Towards Deconstructing Opinion in the Context of Adoptee Activism.
The bones of this article was written last year and was inspired by a thread I read, primarily involving two adoptee voices in Australia.
Please note this article is not endorsed by any organization but rather reflects my views cultivated from my experience as an adoptee coupled with working in human services and more recently education.
Over the past 9 years, I have been involved in numerous social media groups for adoptees (although lately I’ve had to step back). It follows, that passionate debates ensue and all too frequently we are tempted to end the conversation with the convenient ‘get out of jail free card’: ‘I am entitled to my opinion’. Yes, I am guilty of doing this too. However, and whilst on the surface this is reasonable, the aim of this article is to start deconstructing the notion of individual opinion in the context of of adoptee activism.
I will preface this piece with the following information which sets the scene within the Australian context of opinion and freedom of expression. In Australia, “the right to freedom of expression extends to any medium, including written and oral communications, the media, public protest, broadcasting, artistic works, and commercial advertising” (Attorney-General’s Department, n.d.).
However, this right is not absolute. Rather, it carries with it special responsibilities and may be restricted on numerous grounds (Attorney-General’s Department, n.d.). For example, there are Federal and State Laws which prohibit hate speech such as the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. In sum, in Australia, the notion of being able to express your opinion is erroneous.
Adoption Activism – Are All Opinions Equal?
Adopted people and the broader public can have all manner of opinions on adoption. They can love it, oppose it or sit on the fence, but, these opinions are not measures of what is socially just or ethical. Within any minority, there’s variance in views but universal human rights (including the UN conventions on the Rights of the Child) are paramount.
Adoptee voices that I know in Australia are informed and speak from evidence-based platforms. This evidence-base is what differentiates that from someone’s individual opinion.
What we/these activists (e.g., members of Adoptee Rights Australia) have in common is our/their shared experiences and passion for upholding human rights instruments and importantly having a voice on the impact of inequality, as a function of being adopted.
Adoption and Inequality — Not Just Opinion
As lawyer and activist, Dr. Catherine Lynch argues, ‘adoption as it still functions today in Australia, violates the rights of the child under the Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) to which Australia has ratified.’ This is not just her opinion. Rather, she can argue this statement through a human rights-based approach. For example, by leading adoptee equality campaigns through the Australian Adoptee Rights Action Group and Adoptee Rights Australia, she is not just resting on a personal opinion but rather, she is aiming to turn a legal instrument (such as the UNCRC) into, policies and practices that promote and advance the rights of adoptees through: participation, accountability, equality, empowerment and legality.
These principles are crucial to advancing the rights of adopted people to reform adoption legislation, policy, and services across Australia (Adoptee Rights Australia, 2018).
It follows, that in the broader sphere of public adoptee activism, that perhaps we need to focus on the broader issues (e.g., adoptee inequality) and consider the role we play in advancing our cause or impeding it.
Four Roles of Activists
In that space, Bill Moyer’s four roles of activists may provide a useful framework for understanding the different roles that activists play in terms of influencing change. This framework is also a useful tool to consider how our individual roles can either effectively bring about change, or undermine it.
The four roles are: Citizen, Rebel, Change Agent and Reformer. Within this framework, we can examine if we are making positive or negative contributions, which advance or undermine the adoptee movement respectively. For example, an effective reformer may use a variety of means such as lobbying or work towards forming an official means (e.g., national body) to bring about social change.
This is in contrast to an ineffective reformer who may champion minor reforms (a compromise or settling for less) that are more palatable to the power brokers (e.g., Government or other powerful pro-adoption lobby groups). 
From this view, successful movements need to galvanize their courage and incorporate all four roles (effecive not ineffective) to foster and promote meaningful change . I’m not saying this is a panacea but perhaps something worth considering?
To those who say, ‘I am entitled to my opinion’, then I say: yes, yes you are, but it is not absolute. Further, your opinion should not trump the facts situated within adoptee inequality. Not all opinions are equal and as Cortney S. Warren states “opinions based in fact — are more valuable than those that are not.” Getting caught up in ‘opinions’ and saying I am entitled to this, whilst is sometimes a seemingly easy way out of a difficult discussion, is not going to effect change or resolve the issues we face collectively. To that end, I hope that we can sit our individual opinions to one side, understand the roles we can play (positive or negative) and join together (eg, by becoming an active member of Adoptee Rights Australia) in solidarity and influence policy changes !
If you are an Australian and interested in supporting adoptee rights then please check out the national body: Adoptee Rights Australia Inc. (ARA). ARA, aims to be the peak body to advocate for reform in adoption legislation, policy and services in all Governments jurisdictions in Australia so that the human rights and well-being of adopted persons are restored, protected and promoted.
“All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others." (Douglas Adams)