We, adoptees, cannot force P/APs to listen to what we have to say. We can remark, on the other hand, how much what we have to say disturbs the house of cards that represents the mythologies built up around adoption. How many of us have been erased from discussions at such web sites as Canada Adopts, Adoptive Families Circle, City Data Forum, etc.?
How many stories on this web site refer to the cajoling, condemning, dismissive, and rejecting comments we not only grew up with but have to deal with when we dare raise our voices?
Many web sites and discussion boards for adoptees were the result, and even there, we often find an “undercurrent” that demands some kind of “equivalence” be given to the dominant discourse concerning adoption.
My question is rhetorical, but I welcome responses. Has the discussion of the adoptee point of view at this web site, Adult Adoptees Advocating for Change, Land of a Gazillion Adoptees, etc. simply become a kind of “infotainment” for P/APs that lets them off the hook yet again?
Are we barking up the wrong tree? Would it be better to address those without the luxury and privilege of access to this kind of discussion that perhaps only strokes and amplifies a P/AP sense of entitlement?
I think “infotainment” is sometimes, but usually not, the case. In our case, it’s more like voyeurism. Yet I think there is more at work here than a sense of entitlement. I think there is a sense of romance at work here, in both the adoptive parent AND the adoptee forums/sometimes communities. And I think this is deeply tangled up with people’s self image.
I say romance because we are all part of something epic, born of tragedy. It’s a big tragic/romantic bandwagon that the adoptive parents have jumped onto and wear as if their own. And that’s a big part of the difficulty for adoptees, as they really can’t know/feel the profundity of the tragedy portion.
I think we are not stoking and amplifying entitlement, but that all of us – adoptive parents and adoptees – are (kind of pathologically) seeking/trying to restore some shine to a fading heroic idea. So adoptive parents focus on their adoptees to a disturbing degree (as product of their heroic efforts) and we adoptees focus on our bellybuttons to a disturbing degree (counting notches of things we’ve overcome so we can feel as if we were at least successful at survival and thereby live up to being heroic in some way. )
I’ve been thinking a lot about the romance of adoption, though I’m as yet unsuccessful in expressing it well. I’ll probably say something half formed and get grief about it, but here’s part of my theory-in-progress anyway:
We adoptees were raised to believe overcoming was just something that >snap< we could (should) do with grace and ease. Because we were given this romantic myth that we were tiny heroes: stronger and more resilient than normal children. We were special and chosen, after all. We believed this myth because we had to, and counting and comparing our adversities or being perfect Stepford children became a way to survive and be even more heroic. It’s a real struggle to imagine how normal people live/think/operate as a result of this, who don’t have this sense of themselves to live up to. Even as adults, we aren’t allowed to deviate from being super-human and heroic: if an adoptee melts down, it’s not just a human-being breaking down from mental duress – it’s an indictment/black mark against an entire system that’s purpose is to celebrate the ordinary person as hero, and we can’t have that, can we? When the reason we break down is under the stress of having to be always be heroic…to not express how we really feel.
So many of the adoptive parents who are active in forums or who have become prolific bloggers or leave no stone unturned reading adoptee narratives, etc. have ceased to have a life apart from being child-rescuing super heroes, and by being hyper-vigilant they can continue to be heroic. Because it’s quite possibly the single most romantic thing they’ve ever done or ever will do in their lives, and it makes them so much larger than they were before.
That’s huge, and too big to tackle, especially since the internet is so territorial.
