.
I didn’t expect to feel much of anything about getting my DNA results. Not at this stage. Not after a lifetime of uncertainty, seeking, and finding some answers on my own. When the Ancestry.com results came in—earlier than the estimated delivery date—I felt a burst of excitement.
Finally, I have some data I could call my own. And that’s an empowering thing.