Emi Koyama’s Visit: Class visit, and Her Lectures on International Adoption and Intersex

We were lucky enough to have Emi Koyama visit our class, and give two really interesting talks for the Celebrating Protest Lecture Series. I first met her when she visited our class and gave a introduction to intersex, and it’s common misperceptions. Emi is a really great speaker, she got our entire class hooked as soon as she shared with us her infamous snail story. Snails apparently dance around each other for hours, circling each other before they mate. Eventually when they decide they like each other, they swap by the neck and both parties are impregnated. These snails are what hermaphrodites are, never humans. She spoke of the mistaken identity of intersex people, mainly intersex children. I had not much previous knowledge about intersex and found her class visit very informational. She shared with us major shojo mangas and boy mangas that now feature intersex. They seemed interesting and hope to read them some day.

Her activist writing on children of intersex was really interesting. Until I read her articles, I had never thought about the negative impact the medical community could potentially have on intersex children. Because I studied biology at this school, and work at the University hospital, I only have views of the medical community as doing anything they can to help people. It was unusual for me to hear her speak on the negative impact medicine could potentially have on these children. The reason she sees this is because these children, due to their unusual physical appearance, are often times examined by an entire medical team. It is sometimes referred to as a “public stripping” where the children must undress in front of a team. Sometimes pictures are taken of their naked bodies. I am a bit torn on this issue, as it makes sense that the medical team’s purpose is to pursue further medical knowledge of intersex so that more can be done to help intersex children. However at the same time, the way things are done currently seem to be a bit extreme and very careless of the children’s emotions. Hopefully improvements can be made for the future.

Emi’s lecture on adoption was also very informative. She shared with us the issues behind international adoption that people normally do not really think about when we think adoption. She presented a very detailed powerpoint presentation of very construct issues that international adoption hurts the countries of the children’s origin. She went over the negatives of adoption causing couples to materialize these children as a ‘prized’ child. She states many adopt asian girls, and they always speak of them as their “asian” girl, not their girl. There is some what of a fascination with these foreign children that people have when adopting the children and is not always healthy for the child. Identity loss, is a major problem for these children as they are of different race than their parents. One of the biggest things that she stated was that most people always think these children’s options are adoption or no life. However she said many times this is not true, the children up for adoption usually have other alternatives rather than being adopted to an international family. Although her issues made sense, I still felt that adoption is a great thing a family can do for a child if the family really loves and nurtures that child. I have had friends that were adopted internationally and live with their American- White parents. They of course had some types of backlash when going through grade school because of this, but as they grew older they were all very thankful to their parents for giving them the life they had. I guess every adoption is case by case.

I really enjoyed having Emi in our class, and having her as part of the celebrating protest lecture. She has been a wonderful guest to have, and I am glad she came to Chicago to speak with us. I hope the best for her future endeavors with her activism!

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Emi.

– Miho


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