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.


madduchess said...

This can be a difficult balancing act. When I am very passionate about something, it can sometimes present itself as anger and then I am ignored as no one wants to be yelled at... when really, I am not yelling at them specifically. I am just passionate about the issue.

I am a PAP who enjoys thoughtful conversation and discussions that are not frought with only like-minded people. I am interested in different points of view and how people came to hold them. After taking in their points, I agree or disagree but I appreciate the spirit in which they were given.

Adoption, like so many other issues, is wrapped up in emotion, which means there will ultimately be clashes but I think we all can find some middle ground in the understanding that at the end of the day we all love our children and want what is best for them (or I would hope that is the case). I know there are some parents who are sadly vehemently opposed to open adoptions or opening records. I believe that stance stems from fear. Fear of being replaced. Fear of feeling like a faux mom. Fear their child may be rejected by first parents. And a host of other thoughts that are not based on any rational thinking.

It would be nice if we could all come to the table and express our opinions and the why's and the why nots and have them all debated civilly. I think more people would be apt to do so if we could leave the name calling at the door. If we could express our opinions without the standard: "You are just a bitter, ungrateful adoptee who doesn't appreciate what their parents did for them." "You're an entitled baby stealer who sees their adoptling like a possession." "You first moms just say you were coerced to avoid the responsibility of giving your child away." And so on.

These are base insults that may make the speaker feel a little better in the short term but usually only leads to the de-evolution of the conversation.

I have witnessed some awesome discussions online, however, I have seen many more start off promising and then quickly disintigrate amongst the anger and the fear and the hurt.

I think it is too important to give up on as obviously I think the best chances for reform to be successful is for everyone involved in adoption to get onboard with the core issues, like equality and openness.

Anonymous said...

When we attack sites that support our point of view, are we doing good? If you had read the blog posts that the article referenced, there were adoptees calling these adoptive parents baby thieves. I am all for educating and maybe even attacking someone like Heidi Saxton. Even the adoptive parents call her a twit.

She was not telling us to stop speaking but to stop name calling. I get tired of us calling people out that are on our side. They support adult adoptees and their access to the original birth certificate. They support reforms in adoption. Here we are attacking them full force. Is that serving a purpose? Are we giving reign to those who act badly? We can be respectful and still be angry.

I realize that adoptees do get the short end of the stick most of the time. We can state our case without name calling or calling folks out. I more than you will ever know understand the anger. I am so there.

Have you even looked at the adoptive parent or birth parent side of things? I over look a great deal of crap to get to the bottom of things. The adoption industry has worked very hard to keep us all separated. Sadly they are succeeding. I never said an adoptee can not be angry or not express their feelings. I am not kissing the rear ends of adoptive parents or birth parents. I am looking deeper into the issues.

Did you know that recently an adoptive parent was forced into committing visa fraud? Did you know that these adoption agencies are forcing adoptive parents to take on special needs children that they are not capable of caring for? Did you know that adoption agencies work to get the adoptive parents so excited that it when it comes time to pick up a child, they demand thousands of dollars more in order for them to get that child? This happens here in the United States as well as international adoption. Because some adoptive parents have been forced into crimes, these directors and agencies are still manipulating these adoptive parents into not saying anything about these crimes.

What everyone is failing to realize is that we are directing our anger at the wrong people. We need to direct it at the industry itself and the states that continue to allow to happen. What gets me more than anything is that the adoptive parents are listening to us. They are being burned for doing so. Yet we still cuss them out.

phil said...

I'm trying to figure out how I became the bad guy in this discussion. I guess I shouldn't think out loud on my own blog.

Where did I defend name-calling? Where did I defend calling people out? It's not there.

And I don't need the condescending lecture. "More than you will ever know..."? Please. This is not constructive dialogue.

Do I know all these things? Yes. I've actually been an adoptee thinking about these issues for more than 20 minutes.

Do I actually have to explain, one more time, that I don't direct anger at adoptive parents? I realize I only said it a few times in this post, but maybe I need to say it one more time: I love adoptive parents. I have two of them, and I get really ticked off when people attack them, including other adoptive parents who assume I had a bad experience (which can only be the fault of my adoptive parents).

My point, in this post, is that adoptee anger is not actually directed at adoptive parents. Not really. Not deep down. And we do a deep disservice to adoptees by failing to validate their feelings by castigating them time and time again for opening their mouths.

I get it, "Texans." It's your way or the highway. I'll be on the highway. I don't think I'm good enough to drive on your road.

maybe said...

I get the need to be angry at the system rather than the individual players....however, it gets very hard to separate them when the players with the most power (agencies and APs) routinely testify in support of closed records and shorter relinquishment periods (including signing papers pre-birth or while in the hospital). They also get an unusual amount of sympathetic media attention.

So I try to focus the anger on the system in general but it can be challenging to keep it there. Just my own perspective on the anger issue.

Anonymous said...

Lecture, admonish, dismiss, belittle...the ways of the dark side.

Mei-Ling said...

Texans, I think it's almost (possibly?) impossible to direct the adoptee anger at the agencies without somehow influencing it towards the adoptive parents as well.

After all, they contributed to the process, too.

You want to target the agencies. But the adoptive parents have to please the agencies. Therefore it's impossible to include one without including the other to some extent.