National Adoption Awareness Month 2017: Hearing and Honoring Adoptee Voices

National Adoption Awareness Month 2017: Hearing and Honoring Adoptee Voices
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The following are raw, (sparingly) edited quotes from adopted men and women describing how they feel about being adopted and their thoughts on adoption.

If you have any connection to adoption: a family member or friend who is adopted or who has adopted, a professional connection . . . a family member or acquaintance who gave birth to a child who was placed for adoption…

Or, if you or anyone you know is considering adoption . . .

You need to read this, to hear about adoption through the eyes of those who live with the social and legal construct. After all, how would doctors ever know about phantom limb pain if they did not listen to amputees?

Everyone with a connection to, or interest in, adoption needs to hear these truths expressed by adoptees that have been up until recently discounted as being the voices of the malcontent, the angry. Yet the more one reads, the more one learns the universality of anger amongst adoptees - which has absolutely nothing to do with the level of love they feel for their adoptive families.

These truths in adoptees’ own words have been heretofore silenced and overpowered by the positive spin the mega-billion-dollar adoption industry pays lobbyists to put on it. Their truths have also been denied, just as their right to access their own birth certificates are denied to them in most states. Their feelings have been largely ignored by a society vested in believing that adoption is a win-win and their voices have been outshouted by those who openly share their pain of infertility and their joy upon adopting.

Adoptees are now reclaiming their voices wherever they can through a movement known as #FliptheScript.

They speak out because, as Martha Shideler, nee Kathleen Walters, Adoptee Activist, says:

“People who are aware of my ongoing fight for adoptee rights are continually telling me to ‘let it go,’ ‘It does no good to hold onto anger,’ ‘Accept what happened and move on.’ I have long since ‘accepted what happened.’ I have had many years to deal with the anger and hurt inflicted upon me by a sick social system. I also know that I am not alone in having been abused; adoptees are not the only victims of this society. But over the years I have come to the realization that I was born into this situation for a reason. In addition to whatever I needed to learn and grow from in this life, this reality has given me a very specific life purpose. Nothing I can do can change what I have endured as an adoptee. But hopefully I can help to make a difference in the lives of others, to lessen the damage done to adoptees and to help change the system.
“Since I have been advocating for adoptees (and posting my feelings on Facebook) I have had people tell me, ‘I didn’t know,’ ‘What can I do to help?’ ‘How can we replace the abusive system with something better?’ Also, adoptive parents have asked me how to ensure that their adopted children don’t suffer from the traditional abuses. (One adoptive parent was able to get her child’s original birth certificate before it was sealed when she learned about the dangers of being without it.)
“Most adoptees will not talk about their feelings to the general public because they know their feelings will be denied, they will be told ‘Get over it,’ ‘Be thankful for what you’ve got,’ ‘You’re luckier than most,’ etc. Therefore, I vow to continue to fight for their rights and to prevent the abuses from being perpetuated through another generation. It’s too late to make a difference in my own life, but if others’ lives can be improved, then I will have successfully served a higher purpose.”

How it Feels to be Adopted

“How many adoptees claim this fate? We'd be dead if not adopted? I've talked to possibly hundreds, and actively avoided the conversation with hundreds more. It's bloody common. And where do you think that statement comes from? From some weird, vague memory from infancy?
“No. True or not, it's what we're told by our adopters: "You'd be dead if we hadn't taken you in."

An anonymous 43-year-old, British adoptee wrote the following on the Blog Dear Adoption:

“Dear Adoption, When You Turned Me Into a Commodity, I Became Worthless.
“You decided my existence had no value unless it was traded for a false identity. You decided my mother’s unconditional love for me meant nothing and was actually a barrier to you realising the only potential value my life held. The cure to someone’s infertility. A way for a childless couple to try and repair a damaged relationship, that was dying through spousal abuse, and for whom becoming parents was seen as the last possible way for them to realise the value of their union. My birth story became, instead, a story of how much money my adoptive parents dispensed in order to become my parents. It was a message intended to prove to me how much they’d wanted me. What the message did was set a limit on the value I held and created in me a sense of indebtedness I’ve found hard to ever shake off.”

Zara Phillips reunited adoptee, singer-songwriter and author of Somebody’s Daughter, a memoir coming 2018 has said:

“. . . because it is my birthday and national awareness adoption month, I want to bring awareness to Adoptees and Birthdays. When I was younger and continuing into adulthood my birthday was filled with so much sadness. The days before, I would fall into a deep depression and never understood why, all I knew was I wanted the day to be over. When I started my recovery around my adoption experience and went to conferences, etc. I heard many other adopted people say the same thing. I began to understand that birthdays for the adoptee is a day filled with grief, (even though your child may show some excitement in terms of getting gifts.) Today I can honestly say I have not had that experience and it really is only in the past few years I feel this way.
“Adoptive parents please understand that if your child is full of sadness on their birthday, they are grieving the loss of their mothers. Our Births were not celebrated, no one bought balloons, and flowers. Often it was filled with secrecy and shame and our mothers were scared. I believe that as babies we carried all that pain from our birth.
“What would have helped me would have been:.
’I am sorry you lost your mother.’
’You must think about your mother a lot on your birthday’
’You must miss your mother a lot. Let’s light a candle for her.’"
Acknowledging your adopted child's grief is the key to healing.”

