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.


*Peach* said...

I totally agree with your writing, Phil.

I think there is a big difference between being vulnerable and finding our voices for the first time and it bring strong emotion, and name-calling.

We can become vulnerable and be honest and the strong emotions and truthful language can be misinterpreted by adoption professionals and adoptive parents easily, even when we aren't addressing any one of them personally or even as a group. We may just be addressing the industry of adoption and the unethical practices and laws.

But we still get labeled and marginalized. That is the kicker.

I have never used the term "baby-stealer" either, but I have used the term "baby-selling", and because I am an adoptee, it is dismissed, especially if I show one ounce of emotion or nervousness when saying it. We are seen as children without the right to a voice, even in adulthood.

I am so glad you are writing and speaking, so adoptees can get courage together.

anonadoptee said...

yes so much, the most important thing we can do for ourselves and other adoptees is survive and if we do that in ways other people don't like that is their problem not ours.

Anonymous said...

((((HUGS))) Phil!!!!!

Yes, the adoptees who want to reign in their emotions and "be nice" can run for political office and/or be a lobbyist for adoptee rights. The rest of us who WILL speak the truth, who WILL NOT CENSOR THEMSELVES, will continue to ruffle feathers and "irritate" the ignorant with our "angry, ingrateful adoptee" banter.

My advice: If you can't handle the heat, get out of the kitchen!!!

I will NEVER shut up about how adoptees are screwed by the adoption industry (baby brokers) all with the monetary assistance of adoptive parents (baby buyers). Without THEIR money, the industry would crumble, their lobbyists fighting to keep OUR BIRTH RECORDS SEALED, would be unemployed. (If you participate in the crime, you are as guilty as the others in the act.)

Finally OUR (ADOPTEES) tax dollars go to the very government to which sealed and continue to withhold our original birth certificates. That's TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION!!!! Angry? HELL, YES.