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Home | Episode #75
The Lens of Expectation
June 3, 2021 | Student Producer:

Lily Yates
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The Lens of Expectation
Sophomore Brandt Jager talks about the odd expectations of being raised by two dads and for reconnecting with his birth mother. (6 minutes)

More Human intro plays.

Life is a very strange and chaotic thing. Oftentimes as we navigate our lives, we are forced to make assumptions and expectations about not only situations we have to experience personally, but also about the experiences of others. I was born in the very rural and obscure town of Crossville, Tennessee to a single mother, a mother who never raised me. That was because I was actually adopted. It was a prearranged adoption before I was born. And I ended up getting on a plane at two days old to fly to Los Angeles where I was raised by two gay men, my dads, until we moved to Denver when I was nine. Growing up with two dads in very liberal cities was a blessing because I never really had to experience ridicule or being made fun of for the fact that my parents were gay. I do remember though, several instances of the following question from peers at school and on swim teams:

"Oh, you have gay parents. What is that like?" And this question is always interesting because in it lies an implication that obviously my experience being raised by two dads would be dramatically different from someone's experience being raised by a mom and dad. But the thing is" it wasn't. If someone were to ask you, "What's it like having a mom and a dad?" That question would probably cause you a moment of pause because it's certainly a little strange to try to answer. I don't know, it was normal and that's seriously how I felt and continue to feel about the whole thing. It's a strange feeling when other people carry an assumption about your experiences that you don't necessarily resonate with, when people expect that your experience with something is inherently different or an other experience from theirs, even though you don't feel like your personal experience was very different from theirs at all.

Most of my friends as a kid had straight parents and their households weren't very different from my own. When I was a sophomore in high school, the realization dawned on me that I wasn't as a hundred percent straight as I had previously thought. Coming out to family in any case is an emotional and complicated undertaking, especially when one isn't sure how their loved ones will respond. There are kids and adults all over this country who have been outcast, disowned, and even in extreme cases, assaulted by family members for coming out as bi or gay or trans or non-binary. Naturally, people assume that because I have gay parents, coming out as bi to them would be extremely easy, cause it's not like they'd disown me. But while the threat of being disowned was thankfully something that I didn't have to worry about, coming was still really difficult for me, but for different reasons.

I remember as a little kid, when my dad would talk about relationships and how one day in the future I was going to get married and she, and I would have kids... she. I felt guilty, guilty because I didn't want them to feel like it was their fault. I didn't want them to feel like it was because of their being gay, because of being raised in that environment that it made me change or that I somehow was gay-ified by them. And I didn't, I didn't expect to have to deal with that. Also, the thought of: my parents came out in different times and it took some of their family, their parents, a little while to become accepting. Am I going to put those family members through another wave of that same hardship, those emotions? Is that going to hurt them? Is that why I still haven't told most of them?

How would my rural Tennessee birth mother react to that? Not well, I can imagine. Maybe I'll tell her one day. Probably not though. I talked to her over the phone and heard my own mother's voice for the first time in my life about four months ago. Reconnecting with long-lost adoptive parents is like something out of a movie. At least that's the expectation. I was under the impression that when adopted children reconnect with their birth parents, it either goes really well or really horribly. When I connected with her for the first time over Instagram, we had set up an appointment to talk and I waited for the phone to ring, anxiety roiling and my stomach in knots. When I told my friends about reconnecting with her, a lot of them seemed more excited about it than I was, thought it was a bigger deal than I did the reasons why and circumstances surrounding my adoption story specifically is another presentation entirely in and of itself.

But the reasons why I was given up for adoption were never kept secret from me. I've known as much as my parents knew pretty much since I could speak. I am forever grateful for the role ,y mother played in providing a life for me that she never could have herself, but that was her role. That was her part. She's my mother, but she's not my mom. And I think that's difficult for some people to understand. Our conversations went well. We talked for hours. She told me all the things I didn't know, answered all the questions my parents couldn't - the questions I didn't even know to ask. And that was enough, but it wasn't grandiose. I felt a sense of relief, of clarity, a little happiness, a little sadness. I mean, she's great, but people are never who you expect them to be. Their experiences are never what you expect them to be. Our own experiences aren't what we expect them to be. Even our own thoughts can betray our expectations, but that's beautiful because that's inspiring and invigorating and it makes things exciting and surprising and that's life. The lens of expectation will always be broken by the truth of lived experience.

 

Thank you.