Do I feel used by adoptive parents who come here? No. I invite them to be voyeurs: despite whatever their intent is, maybe they will be able to see us as people, as the gestalt embodiment of their children’s unspoken truth, and not as threats to the system and any ego-driven reason for being. I do get offended when they resent when nothing we’ve said is of value to them…as if that’s why we are here, to serve them…
I truly believe that we adoptees, also, have a lot of work to do tearing down our own romanticized, melodramatic self images as well. But the rub is that we didn’t plant that ourselves. The whole frigging world forced that upon us. The whole adopting world continues to do this to the children. It really does a number on people…
Daniel your article raises a very valid, serious and current point. I have not long been active in adoption politics (can’t think of another way to express it). For many people they define me not only by my ethnicity but now also by my birth status. I am Chinese and transracially adopted first and foremost before I am even considered a human being. At one time this would have bugged the hell out of me. Now quite frankly I don’t care. I’ve learnt to live with who and what I am or for some what I am not. I’m not sure why it is that APs seem to be drawn to sites that are specifically designed and designated as places for Adoptees to speak their minds freely. I think that there is an element of control from the APs who subscribe to these forums and discussion boards. The face to face contact that I have recently had with APs and what I would personally call “born again adoptees” is the common trait that all these people insist on trying to dictate to me how I should feel, what I should feel and how I should view my life. They want to control an environment which they cannot control. They all throw scorn on the validity of identity and self citing that adoption has given the adoptee a new lease of life and that I should be grateful for time immemorial that I had been saved. That had it not been for the act of adoption I would not be living the life that I lead. To which I always reply I am grateful for having been adopted in so much that had I not been then very probably I would have died as a child. However what I have become and the achievements that I have accomplished are in spite of the state of being adopted and not because of. In fact being adopted if anything has given me more hurdles, hoops and obstacles to claw over than had I not been. In my case it has disadvantaged me and caused many problems for me many of which will never fully be resolved – but such is life.
[I think there is a sense of romance at work here, in both the adoptive parent AND the adoptee forums/sometimes communities.]
Is that like when some adoptive parents go “Adoption was a gift/miracle”?
Because whether or not they believe they ‘saved’ a child, they have done something out of the ordinary?
Yup. Something out of the ordinary. Something noble. Special, even.
It’s stirring, this romantic self image of being/doing something so special. It puffs a person up when one not only adds to their family but is doing something that SOCIETY PRAISES…It’s rewards are sooo many…
And the challenges!
can be a continuing affirmation of hero status…
And if society’s praise has diminished, one must praise oneself…
Seriously. They can’t even hear how self-absorbed they are. And they shut down the adoptee voice because their very existence – their self-image – is threatened whenever the nobility of adoption in practice is questioned. It’s the fight of their lives.
Pingback: Perpetrators of Baby Buying: Hypocrisy or Absolution? « neverforgottenisfound
I see it as a multi-faceted and multi-layered conflict within both the adoptee and the AP that is internal and extends outward. The internal conflict within the adoptee and his/her own need for resolution with their adoption issues and an outer conflict to be heard from the adoption community at large and recognized and validated for their opinions. With the level of division, and self implosion that reigns within the community between adoptees themselves not to mention the obvious APs as an outsider, this desire is almost always crushed before it even raises it’s head; or a boot camp awakening is experienced where one either builds up a tolerance or a level of immunity to the emotional grenades launched at each other. This all appears very personal, but the real conflict that is being waged is inside each adoptee and each AP which speaks to how painful, personal, and emotionally charged one’s adoption beliefs are at the core of each person’s relationship to adoption in their lives.
In regards to the AP’s- they largely appear as the ‘perpetrator of the crime of baby buying from the seller’ and are seen as actively engaged in supporting their pro-adoption ideology. Only when the shocking voices of adoptees appears on their otherwise naive and ignorant AP radar, a few seek absolution from adult adoptees to soothe their branded conscience; which is not unlike the perpetrator who seeks absolution from the very people who have suffered the most- and bear the lifelong consequences of adoption. Things do not go well, is putting it mildly. For those who take a figurehead role in supporting adult adoptees, there is the glaring question of hypocrisy when their real interests are not so much in changing the face of adoption- as activist adoptees are, but vested in gleaning adult adoptee insights for the sake of their adopted child and securing they themselves escape any backlash from their child in years to come. Basically they want to do everything humanly in their power to avoid what hundreds of misguided APs permanently and irrevocably ‘screwed up’.