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The Adoptee Voice: Solidarity vs. Conformity

by Laura on December 12th, 2013

Heard around social media and IRL (in real life) this week …

“Hand Fist” by Iamnee from freedigitalphotos.net

Oh, it is just soooo great to hear some positive stories here in this Facebook group about adoption! It always seems like everyone had a bad experience!

It really seems like you focus on having been adopted more than is necessary. Why can’t you just get over it?

I’m afraid that this person’s experience sounds too much like a typical ‘angry/whiny adoptee,’ perhaps it shouldn’t be published.

And then this …

A friend stood up and told the room that she was adopted, that it does not affect her daily life, that she 100% loves her adoptive family and does not consider those who relinquished her to be her family. She said that knows who her real family is.

So I stood up said, “I honor your story. I do not dismiss your story. Please do not dismiss mine.”

In When Emerging from the Adoption Fog, Secure Your Own Mask First, I wrote about infighting in the adoption community, which is exactly what our detractors want: the more we bicker, the less focused we are on actual change—“hearts & minds” change, along with tangible change like open records and enforceable open adoption laws.

But it’s not just about infighting and accusations and deep philosophical discussions about terminology of which I am often a part; I love me some semiotics.

It happens all over the place; people purposefully (because they think they’re right?) and accidently (because of their fog?) dismiss others. If someone needs to vent, if they need to tell their story, they need to be supported and respected; not silenced.

It’s about solidarity, not conformity.

 

(I really wanted to put an image of hearts and unicorns, but in the interest of solidarity, I controlled myself. See?! I can do it too!) “Pink  Quilt” by debspoons from freedigitalphotos.net

 

For those who love the tapestry that adoption creates …

You can totally have had a great life growing up in your adoptive family … and still fight for open records (currently only ten out of 50 U.S. states allow adoptees access to their original birth records, making them effectively second class citizens).

You can totally love your adoptive parents … and empathize with adoptees who were abused by theirs.

You can totally feel at peace with your adoption, to the point where you hardly think about it anymore … and spend time interacting with adoptees who are still figuring it all out.

You can totally feel no need to search for your own first family … and actively support adoptees who feel compelled to do so.

 

Nuance! Let’s see some nuance, everybody!!
“For Or Against Signpost” by Stuart Miles from freedigitalphotos.net

For those who hate adoption and everything it stands for …

You can totally wish that you were never adopted out … but acknowledge that there are instances in which children will need to be removed from their family of origin. That there will be times when there are no biological family members capable of taking care of them, and that instead of spending their life in institutionalized care, they would benefit from being adopted into a loving, well-screened family.

You can totally believe you’ve emerged from your adoption fog … but respect others’ place in the journey.

You can totally hate the words, “birth mother,” or “bastard,” or “adopter” … but don’t censor others when they choose to reclaim these words, or when they use their own terminology for their own experience. (By the same token, no name-calling, that’s just plain rude.)

It’s not so much about an “agree to disagree” standpoint, as recognizing that we must learn from one another and find common ground. We can challenge one another’s perceptions without belittling where they’re coming from. We can ask questions to better understand, without dismissing another person’s truth.

Notes on finding common ground …

Instead of adoption being illegal, we can work for change within adoption as an institution.

We can change the perception of adoption, so that it is the option of last resort, not “the thing to do” when dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.

As adoptees, we can KEEP ON TALKING about this.

By voicing our own experiences (positive and negative and in-between), we can lead by example, show that we are in fact the go-to resources for what it’s like to be adopted, and the wide range of experiences we encompass.

It’s not about conformity in the adoptee experience, it’s about solidarity. It’s about standing with one another, it’s about respect, and it’s never about silencing.

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From → Adoption

29 Comments
  1. Wonderful post, Laura! It is a major challenge of life, IMO, to truly and open-heartedly understand that people can be different from us and have reasonable, validly different experiences. If you put ten feet in the same size boot, each boot will wear differently.
    Thanks for speaking to the broader perspective at this time of year, in particular, when we all need to feel included.
    Peace to all,
    Karen

    • Laura Dennis permalink

      Karen,
      It's great to see you commenting over here, as I love and respect your writing!
      Yes, I am all about inclusion … and it drives me crazy to see people excluding, when we should be supporting.
      Laura

  2. I asked an adoptee if he had searched once and he said "no I love my parents and am completely satisfied with my adoption experience." I said "sure, but that doesn't mean you can't be curious about biological questions." Too often desire to search is taken to = unhappiness with adoption. That needs to shift so people won't feel so polarized.

    • Laura Dennis permalink

      Dear lilysea,
      Yes. I find that even by asking those types of questions, to people who don't want to search … well, it comes across as judgmental. While you may have just wanted to ask a question, the adoptee took it as an attack, and he went into a defensive mode. You're right, we do need a shift!
      Laura

  3. Laura,

    I’m in love with this post. I’m both an adoptee and a firm believer that our differences of opinion, feeling, and perception make our community more interesting. If we could only realize how much we could learn from each other if we could only stop judging, the world would be better. WE would be better. Amen. Thanks for writing this.

    • Laura Dennis permalink

      Julie,
      Thanks so much for writing! Yes. But it's scary though, right? Letting someone else have a different opinion, and not wanting to silence them, or force them to agree? I'm still learning this, too.
      Laura

  4. Yes! Oh, double yes, triple yes, did I mention YES YES YES??

    • Laura Dennis permalink

      Claud,
      And again … I say YES! Thanks for your support :)
      Laura

  5. Lavender Luz permalink

    Love love love this. It acknowledges our common foundation, that we want the best possible outcomes for children given the conditions that exist.

