Sunday, June 9, 2013

Raising Awareness in the Struggle for Adoptee Rights

For quite some time I have written here and on FB comparing the adoption rights movement to the gay rights movement in an attempt to discover why they were so much more successful than we are; to learn and replicate strategies for success. I attributed our lack of progress, as compared to theirs, to fear and reluctance of adoptees to come forward in the huge numbers as gays do and say “We won’t take it anymore!” “We demand our rights restored.” I identified Stockholm Syndrome – fear of biting the hand that feeds them; fear of being rejected “again” - as a contributing factors that held adoptees back and made them often, if they did search, do so in secret or only after the death of their adoptive parents. And just search; maybe find out some facts and then close the box. Or, even if they have a reunion that is ongoing, few of those even join in the political activism to create changes for others. It’s kind of a “hooray for me” thing. I did what I needed to do to satisfy my curiosity and that’s that.

I was not wrong about any of that. But I had my eyes really opened recently. After 40 years of deep entrenchment in the adoption community; 40 years of adoption being the central focus of my life... I thought there was nothing really new or surprising. I write today to say I WAS WRONG.

I had my eyes opened to a large segment of the adoptee population I have hitherto only seen and heard tiny snippets from here and there and somehow in my mind had not recognized the enormity of this segment of the adoptee population: The Happy Adoptee!

Somehow, with one click of my mouse I found myself in a FB Adoption Reunion Stories group where it is commonplace and very much acceptable to use the term BIO and talk about “my bios” who, like stray dogs, had been found…given a pat on the head and…whatever. Some were allowed to remain for differing periods of time. When I suggested it was a hurtful word, I was accused of bashing them and their opinions.

For the first time I had real insight into the mindset of this population who desperately cling to their blindfolds and earplugs to ward off any aspect of adoption they judge as negative. Fingers firmly implanted in ears its lalala all the time! Sunshine and rainbows.

The adoptees I encountered needed to demean their “bios” in order to maintain their good adoptee status and not shatter the myths and lies they were told about “those people” and why they were placed. When you live in a house of cards built on a foundation of lies, stereotypes and misperceptions… one slight breath of fresh – true air - could destroy your whole world. The fear of shattering the illusion is enormous because it threatens their very identities and fragile egos; who they are. If I am not the me I have always known, who then am I? If all my life is a lie and not reality, what is real? Therefore, “they” and the life the adoptee might have had, must remain at arm’s length. Other. Separated by cold dispassionate language. Never a warm fuzzy term of endearment that is reserved for the protectors who rescued me from abandonment.

This of course is the happy female adoptee. The angry male adoptee is another manifestation of the same fears.

And unlike the closted gay alone in his shame, they form groups and feed off one another's right to steadfastly stay ensconced in their bliss.
I made the grave mistake of trying to explain that the phrase “adoption sucks” is both a personal reality for some adoptees as well as a commentary on the INDUSTRY and adoption PRACTICES which have nothing to do with, and does not negate the fact that any particular adoption – theirs or any other - or perhaps even that most adoptions are happy and loving.

I tried to tell them that things like denied access to their original birth certificate SUCK; that the corruption, coercion and exploitation of adoption including kidnapping and child trafficking SUCKS.

I was dismissed as a raving lunatic who was “bashing” them and their opinions, an unwelcome guest crashing their happy little party.


If we as activists are to get anywhere and move this movement forward we need to look at our role models and begin the educational process within. We need to all watch the stirring movie MILK and see how one man, Harvey Milk, stirred up the content and “accepting of the status quo” gay community of San Francisco and sowed the seeds of the gay rights movement by reaching his people and getting them angry and motivated enough to come out and speak out for their rights.  

In the 1970s, second wave feminism began with Consciousness Raising Groups designed to help complacent, happy housewives see their plight as oppressed women. If you are unaware of the difference in pay scale – that still exists – between the genders, you won’t write or call a legislator or sign a petition to change it. Until you know that there is a problem and what the problem is, you are not about to combat it!
If you don’t know that a man speaking to you as trash is abuse, you stay and take it. When abused women are asked why they stayed as long as she did, the answer is always the same. At first they hoped it would change and then they stayed because the fear of leaving was greater than staying and enduring the abuse. And think about the language used by domestic abusers: “Where will you go?” “No one else will ever love you or want you.”  For the adoptee the fear of hurting their rescuers is great. The fear of rejection and abandonment strikes deep into their foundation, the very life core of their being, and so is  well guarded.

This is where we are at and the challenge that faces us.  Until we awaken those who see no problem with their own lot in life, we will never have a viable and visible movement. We will instead remain as we are now viewed: a handful of malcontents. This is where we’ve been stuck for more than 40 years since Jean Paton first spoke out. A handful of bitter, unhappy, ungrateful adoptees and moms who the media and public can easily dismiss.

Until we get the masses among us to understand the issues of the laws that discriminate against them, we will never get the public to know, understand or care about it either. No one is interested in or needs to help people who see nothing wrong with their lives and are not seeking any help! It would be like “helping” an old lady across the street when she wanted to stay where she was or teaching a pig to fly.

We need to do internal education and consciousness raising.  The good news is that we can simultaneously educate within and without: adoptees and the public. But we need to put focus on education and awareness that there is a problem, before we can seek to change the problem. The average American, including the average adoptee has no clue, and worse still some don’t want to know.

We need a national organization focused on education. But let us not ignore that the 1970s consciousness raising groups were held in living rooms. Our search and support groups – in person and online – have a captive audience who along with search and reunion help need to have their eyes opened to the political issue here. We, who they come to for help, are in a posiiton to help them also see the bigger picture: that denied access is a violation of their civil and human rights as per the fourteenth amendment. They need help in developing some righteous indignation about the injustice, not just resolving their own personal search!
Those of us in search and reunion roles have the golden opportunity to begin that process by using the langauge of civil and human rights injustice when spekaing with those who seek our help. Bloggers who share their personal reunions likewise need to do likewise. Alll of us who are a part of the post adoption community play a role in awakening the sleeping, raising awareness, and stirring some righteous indignation.


Anonymous said...

Hey Mirah-this Kat, The Improper Adoptee (who is to lazy to sign into my account, lol). How are you? Listen I have that bitch spookie after me again, now threating to have me sued for copyright infringements for every pic I have on my blog. The joke is on her though because I had permission and the other pics are free of copyright. I did remove the ones from Warner Bros. because I did not know about their copyright laws about using still from the Wizard of Oz-I have talked to an attorney already though and WB is not suing me lol which of course will wreak spookie's day.
Anyway I have redone my template or am redoing it and I wanted to put a pic of your book on my sidebar-this is okay right? The Stork Market one which I bought and is awesome btw. I assume it is okay as you are not some anal witch like spookie and I am making no money doing this. Actually it is free advertising for you lol. Drop me a line if you wouldn't mind alright-my email is
I hope all is well with you-
Lots of love,
Kat (and please don't publish this comment. Thanks, Hugs.

Anonymous said...

I am the happy adoptee this woman refers to. She is narrow minded ... and wants all adoption experiences to fit into the template of HER bad adoption experience. Adoption doesn't suck...but Ms. Riben certainly does. Oh, and she even gets to censor the comments convenient.

RussiaToday Apr 29, 2010 on Russian Adoption Freeze

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RT: Russia-America TV Interview 3/10

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Motherhood, Adoption, Surrender, & Loss

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Bitter Winds

Adoption and Truth Video

Adoption Truth

Birthparents Never Forget