Music

As a non-binary transracial adoptee, I’m forever grateful for my chosen queer family

Josh Milton May 29, 2022
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Side-by-side photographs of I Used To Be Sam

Singer and musical artist I Used To Be Sam. (Supplied).

Annie Goodchild, otherwise known as singer I Used To Be Sam, writes for PinkNews about their experience as a transracial adoptee and a queer, non-binary person of colour. 

Adoption has a cruel and unique way of f**king up your identity.

Every time I think I’m getting a hold of who I am, I lose my footing and am yet again swept off course. I took one of those DNA tests a few years ago and it changed my life.

I confirmed my birth name was Samantha, not Annie, which I had been called for as long as I can remember. I also got an answer to a question I had been asking myself my whole life: “Does my birth mother want to meet me?”

The answer – a painful and clear no.

‘If I can’t claim who I am, then what am I?’

As I started the journey of educating myself on my own experience as a TRA [transracial adoptee, a term for when a child is adopted by parents of a different race I learned about this trauma response called fawning.

Psychotherapist Pete Walker describes this as: “Seeking safety by merging with the wishes, needs and demands of others.

“They act as if they unconsciously believe that the price of admission to any relationship is the forfeiture of all their needs, rights, preferences, and boundaries… this ultimately results in the death of the individual self.

“When we compulsively mirror what others expect and want from us, we detach from our own sense of identity, our needs, and desires… even our own bodies.”

I could tell from my physical reaction to reading this, that it was my truth. I had, in fact, spent my life unknowingly sliding into autopilot and morphing myself into whatever I thought other people wanted and expected from me, and that gets really tiring.

I Used To Be Sam in the music video for ‘Seamstress’. (Supplied)

Maybe it’s part of the reason I’m such a homebody and introvert, and maybe my social anxiety seems so overwhelming at times because I’m playing a thousand roles of eager pleaser every time I leave the house.

My sense of self is like running water, unable to ground in my earth and roots. My genre-less music, racial ambiguity, and my queer identity… not nearly enough of one thing.

I knew I was different. I knew I looked different from everybody, and also a bit like everyone. I knew none of my friends growing up thought about girls the way I did, or guys or anyone else I was drawn to.

I remember hearing the term ‘bi‘ when I watched Waiting To Exhale for the first time, and my mom immediately turned the movie off.

So, of course, the next day at school I ventured out to find exactly what that meant. The other kids said that: “If a girl was bi then she was really just straight and wanted attention from guys, but if a guy was bi, he was most certainly gay.” Oh, sweet soul-crushing middle school.

Feeling unable to claim almost any aspect of who I am has created the perfect storm of my malleable self. I don’t speak Spanish, so am I really Puerto Rican?

I have a soulful and warm voice, but I definitely don’t make soul music. I have a body type too large for “normal” sized clothing but I’m barely scratching the surface of plus size.

I don’t get to look at the faces of my ancestors and people who mirror me, so am I even part of their family? And I am nothing like my intellectual and adopted Irish/German family in almost any way, so am I really one of them?

I Used To Be Sam is releasing their self-titled EP on 16 September. (Supplied)

If I can’t claim who I am, then what am I? “What kind of music do you make?”, and the always present “what are you?” or “so are you gay now, straight then?”

I didn’t have the language or life experiences for a long enough time to figure out that part of myself. I guess as far as labels go, pan suits me most, but really I just am. I am she, I am they, and I want and love whoever I do. And I think that’s enough.

When I became pregnant with my child, the first biological relative I would ever know or lay my eyes upon, and when I committed to raising them with a lovely cis-male, I was hit with an old and deep fear. A fear that made me feel immensely hollow.

Would my precious and lush queer community still see me? Would they recognise me? Would I be abandoned? Would this other family that I needed so badly leave me as my birth family did? As my birth mother did?

Fear of abandonment has truly been a life companion. Some wounds won’t ever fully heal, but I do believe that they can change.

As I release the most vulnerable music and work of my life to date, it is my people and community who see the ever-growing and ever-evolving me… Annie…Sam, that has gotten me to this place.

My chosen family has stayed with me. Validating who I am, who I love, and how I live. My community, abundant and diverse, has a place for me, and this adoptee will forever be grateful.

I Used To Be Sam’s self-titled debut EP is due for release on 16 September.

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