James Fagan, Photojournalist
My name has only been “James Fagan” for fifteen years now. If you’re wondering, no I’m not some genius who got into college at an incredibly young age, I was actually adopted when I was four years old. This past Feb. 14, Valentine’s day is the fifteenth anniversary of my adoption into my family. Many families that adopt children celebrate this anniversary yearly as what is sometime called a child’s “Gotcha Day.” In certain adoptions, especially international ones, the day the parents meet their child isn’t the same day the child is officially adopted, so in 2005, Sept. 15 was declared “International Gotcha Day.”
Before I was adopted and my name was legally changed, I was Christopher Hanson. My name was changed from Christopher because I already have an adoptive brother named Christopher, and my parents thought it would be confusing to have two Christophers in the house. My name was changed to James after my maternal grandfather, James Monroe. Before my name was legally changed to James, my family would call me “little boy.” This went on for long enough, that once a social worker came to my family’s home to check up on me and make sure I was adjusting properly to my new home and they asked me my name, I told the social worker that my name was “little boy,” because I honestly thought it was at that point.
My Gotcha Day coincides with Valentine’s Day every year, since it’s on Feb. 14. This year instead of celebrating Valentine’s Day, I called my mother to tell her I loved her and later went to go be with my friends and we all celebrated my Gotcha Day and Valentine’s Day together.
I am the second youngest of eight siblings. All of my siblings are adopted. I have three older brothers, three older sisters, and one younger sister. My oldest sibling, Jayne, is twenty years older than me, and my younger sister, Anna, is four and a half years younger than me. Two of my siblings have Native American ancestry, one of my siblings is Puerto Rican. Through an ancestry test I took, I recently learned that I have a German and French ancestry. My whole family comes from very different backgrounds, yet that has never been a problem among our family, and in many ways has brought us closer together.
Several times in my life I’ve had acquaintances approach me, before I’ve told them that I’m adopted, and said something along the lines of “Hey, is Chris Fagan your brother?” To which I respond that he is, and many times those same acquaintances will tell me that they “totally see the family resemblance!” I always laugh because there is no family resemblance to be seen because we are not biologically related at all. It’s always fun explaining that to people, because they’ll insist that there’s definitely a resemblance, and that I look just like my siblings, as if I don’t know for a fact that I’m adopted and am just pulling their legs.
If being adopted has taught me anything it is that blood does not always mean family, and family does not always mean blood. A family is decided by the connections you forge with the people around you, whether you live under the same roof or not. While family might not always get along, at the end of the day you can still come together and be supportive of each other.