When I Tell My Adoption Story Pay Me

If you find it valuable and educational, treat it that way

A.J. Bryant
4 min readSep 29


Black speaker holding microphone with other panelists sitting behind him and listening

Imagine being a panelist, surrounded by strangers, and talking about your life. You’ll also be making yourself emotionally exposed and open to their questions. Would you do it for free? Would you do it repeatedly without compensation?

You wouldn’t. Why should adoptees?

I’ve spoken to current and prospective adoptive parents, children, advocates, and others.

When I first began receiving requests, I was elated to share my family’s history. I felt honored to be invited.

Sure, I formerly spoke gratis. I needed to get my name in the adoption arena. I have interesting viewpoints to add to the conversation.

But along my adoption journey, my thinking evolved. And I asked, ‘Why am I speaking free of charge?’

When I’m invited to a panel, I always ask if I’ll be paid. Usually, they reply, ‘Sorry, we can’t do anything.’ Or they’re almost indignant that I asked.

But, their response contrasts with the overwhelming support I receive after speaking. There is a severe disconnect happening.

Afterward, they’ll email me, grateful that I shared such a powerful story of identity and loss. They welcomed my emotional transparency. And were glad I offered different perspectives.

My narrative is powerful. People applaud my honesty. Why do I feel like a circus animal?’ That’s a harsh comparison, but sometimes, it’s how me and other adoptees feel.

My fee would not be outrageous. It doesn’t even need to be much. But offering nothing insults me. My perspective is unique and worthy.

The adoption industry uses adoptee panelists to show robust pre-adoption service offerings. Or to virtue signal they believe in post-adoption services.

It’s almost as though adoption agencies or groups must bring in adoptees to check a box. Ensure there’s an adult adoptee speaking at your conference. It would look like you don’t care and aren’t open-minded without them.

If our stories are as esteemed as people say, they must tangibly show us.



A.J. Bryant

Adopted from Kerala. I write about adoption, my intercultural marriage, and contemporary India. Prawns are my love language. @adoptedkeralite