The First International Gathering of Korean Adult Adoptees was held in 1999, Washington, DC. This three day event invited Korean adoptees from all over the world. About 500 of us came together to spend time sharing our experiences. For many, it was the first time being in a room where they entered as an adoptee and as a Korean person. For one portion of the event, we were divided by age and given an opportunity to have more intimate discussions with peers.
One of the special precedents established for The First Gathering in 1999 was the inclusion and invitation of adoptee spouses and partners. The majority of the spouses and partners at this event were Caucasian and male. Spouses and partners attributed their participation in The Gathering to a desire to support the adoptee participant, an interest in the experiences of adoptees, and a desire to find ways to talk about adoption with their significant others.
We heard from one of the spouses, Paul Sacco, who also was the reporter for this group back in 99.
(l-r): Lee-Ann Hanham Fabella, Paul and Kathy; Paul, Kevin Trevor & the late Michelle Costello Howard
Basic Biographical Information
Name(s): Paul Sacco
How do you identify yourself? White Male Cisgender Straight (Old;)?)
Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
New Haven Area, CT and Baltimore, MD
What is/was your profession?
Social Work Professor
How did you learn about The Gathering? What compelled you to attend? Were there any expectations you had about the event?
I learned about it from my wife, and I was happy to go to support her. I had few expectations as I thought that it was unprecedented.
What memory remains with you of this event?
I was on a spousal panel and we all laughed about stereotypes about Asian women and subservience.
As a spouse/partner, what was your perspective on other spouses and partners at The Gathering?
All the people I met were friendly. I think that I realized the racial diversity of couples. Some mixed race couples, some who were with Korean American (nonadoptees) and some who were with other adoptees.
Has there been any lasting impact of The Gathering in your life now?
I think that it was an early foray for my wife into the adult adoptee world.
How have your thoughts about adoption changed or evolved over the last 20 years?
I am probably a bit more critical of the practice overall. I still believe that adoption and intercountry adoption are important, but recognize the inherent ethical complexities.
I have found that being adopted and the way I privilege that part of myself has ebbed somewhat as I have gotten older with other aspects of self being more important, like being a parent. Where does being adoption fit into your life these days?
It is part of my spouses story and because of that is part of my family story. As a spouse, I never privileged that part of myself since I am not adopted.
As a spouse, are there any thoughts you have about the adoptee community then and/or now?
Over the years I have come to appreciate how similar the adoptee community is to other communities of interest (e.g. people who share a certain background or avocation). The emerging role of identity politics in adoption intrigues me. Pardon the term. Having met some older adoptees, I am struck by the generational differences in the framing of adoption.
As a spouse/partner, is there a conversation in adoption you would like to have more of?
I have no specific want per se.
What is going on in the adoption community you wish would get more air time?
I appreciate the socialization (just hanging out) that occurred at the first Gathering. Sure, there were talks etc., but I also liked the unstructured time chatting with other couples.
How salient an issue was/is adoption in your relationship with your spouse/partner?
I think adoption was salient in that I don’t think I would have met or dated my wife if she was not adopted. I did not have a strong connection to the Korean community and was not familiar with the culture. In some ways my spouse’s White suburban background meant shared experience.
In the present, I think that my social network is less White because of my spouse. I think her network was more diverse and marrying her has led mine to be more diverse as well. Having mixed race children, I definitely think more about that as well.
What is the best part of being in a relationship with an adoptee?
Probably the food. There is nothing hard or best about being married to my spouse because she is an adoptee. Instead, being an adoptee has shaped her as an individual. I can’t say exactly in what ways though. As with any relationship, there are joys and challenges, but impossible to say what of all those things is specifically related to adoption.
What is the hardest part of being in a relationship with an adoptee?
Is there something of the Korean culture you have incorporated into your daily life?
I am not sure “daily”, but mostly the food and the art. We have Korean arts and crafts in our house.
If you’ve been to Korea, please finish this sentence – Next time I go to Korea, I…..
Want to spend more time in one place living there and getting to know people. Our first trip was about search and our second trip was a tour for our children. I would love to just be there for a longer period.