    And you bring together the two ends of either/or to one big both/and. From duality to solidarity is an empowered way for people to effect change while honoring different perspectives. We don't have to cancel each other out because we have different experiences and viewpoints.

    • Laura Dennis permalink

      Exactly! We do end up cancelling one another out and are unable to see commonalities if we are constantly judging the others' experience.

      You're right-it DOESN'T have to be a either/or proposition.

  6. Oh YES.

    That is all.

  7. Liz permalink

    Awesome post! I love this: "We can challenge one another’s perceptions without belittling where they’re coming from. We can ask questions to better understand, without dismissing another person’s truth."

    There is so much pain in adoption, and it is often hard to be curious and open to hearing other viewpoints when we are hurting. When we are trying to find healing, it is tempting to find the RIGHT way to believe, something we can hold to and say: THIS. If I just had THIS things would have been / would be better. But it is messy and complicated and hard.

  8. Cathy permalink

    Great essay and I hope it gets widely distributed! Ofttimes when dealing with our own pain, we dismiss others ways of dealing with theirs. I love how the adoptee community is growing together and helping to publicize changing the adoption experience.

  9. Mary P permalink

    I absolutely agree. To validate our experience we don't need to invalidate another's experience. Birthmothers fall into the same trap. Those in the fog who wish to believe they did the right thing.(Because to admit regrets would cause them too much pain.) Those who have been enlightened through their own pain and given another chance would NEVER sign away their baby. And those who would make the same decision again. (I've never met one but surely there must be some.) No two people have the same experience or the same circumstances. Don't dismiss another's story because you don't agree with their FEELINGS. We're all entitled to our individual feelings…the important thing to remember is we must SUPPORT and not reject anyone in the adoption world; we've all experienced enough rejection already.

  10. Guest permalink

    I like what you wrote, a lot, but I'd like to add to the catagories those of us who totally had a great adoption experience, totally love our adoptive families, AND want to know/do know our biological families (not just have our original birth certificates). Some of us might really love our adoptive parents and also love and have a good relationship with our biological parents. Others might have really great adoptive parents and not so great biological parents .
    Some of us do think it's the biological parent's choice to adopt out and that that choice, if not co-erced in any way, should be respected. We can think that and still understand how awful adoption is for some people and that, yes, the laws need to change to that all information is accessible and the whole industry transparent and laws protecting fathers and new mothers from decisions they might regret.
    Sometimes I feel very silenced in the adoptee community because I do believe in adoption (not the way it is always done both now and the past – but I totally see the need for it) and am happy I was adopted. And I totally agree that there is the need for people to stop thinking that they themselves, their experience, owns everyone's experience. I am tired of being told how I should feel. There is so much common ground, especially when it comes to adoption laws – it would be great if we could all work together without fear of aggression or ridicule.

    • I totally agree with the Guest about tired of being told how to feel . . . and that is key for me. If I don't want others to tell me how to feel then I have no right to discount what others are feeling, even if it is opposed to my own personal feelings. Let people feel what they want!! In our rush to be right, or acknowledge or own feelings, we can sometimes believe that everybody agrees with "us" and that is it best to be out of the fog and fighting for rights, etc. I understand why some people stay in the fog. They don't want to face any pain. Can't blame them for that! Some people REFUSE to face pain (I know some of these people personally) and in their refusal, it is impossible to have a well-rounded view of adoption and acknowledge that other people have pain when everything is so happy for them (or being actively denied by them). I like to think of fog-dwellers as limited in their belief in themselves to handle what Pandora's Box may unleash. It's scary as hell to face the truth and some days I wish I could go safely back to my cocoon. I personally believe that those of us outside of the fog (and our loved ones) are the ones who will make a difference in changing the adoption system because we know all too well how a closed system and a secretive system has hurt us.

  11. catfishmom permalink

    This is just a fabulous post…I could not agree more. We have all lived our own stories, and each one is as unique as we are. I often think what complicates things is that number THREE. When my daughter has one friend over to play and there is a dispute it can usually be resolved. When she has two friends over and there are THREE, things are exponentially complicated….adding that 3rd dimension makes things so hard, for 6th grade girls and adopted people, original parents, and adoptive parents. THREE is a really tough number in my opinion!

  12. Great post. Thank you. To be able to honor each other's story… there's such comfort and power in that.

  13. Another powerful post, Laura! You always provide great insights. We should of course not conform: every adoption story and case is as different as every adoptee's relationship to her/himself, and the adoptive family. I love it that the Internet has created such a broad forum where the most diverse issues are presented.

  14. Lesley Earl permalink

    3 of the 4 children in my family growing up were adopted. My sister needed to find her family of origin..and she was the only one of the 3 that was driven…Way back in the days of Parent Finders…btw she was eventually successful… I personally had no interest and watched her puzzled by this need. As she pointed out to me she was removed from her family of origin when she was 3..and yet she could not remember anything of her past and that in part was what drove her… I struggled to be supportive but my experience of growing up in our family was very very different from hers. However I finely realized that I could still support her and honor my relationship with our parents by listening to her and acknowledging that my experience in our family was different from hers.

  15. eagoodlife permalink

    So right! Let's have more compassion, more open-mindedness, more tolerance and listening to others. It's so simple really…as Barbara says we need 'To be able to honor each other's story.'

  16. Great post Laura,

    Just as Von said…we are in this together. To be respectful, compassionate and caring towards others even if their journey is different than ours. Change occurs with solidarity. Be kind to one another and listen with an open heart.

    Namaste

  17. Thumbs way up.

  18. Laura, well said! I too am tired of only seeing the negativity. I’m glad there are others out there with a balanced perspective. This was/ is lovely! Paige

  19. Absolutely!!
    Compassion and understanding for all as we stand together.
    Namaste

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