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.