Thursday, September 17, 2009

Curiosity Killed Privacy

Last month I gave a paper on Open Records at a conference. I also submitted a proposal to another conference to be held next spring. It's all by way of trying to think through the issues here.

One of the things that struck me came during lunch after I had given my paper. Someone at lunch asked me why it was important to have the original birth certificate. Part of me wanted to stick with equal rights.

But I always want to explain things. Motivate them. And I do feel something more than a mere concern for equality. There is something deeply distressing about not having the information on that form.

Of course, the birth certificate is not really enough. But it's something. And it does feel like the only thing I'm entitled to fight for. The rest is nice. But what I'm owed by the government is that equal treatment.

The reason I fight for it, though, is that without even that barest piece of information, something is missing, something is incomplete.

Those who oppose Open Records chalk it up to curiosity. And the reason for doing so is obvious. Why should our curiosity be satisfied at the cost of someone else's right to privacy. If the opponents to Open Records can win that rhetorical point, the battle is over. If it's curiosity versus rights, curiosity will lose every time.

But it's not curiosity. It is much more than that. This is part of my story. It's a small piece of a bigger puzzle. This is part of who I am. It's not idle curiosity versus privacy. It is part of my dignity and identity as a human being. Why should someone be able to hold that from me?

I do think some people understand. But even people who aren't opposed to Open Records don't always seem to get why this is a big deal. I don't really know how to explain it to them.

It's my identity. It's important.

Now to convince the rest of the world.


Anonymous said...

We're considered "SOLD" property to our adoptive parents, contracts sign-money exchanged.

The stupid "Forever Parents" notion has been drummed into the American psyche by the industry's marketing campaign.

Our rights were legally signed away by other people. This is DISCRIMINATION. I want my rights back. I want to terminate my "forever parents" contract and get what is rightfully mine: MY IDENTITY, MY ORIGINAL BIRTH CERTIFICATE.

Why is it that "CASA" does not protect us when we're being sold? Why are we (adoptees) of lesser value than the other children in this program? Do our natural parents have to be abusive for us to get a voice and representation in court? YES. We're voiceless and we don't count-not as babies and not when we grow up.

eliza may said...

You're totally right that being "curious" will never beat out the all-important "right to privacy". (Side note: Pro-lifers who adamantly oppose the idea that there is a "right to privacy" in the Constitution a la Roe v. Wade will nevertheless love to use it for pro-adoption purposes.)

That's why I think we should stop using the terms "right to privacy" and start using the term "right to secrecy", which no one has. No one has the right to remain completely unknown. If you're born, you don't have a right not to a birth certificate or a social security number. Even the government doesn't have an absolute right to secrecy (Freedom of Information Act).

If we can use language that more accurately reflects the situation, maybe that will help us (adoptees).

phil said...

I agree completely... It's not about privacy... That's just how the debate has framed it. I think we need to reframe it away from privacy towards secrecy or anonymity... Well said...