Friday, October 30, 2009

NaBloPoMo (again)

You may have noticed a new badge off to the right. The month of November isn't just about celebrating children losing their identities and families. It's also National Blog Posting Month.

Once again, I'm going to take this November to refocus on this blog and think carefully about adoption. This is probably not what the industry intends when they want to celebrate adoption this month. But I'm not terribly in the mood to celebrate adoption.

Still, it gives me some motivation to write every day. I always work better with hard deadlines. Well, maybe not better, but I certainly get something done.

I hope it's useful for me, and interesting for my readers. I just wanted to give you all a heads up before the madness begins. It all starts Sunday. We'll see if I make it another 30 days.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Adoption: The Same but Different?

One of the things that has always puzzled me in discussions about adoption is the need, by some, to claim that adoption is no different than having biological children. They are both ways of starting a family, and both equally good. Indeed, adoption is often portrayed as better, a blessing that should be shouted from the mountain top.

Of course it's utter nonsense, but it fascinates me. I say it's nonsense because I don't know a single parent that wouldn't admit, if they are being honest, that they feel differently about their different children. My (adoptive) parents feel differently about each of their three biological children. And I'm sure they feel differently about me than they do about their other children.

Please note, I didn't say better or worse. But different. I don't doubt that they love us all a great deal, and probably as much equally as one can measure such things. But they don't feel the same about all of us. As it should be; we are individuals, after all.

Still, I'm curious about this need to normalize (and treat as no different) adoption. I don't mean to suggest everyone does this. Or that all adoptive parents do it. Or anything so universal (and thus, obviously, wrong). I simply notice that many (a sizable minority, perhaps?) seem to think that adoption is no different than having biological children, or to overcompensate and hold that adoption is superior.

Maybe I could feel better about adoption if I saw more people willing to openly acknowledge and discuss the pitfalls and difficulties peculiar to adoption. I don't know if I could ever accept it, even as a necessary evil, but I would feel better for the next generation of adoptees if we were more open about the differences.

I have read some things from adoptive parents on this, and they are some of the best people suited to come clean on this score. I don't know what it's like to be raised by my biological parents. I can't compare what the differences might be. I can only talk about my experiences as an adoptee, and those raised by their biological parents can try to make comparisons. Maybe, in that way, I could ask one of my (adoptive) siblings to write and compare notes. But none of them seem to be interested in that endeavor. However, adoptive parents that also have biological children are uniquely situated to at least draw some comparisons in their own family.

Reforming adoption, better helping adoptees deal with some of their unique challenges, requires us to be more honest about the differences. Until we are, I worry that adoptee voices will continue to be drowned out by the "adoption is beautiful" crowd.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Adoptee First

My mind has been all over the place. I'm still sorting it all out. And until I do, I'm very hesitant to write again. I'm fearful of hurting someone or being misunderstood. As a writer, I'm far too aware of the limitations of my medium. It is a joy, but it isn't perfect. Much gets lost in the written word.

But I need an outlet. I need to talk out loud. I do that, you know. I talk out lout. To myself. I carry on conversations as a means to sort stuff out. And sometimes I need to write in public, even if it scares me, even if I fear I'm going to mess up. Because sometimes I need to bounce things off of other people, even if no one is listening.

I get the big-picture focus on adoptee rights that is at the heart of the disputes over what should and shouldn't be said by adoptees. It's important to gain allies and win people to the cause. I get the practical impulse here. I really do.

And maybe, in the end, that's my problem. As interested as I am in reform, and in opening records, as important as those things are... Maybe I'm just not as committed to them as I might be. For me (and this has been true in so many areas of my life), I'm much more interested in the individual than in the cause.

This is not a self-congratulatory thing. I'm not holding myself up as a bastion of goodness or perfection. Indeed, there is a short-sightedness to it. Many more individuals will be helped by reforms and by opening records than by any act that happens at the individual level.

But, as an adoptee who didn't know anything about other adoptees for three and a half decades, I can't help but focus on the individual adoptees I've gotten to know over the last few years. I know they want reforms and open records, too. But I also know that some of them have anger and pain and frustration. And I know what it's like to have that bottled up and to be felt misunderstood and to be felt ignored and neglected.