Zara also said:

“When I gave birth to my own children I realized the connection that I had missed my whole life. I know my mother loved me but it is not the same as it has been for me as a mother. I know many adopted parents who say there is no difference in their love for their children and I believe them, but I do know it’s different for babies, we lose trust. Most of our adoptive mothers are our third Mother's after being in foster care and so we never truly allow them in.“

An unknown adoptee Tweeted:

“I didn't ask to be adopted. Does that make me ungrateful? No. It makes me honest.”

Jayme Hansen, USA contributor to Intercountry Adoptee Vices (ICAV) writes:

“For many of us adoption is a cross we must bear alone. The deep pangs of loneliness, emptiness and sorrow lingers – even amongst the perfect backdrop of life filled with success and wealth. Even in a crowd, I can still be alone. Who am I is not a question but rather a reoccurring nightmare that haunts me on a daily basis. No matter where I run. No matter how I hide. No matter what I do. It still remains. No matter how I change…it has a way of finding me. It reminds me that I do not fit in. It casts shadows of self-doubt. It also fills me with shame. I am that odd jig-saw puzzle that was placed in the wrong box. I am misplaced. Misshaped. I do not belong to the world that I was forced into and a foreigner to the world I seek to find. People call it my home land but it doesn’t feel like home to me. Strangers look at me as oddly as the place were I was raised. I look like them but looks are not everything. They know I am different. Different language. Different mannerisms. Different smells. They know I am…unlike them. As I pass through their space, it’s as though I am wearing a scarlet letter. During my childhood that letter is in the shape of my almond eyes, yellow complexion, and shiny black hair. I am reminded of the shame of who I am each time I stare at my own reflection. A shame for being different. Like I said. Who am I? Who am I? WHO AM I!”

How Adoptees Feel About Adoption

Mike Slayter is an adoptee and an activist for adoptee rights in Nova Scotia. He writes:

“Out of a lifetime we have one month a year to make known our feelings, our experiences of being adopted. Yet our voices are overshadowed by a societal precept that, that above all else, we should be grateful for having been 'Adopted'. I think most of us are... after all what were the 'viable' alternatives? Truth is, alternatives were never made available to us or our mothers [because] society bought into a view of condemning unwed mothers.
“Moses was adopted but he sought out his Mother and reunited with her. There were no laws back then preventing him from doing so. Today is a different story. Adoption has taken on a very ugly side that only adoptees impacted by its secrecy, know of intimately.
“The commercialization of adoption, and the secrecy, are earning a well-deserved bad reputation. Adoption was never meant to hide the truth from anyone. It was simply a means to provide a loving home for orphans (children who had lost their parents to the perils of life's hardships (war, disease, famine, etc.).
“Adoption, however, has taken on an entirely pervasive culture. It reeks of ownership and possession and hence the phrase: 'As if born to.' This was implemented solely for the 'comfort and security' of potential adoptive parents. This is not to say that all adoptive parents are insecure. But the institution of sealing adoption records became a norm and with it came the immeasurable emotional damage caused to the adopted, who like anyone else, simply wanted to know his/her heritage.
“Not only have adoptees been prevented from knowing that most profound knowledge about themselves, they have been cut off completely from their roots and expected to adopt a different heritage. This has been the most confounding aspect of adoption: The 'severing of identity'. Our mothers suffered in silence because they were told to. There are no words for the immeasurable pain they suffered at the hands of societal condemnation. I know....I've seen it!
“Adoption blossomed to a point where children have become a commodity...marketable at that, in many instances, and all because of what? Money is being made hand over fist. All of this has perpetuated the gluttony of adoption agencies to the point where children are needlessly and unjustifiably taken from their homes and from their families to fulfill quotas set down by political will and a seedy agenda. And so I ask...what does 'In the best Interest of the child' really mean? Until adoption rids itself of greed, possession (children are not possessions!) and secrets there will continue to be an uprising from us all against legislators and government alike who deny us our basic human right to know our Truth. Adoption has been corrupted by the very people we put in power to look after our best interests!”

International “rematriated” adoptee, Daniel Drennen ElAwar writes:

"Adoption is a violence based in inequality. It is candy-coated, marketed, and packaged to seemingly concern families and children, but it is an economically and politically incentivized crime. It stems culturally and historically from the “peculiar institution” of Anglo-Saxon indentured servitude and not family creation. It is not universal and is not considered valid by most communal cultures. It is a treating of symptoms and not of disease. It is a negation of families and an annihilation of communities not imbued with any notion of humanity due to the adoptive culture’s inscribed bias concerning race, class, and human relevancy."
“Intercountry adoption is a cruel and immoral practice fueled by profit driven adoption agencies and fanatical Christian zealots. This inhumane practice causes immeasurable human suffering through its association with child trafficking, baby selling, financial greed, coercion of the natural parents, rehoming, and the too often parental abuse of the adopted child.”

To “know” adoption, listen to an adoptee. Listen to many adoptees. Listen to ALL adoptees. Listen with an open mind and do not take their critique of the institution of adoption personally. It takes a great deal of courage to #FlipTheScript and share their truth against an institution that is glorified and romanticized - and against expectations to be "grateful."

There is nothing inconsistent about loving one’s life and family and critically observing how they came to be a family any more than it is unpatriotic to point out ways in which one’s nation can be improved.

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