A new documentary by Waters Productions ‘You Should Be Grateful’ inspired me to write this piece. The voices of the adopted adults in this documentary echo what I have written about or said (and other adoptees) and it is important that people stop and listen. It punctuates what I believe and that is that adoption is the problem — not adoptees — yet we carry the burden of societal expectations and concomitant marginalization.
It’s Not Adoptees Job to Educate!
I am growing weary of people on social media who demand that we ‘educate’ them on the complex realities of being adopted. When adoptees speak out, or when I publish, this comes at an emotional cost. This is because we are exposing intimate aspects of our lived experience— this is obviously deeply personal. I am not a third party observer — I am adopted. I live it. I breath it. I am vulnerable. I do this because I am passionate about shifting the adoption narrative from fanciful notions of ‘happy ever after.’ But, it is not my job to educate or convince you that there are systemic issues within adoption. I am only one voice and I don’t get paid to write! The problem lies within the one-sided glossy adoption discourse which reveals a deeper issue and that is: adoption is the problem — not us!
Only two days ago, on Twitter, a woman tweeted that she knows adoptees and they’re grateful they were not aborted! Regretfully, this person, with her provocative and specious comments, was squarely aiming at all of us, and she was in fact speaking for adoptees. As the Declassified Adoptee stated: “there is no better way to silence someone than to speak on their behalf.” That is in essence what this person (and many others) was seeking to do. It’s dismissive and designed to shut-us down. This derailment tactic comes from a place of privilege!
Further, this whole abortion/adoption conflation is erroneous and offensive! It also does a disservice to the complex issue. For example, an Australian study conducted in 2006 revealed that “Parenting was the most (56%) and adoption the least (2%) popular choice for resolving an unplanned pregnancy. As researcher Penny Mackieson (2015) noted “ we know that the majority of women of all ages who do not undergo abortions do raise their children.” The point is that abortion and adoption are very separate matters and it doesn’t follow that preventing abortions will necessarily lead to more adoptions.
Further, and to be clear, I was no more likely to be aborted than anyone else! Here is one of my pieces which speaks to my history as an adoptee from the forced adoption era. Notwithstanding this harrowing legacy, I firmly believe in a woman’s right to choose abortion.
Pursuing this further, there is research and articles that unpack the erroneous either/or (abortion/adoption) argument. I have provided some links to research below as a gateway into this topic. However, it is up to you to assess the merits of said research and delve further.
Within this context, placing the burden of gratitude on adopted people, is simplistic and uninformed at best and purposefully maligning at worst. Either way, adoption is the problem, not us!
Like it or not, adopees are a marginalised group, so non-adoptee, your expectations that we respond to your demands to ‘prove’ that adoption is not a panacea or fairy tale, or that we should be grateful that we were not aborted, is situated within privilege and until you recognize this, your expectations that we (dissenting adoptees) are the problem will prevail.
Nevertheless, it still bewilders me that so many people continue to bask in the savior mentality and think that our dissenting voices are anomalies. WE. ARE. NOT. ANOMALIES. There are a plethora of books and voices which speak to the issues within adoption — please start reading/researching. We do not owe you our time or energy. Those of us that do give our time do so because we are trying to amplify adoptee voices. It is time that people recognized that adoption is the problem — not us!
I have written about denigrating humor before, so here is a recap:
In movies and TV, adoptees are frequently stereotyped in binary ways, as heroes or villains. For example, in the movie “Avengers,” a joke was made about Loki being adopted. As Guidry writes, “Loki is also a textbook example of ‘bad blood.’ He’s destined to turn evil, and he can’t get away from it no matter how much he tries. Think Damien from The Omen, another textbook example.”
This notion of “bad blood” was explored through submissions to Australia’s Senate Inquiry into Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices. I am acutely aware that some still view adoptees in this way as evidenced by jokes or other attempts at discourse which perpetuates our marginalization.
To sum up why making fun of adoptees is not okay, I will turn to Professor Ford’s piece on the “Psychology behind the unfunny consequences of jokes that denigrate,” who eloquently explains why these kind of jokes (disparagement humor) are not funny.
“Disparagement humor is any attempt to amuse through the denigration of a social group or its representatives. You know it as sexist or racist jokes — basically anything that makes a punchline out of a marginalized group….
By disguising expressions of prejudice in a cloak of fun and frivolity, disparagement humor appears harmless and trivial. However, a large and growing body of psychology research suggests just the opposite — that disparagement humor can foster discrimination against targeted groups.”
Adopted people are navigating complex terrain and we exist in a world where our grief is disenfranchised and our loss (e.g., loss of our mother, father, relatives and the legal severance from all of our kin) is frequently not recognized. Further, research exists which suggests we are more likely than the general population to attempt suicide. Finally, adoption reunions do not guarantee a happy every after and some adopted people (including myself) report feeling like interlopers with their own kin. Clearly, adoption is the problem-not us!
Finally, if you want to gain a different perspective on what it is like to be adopted, challenge yourself and seek out dissenting views from the only ones who live it: we the adoptees. Don’t accept what the media or pro-adoption lobbyists tell you. Critically scrutinize adoption through the lens of our collective voices. The voices are there, but it is your responsibility to research and educate yourself on this emotive topic.
LINKS TO SOME RESEARCH AND VOICES
Books or Other Articles
Domestic and international adoptees are still fighting for their rights, and we continue to be marginalized and ignored. If you are interested in finding out more about this, here is a list (not exhaustive) of adoptee rights organisations and voices.