I know there is a bigger picture out there. And I know that, in some way, it might be better to focus on that. But I can't do it. I have, and will, defended my fellow adoptees when attacked by others because they are my people. I don't care if they did something or said something that upset someone else (unless it was another adoptee). I know all too well what it's like to hurt and feel alone in that hurt. Or worse, to have others pile on because you dared express that hurt.

I'm sorry if other members of the triad, if other people involved in some way with adoption, are hurt by what adoptees say. But frankly, it's not my problem. It is time for some thicker skin.

For example, I have never used the term "baby stealer." I don't endorse it's application to adoptive parents. But I'm not going to lambast an adoptee for saying it.

Instead of trying to understand where these hurtful attacks come from, adoptees are merely told to stop the name-calling and understand the perspective of adoptive parents. See, this works both ways. Instead of assuming adoptees are just angry and nasty, why don't we encourage adoptive parents to understand where these attacks come from. Step back from the personalization of it, and understand why adoptees are this pissed off.

Heaven forbid we demand adoptive parents stop thinking about their feelings and start trying to understand the feelings of adoptees. Rather, we feel the need to protect them, to get them on our side, and to keep them safe from the nastiness adoptees (some of us anyway) harbor inside. I get why they are hurt by the language used. But that language points to something basic in the adoptee experience. And it's time to get over the hurt and start trying to really get the adoptee perspective.

That's where I'm coming from in all of this. I'm sure it's wrong. Just as I'm sure most of the things I say are wrong.

I certainly don't think that taking the pragmatic, big-picture view of reform is at odds with caring about the needs of individuals. I firmly believe we can and should do both. Further, I believe that just about everyone I know who cares about this stuff also believes we can do both. But I will say, if something has to be sacrificed, I'm going to care for those people here and now who are hurting and who are justifiably pissed off by how society has treated them, big-picture be damned. My hope, which is nearly always both naive and eternal, is that adoptees looking out for each other is the central building block of that big picture. After all, no one else has been looking out for us all these years. I don't expect them to start.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

More Harm Than Good?

In the past couple of years I have become more active in the adoption community. This happened in large part because I searched for, and ultimately reunited with, my first mother. The emotional turmoil that search brought about sent me looking for other adoptees.

I hadn't known many adoptees in my life before then. And I didn't realize I wasn't the only person who felt the way I do. It was such a relief to find out I wasn't alone. To finally have people to talk to. To find my people, my tribe.

And now, after a few years, I'm beginning to wonder if I really have anything to contribute. I've butt heads with more than a couple of people who work actively on reform. I come across as abrasive, even when I don't mean to. And I've been told by more than one person that I don't approach some of this stuff in the right way.

So what use am I to the adoption reform movement? At the moment, I can't think of anything. I have never attacked adoptive parents as a group. And I don't think they deserve it, but apparently supporting my fellow adoptees, even when they do so attack adoptive parents and others, puts me on the wrong side of this movement.

I don't want to be a hindrance. I don't want to turn anyone off. And frankly, I don't need yet another lecture on how I should behave.

I'm tired. And believe it or not, I have a great deal of respect for everyone who works on this cause.

But right now, all I feel is that I'm done. I won't stop being an adoptee. I won't stop thinking about this. But I'm tired of being told I am hurting the cause. And I'm fearful they are right. That's not what I want.

And all of this serves to make me more angry. And feel more alone than ever before.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Putting the "Adult" in Adult Adoptee?

Lately, there has been some discussion at various "locations" on the web that I frequent about how to talk about adoption. I have a tendency to get angry when I talk about things that I feel strongly about.

I do believe in rational, respectful discourse. I have long lamented that our society seems unable to disagree without demonizing. I do try to understand people I disagree with. And I think every human being deserves to be treated with respect. (Not "the respect that is due them" because that opens the door to saying that someone doesn't deserve respect. I really believe that everyone deserves respect. Period.)

As with most people, and most moral principles, it is an ideal I aspire to, rather than one I always consistently live up to. It is something I always want to be getting better about. I'm sure I still have a long ways to go.

Of course, those who are discussing this are not focusing on the moral principle that everyone deserves respect. They are concerned that "angry" adoptees will cause adoptive parents (and maybe even first parents) to tune us out, costing us invaluable allies in our fight to open records and reform adoption. If we are angry, we are easily dismissed.

