Tuesday, November 18, 2014

More Volatile than Religion or Politics?

I have opinions which commonly start fires on Facebook. As a child I always "marched to the beat of my own drum" (possibly one of the more positive side-effects of adoption was that I never felt that I fit in, so I could be who I wanted to be since I was being alienated anyway), and so I grew into an adult who is comfortable with my opinions, even if I don't always share them. I'm not a fan of arguing with people unless I honestly believe that I'm going to be able to change their minds, and since these two topics are so volatile, I often keep my mouth shut.

When a friend of mine compared being gay to being black and said that gays have it just as bad as black people, I kept my mouth shut. When multiple friends of mine have posted about raising the minimum wage, I've kept my mouth shut. My reasons for not speaking out are simple: I'm not going to be able to change their mind, so why should I bother attempting to "enlighten" them?

Ultimately, religion is a very personal choice, and politics has a way of dividing people, each side which believes the other to be either ignorant or heartless (and sometimes both). At the end of the day, these two things don't matter the way that adoption does.

Photo courtesy Andrew Kuznetsov via Flickr

Adoption is personal to me. It's a personal issue because I am adopted myself, and I have experienced an adopted adolescence, grown into adulthood and exited the adoptee fog. I wanted to be heard, initially, because I thought that it would benefit adoptive parents and potential adoptive parents to know what their children (or potential children) were going through as teenagers and as they reached adulthood. My misguided notion was that if I shared enough, adoptive parents would understand their children better and set out to parent them more effectively.

Unfortunately, I was wrong about this. I've discovered this more recently as people rush to "unfriend" me on Facebook.

I can talk about politics with my liberal friends. I can talk about religion with my atheist friends. But the moment something becomes as personal as adoption, everybody has an opinion.

I've noted that it's adoptive parents and potential adoptive parents who have unfriended me. In nearly every case, they believe that their adopted child (or their future adoptive child) is well adjusted and has experienced only the positive effects of adoption, with little or not side effect. These people have, invariably, told me that it's "my" truth and that most adoptees have a good experience with adoption. 

They are ignorant. And I've told them so.

To say "I know an adoptee, therefore I know what it's like to be adopted" is like saying "I know a gay person, and therefore I know what it's like to be gay." 

People don't like the analogy because it's not politically correct. It's not politically correct to speak up and raise our voices about the trauma of adoption, and it's not politically correct for us to compare discrimination against adoptees to other minority groups. Indeed, it's not politically correct to call ourselves a minority group at all (as adoptees, not based on our race).

When I speak up about adoption, it's not politically correct. It is a no-holds-barred expose of the emotional turmoil that the process of adoption puts the adoptee through. It's my way of sharing what I can with other people who are going through the same process. It's me reaching out to hold a hand and say "No, it's not typical, but it's normal for us as adoptees. I'm going through it too." This is me saying to the adolescent who is suffering with intense identity issues that "I've been there, and you have to forge your own path, even if it doesn't make your adoptive parents happy." 

It's my way of reminding adoptive parents that they can't expect their children to be like them, that personality is largely genetic and that apart from the activation of genetic components. Since adoptees don't share genetics with their adoptive parents, the adoptee's identity must be independently forged. I write and I share because many adoptees -- myself included when I was a teenager -- believe that they must do the thing that most pleases their adoptive parents, in order to avoid further abandonment.

Let me be clear: I am not anti-adoption. I'm pro-natural family. I don't discourage adoption: I encourage the preservation of the natural family whenever possible (but not at all costs to the parents or child). 

Most adoptive parents are good people. They are, in some ways, as much the victims of the process as their children and their children's natural parents. How? Because the adoption industry doesn't properly inform them about what the additional responsibilities of adoptive parenting are, and that it will at many times be more difficult than parenting a fully attached biological child.

But many adoptive parents -- in particular the mothers who are attempting to replace flesh and blood -- don't want to hear what the adult adoptees have to say. After all, they are going to be (or already are) the first adoptive parent to raise a child who never suffers ill effects of the adoption process.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why I'm Flipping the Script

November is National Adoption Month. During this month, America recites the standard script that we've been given about adoption. It's the responsibility of the adoption community to support adoption for unwed mothers who are unprepared for parenting. We're meant to celebrate the love of the adoptive family and the miracle that allows childless couples to bring an infant or child into their lives. We are intended to do whatever is necessary to support the adoption industry so that we can continue to get children adopted.

Whoops. Did I say "industry?" That's right! I did. The word is apropos. If you didn't know that adoption -- human trafficking -- is an "industry" in the United States, then you've been hiding under a rock. You know those fundraisers that you see to help families to adopt a baby from a foreign country? They are an indication that money is being exchanged for a child, making adoption a multi-billion dollar a year industry in the US.

Before I continue with this post, let me say one thing quickly. My mother (that is to say, my first mother) wasn't the victim of an adoption agency. My mother (that is to say, my adoptive mother) didn't pay for me through an adoption agency. I was adopted through Catholic Charities in 1979, six weeks after my birth (the interim time was spent in a foster home).

I'm not doing this (speaking out to flipthescript) to get revenge on a system that traded me for profit. 

Now that we have that out of the way, I'd like to share with you what is Flip the Script.

I'm speaking out this month because a first mother I know (who is fast becoming a very dear friend), encouraged me to make my voice heard. This month, I'm speaking out because every time I've tried to be heard in the past, I'm told that I should stop because I'm going to hurt someone's feelings. Or, worse, that I'm "discouraging adoption." Although I'm late to the party, I'm speaking up (now) because I've had people "unfriend" me on Facebook because they disagree with me so strongly that the natural family is not to be preserved if possible.

Most of all, I'm speaking out because I'm not anti-adoption, and am getting tired of being told that adoptees who talk about their experience of adoption are trying to discourage adoption. I'm speaking out because it's about time that somebody stopped, sat up, and listened to what our experiences are. I'm speaking out because the more voices we have, the more of us adult adoptees who share our experiences this month, the more likely it is that people will actually listen to us.

Photo from RumpleTeaser via Flickr

In other words, I'm adding my voice to the hundreds of others who have contributed to helping Flip the Script on the adoption narrative. 

My story is coming. I welcome new followers.