Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Right to Self-Identification

The right to be identified as you choose is very central to the issue of adoption in multiple ways.

The obvious one is the name change that occurs in most adoptions, often stripping persons of their origins and heritage.

It also is a heated issue among mothers who have relinquished with some preferring natural, first, or original mother...and others having no objection to birth mother...while none like bio or biological mother. I always advise asking what a mother prefers to be called.  (And do not intend to open that discussion gain - we all know all the arguments on all sides.)

My detractors insist upon labeling me anti-adoption. I have no control over that.  However, my most persistent nemeses asks over and over why "I" do not "admit" it and "call myself" a term they feel most accurately describes my position.

Why do people who no longer practice their religion at all, or pick and chose which aspects they agree with and which they don't, still identify themselves as "Catholic" or "Jew"? How obnoxious and rude for anyone to argue with another about their choice of such identification.

I have repeatedly explained my choice...and my answer is permanently recorded and available at the FAQ tab above...and, here it is once again:
Q: Am I anti-adoption?

A: It is not a term that I am comfortable with as its pejorative use and negativity does not define my positions and is often linked with anger and bitterness rather than best interests of children and families.

I am not comfortable with the term because  it seems to denote an absurd extremism that one supports any and every mother keeping a child - no matter how dangerous that might be for the child....a position not held by even the most extreme anti-adoptionists. I am as uncomfortable with that label as any pro-choice person would be opposed to being labeled anti-life or pro-abortion. Things are not as black and white as labels seem to imply. For more, see: Nomenclatures, Euphemism and Anti-Adoption Accusation.

Being against adoptions that begin with the eradication of blood ties and a falsified birth certificate, does NOT equate to preferring to keep kids in harms way or in foster care.

I am opposed to all unnecessary, unwarranted, pressured, lack of independent option counseling and lack of separate legal counsel, coercive adoptions.

I am against all profiteering in adoption.

I am against all falsified, fraudulent, fake birth certificates and lack of equal access or original and true birth certificates for ALL parties named on said birth certificates.

I have seen nothing that indicates that children in need of alternative care - those who are truly orphaned or have no parents or extended family or kin to care safely for them - cannot be provided such care via a form of permanent legal guardianship that does not alter their identity or sever their family ties.  
Despite this in depth detractor repeatedly harps on this issue - as if how I choose to define myself matters in her life

Talking With The Enemy 

 I was thus reminded me of a presentation I attended at Omega Institute number of years ago at a Women and Power retreat featuring Sally Field, Jane Fonda, and Sister Joan Chittister.

The remarkable presentation was about the Public Conversations Project: “Talking with the enemy.” Described in full here and here this project consisted of members of pro-life and pro-choice sitting down, in secret, to talk after a number of shooting incidents at abortion providers in the Boston area. Six leaders - three on each side of the heated abortion debate - were filled with fear and apprehension, skepticism and concern but pushed past it because they felt it imperative. The two facilitators who would moderated all the meetings were reportedly also anxious.

The "talks would not aim for common ground or compromise. Instead, the goals of our conversations would be to communicate openly with our opponents, away from the polarizing spotlight of media coverage; to build relationships of mutual respect and understanding; to help deescalate the rhetoric of the abortion controversy; and, of course, to reduce the risk of future shootings."

One of the most interesting aspects of their report on the results, occurred at the very onset of the talks:

That first discussion was grueling. We could not agree on what to call each other. All but one of us were willing to use each side's preferred designation, in virtual or actual quotation marks: ''prolife'' and ''prochoice.''
Our first of many clashes over language, this disagreement remains unresolved. To this day, Gamble still cannot call the other side prolife because ''I believe my cause is also prolife,'' she says. This stand frustrates Thorp and her colleagues. ''I have tolerated Nicki's refusal to call us prolife but, frankly, it angers me. I wasn't eager to call Nicki's side prochoice, but I did it because it seemed to be necessary for showing respect and for moving the conversation forward,'' Thorp says.

Kogut questioned her own willingness to agree to these terms, ''but I came to two conclusions,'' Kogut says. ''To proceed with a civil dialogue, we needed to call each other what we each wanted to be called. Second, over time, I began to see `prolife' as descriptive of the others' beliefs - that life itself, more important than the quality of life, was their preeminent value.''
We also struggled over how to refer to what grows and develops in a pregnant woman's womb. The prochoice women found ''unborn baby'' unacceptable and the prolife women would not agree to ''fetus.'' For the sake of proceeding, we all assented, uneasily, to the term ''human fetus.''
These opening exchanges brought us to the heart of our differences. Nerves frayed. The chasm between us seemed huge.
Some of their ground rules sound familiar:
To help us listen and speak across this divide, ground rules were critical. We would seek to use terms acceptable (or at least tolerable) to all participants. We would not interrupt, grandstand, or make personal attacks. We would speak for ourselves, not as representatives of organizations.
We also made a commitment that some of us still find agonizingly difficult: to shift our focus away from arguing for our cause. This agreement was designed to prevent rancorous debates.
And indeed, we believe this ground rule has been essential to the long life of our dialogue. Knowing that our ideas would be challenged, but not attacked, we have been able to listen openly and speak candidly.
But it has not been easy.

 Some we might benefit from:
Our ground rules also required us to refrain from polarizing rhetoric. In one early session, we generated a list of ''hot buttons'' - words and phrases that make it almost impossible for some of us to think clearly, listen carefully, or respond constructively.
Prochoice members are inflamed when called ''murderers'' or when abortions are likened to the Holocaust or to ''genocide.'' Prolife participants are incensed by dehumanizing phrases such as ''products of conception'' and ''termination of pregnancy'' that obscure their belief that abortion is killing.
We also discussed stereotypes we thought were applied to us by people ''on the other side.''
Prolife participants feel maligned when characterized as religious fanatics taking orders from men, or as uneducated, prudish individuals, indifferent to women in crisis and to children after they are born. Prochoice members are offended by labels such as anti-child, anti-men, anti-family, elitist, frivolous, self-centered, and immoral.
Despite the strains of these early meetings, we grew closer to each other. At one session, each of us told the group why she had devoted so much of her time, energy, and talents to the abortion issue. These accounts - all deeply personal - enlightened and moved us.
In conclusion, they told reporters:
We hope this account of our experience will encourage people everywhere to consider engaging in dialogues about abortion and other protracted disputes. In this world of polarizing conflicts, we have glimpsed a new possibility: a way in which people can disagree frankly and passionately, become clearer in heart and mind about their activism, and, at the same time, contribute to a more civil and compassionate society.
In fact they reported that rather than make any of them change their position, it strengthened each person's resolve. They continue to meet regularly.

Can we learn to disagree respectfully without personal attacks? It behooves us to struggle and continue to try to accomplish this goal, as it will help all on all sides of various disagreements gain respect from our real enemies outside the movement.

We must begin by honoring self-identification and avoid the use of perjoratives and name-calling.

1 comment:

Von said...

I'm with you on this one!

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