When I talk about adoption, when I get angry about adoption, I am often not angry at someone. I'm usually angry at the system, at the discrimination. I try not to take that out on parents (whether adoptive or first). I don't blame them for the problems of adoption. Of course, it's also true that, without the demand of adoptee parents, the push to get women to relinquish may be eased. Still, the basic underlying problems are not due to the actions of individuals. It is the way adoption has evolved, to continue treating adoptees as children, unless they speak out, then we dismiss them. We keep their origins hidden, and we expect them to be grateful.

And if they have a problem with that, we expect them to be respectful and speak civilly to other members of the triad.

And I hear all that. I don't feel good when I take my frustration out on other people. But there comes a point when civil discourse seems to fall on deaf ears. If I'm civil, I can be ignored. And I don't know how to balance that. Sometimes, I have to scream at the top of my lungs to be heard, to be noticed, to be given a chance to air my grievances. Sometimes you have to make some noise.

Further, not every adoptee who speaks out about this has had the support, the opportunities, to process their own feelings, their own pain. How do I tell them to stuff that down when in public (even if it's the public internet)? Sometimes that pain has to come out.

All our lives, adoptees are expected to hide. As children, we receive the message that expressing curiosity about our origins is not allowed. Expressing distress about adoption is thought to be disloyal to our adoptive families. And now, as adults, we must continue to hide our feelings so as not to rub people the wrong way, so as not to scare them off.

Our origins have already been stripped from us. And now we are to lose our anger, too?

I'm not comfortable with that.

At what point do the adoptive parents and the first parents have to meet us even halfway? How much bending over backwards do I need to do to get them to see things my way? To show me a bit of respect, and accord me my rights? To show a bit of concern for the next generations of adoptees?

I'm really not out to get parents. I understand that sometimes my words might seem scary or angry. They might disrupt your notions of adoption, and they might make you concerned for your role in all of this. And you may be tempted to dismiss me.

But I would hope that even when the angry adoptees speak, they might be accorded some respect, too. They have a voice, and good for them for finally finding it. It might be scary to listen to, but that doesn't make it any less important. Indeed, I think the anger signals that it is very important indeed.

I don't know how to balance these competing concerns. I feel the pull of each of them. In the end, the adoptees have been getting the short end of the stick for so long, I don't know how to ask them to rein it in a bit. We may be angry sometimes. But the anger is justified. And it needs to be heard.

Friday, October 9, 2009


I am feeling better, but being sick for a week has created a good backlog of things to do. I'm sorry that my return to regular posting was so short-lived, but I'm trying to get back up to speed. I might have to do National Blog Posting Month again (in November) to get back in the swing of things here.

For now, I wanted to share something you with you, written by a good (online) friend of mine... She wrote this on Facebook, and I don't think she minds me sharing it. It so beautifully sums up the experience of the adoptee, I cannot imagine how to improve upon it:

The bastard in love, lust and agony by Andraya

Being adopted is hard work. It takes more effort to trust, love, accept and believe. Not to give those things, mind you, but to allow others to give them to me. I trust, love, accept and believe too intensely, too soon and without thinking it through. But to receive them from others is heart wrenching. I can list off a thousand reasons why I am simply, not good enough. If I sit down and actually think about it I AM good enough, often TOO good, but in the moment my inner strength backs down like a puppy shit kicked one too many times. This can not be the way to live, this can not be how I spend my life, angry and alone because of fear. Fear that yet another person will walk away, die, be taken or otherwise removed from my life. It cripples every personal relationship in my life, friends, family, lovers and even my children. Putting this out there on facebook is probably the stupidest thing I can do... already my brain is pushing. It's like tempting the fates, "See! I told you I wasn't what you needed or wanted! Neener, neener, neener!"

So here is my promise to myself and to all of you. I will try not to sabotage my relationship with you, whatever form of relationship that is. I will accept whatever you are able to give and give whatever you are able to accept. I will initiate conversation without letting my brain finish it for you based on what I think you will say. I will not read your mind, only my own. I will be more tolerant of what others are able to offer. I will enjoy the time I have with each and every one of you and never push you for more than you can give at any moment. I won't put my shit onto you or my words in your mouth.

And if I can't and you see me acting in a way that is putting our relationship in jeopardy all I ask is that you tell me one thing...