the challenge in adoption writing

There’s a disturbing trend in adoption activism.

We all seem to write for each other, without hitting our ultimate goal: Reaching an apathetic public, a population whose interest ranges from “mildly disinterested” to “dangerously ill-informed.”

This isn’t surprising, given we’re up against issues like Anne Heffron’s points out below:heffron

It’s not surprising, but it is discouraging. Then we have another issue: rhetoric. Are adoptees orphans (no, most are not)? Can we call adoptive parents “adoptive parents,” and should we refer to birth mothers as “first mothers” or “natural mothers” or “biological mothers”? The adoption community debates these terms extensively, confusing ourselves and definitely confounding outsiders.

And then there’s the argument over who is allowed to discuss what. Can non-adoptees speak to the adoptee experience? Should adoptive parents have any say in their children’s lives? And are birth parents really the forgotten party in the adoption discussion?

Finally–and perhaps most damningly–there’s the Angry versus Happy Adoptee distinction, an informal label bandied around to stigmatize, invalidate, and attempt to win arguments. We’re scrambling to say something new, impactful, and purposeful, but activist’s messages get lost in the flurry to push out content.

Naturally, I speak only from the transracial adoptee perspective, since that’s my lived experience and the only one I feel qualified to discuss. But even then, there’s a tendency toward defensiveness, as though I still don’t possess the necessary skill set for maintaining my position.

None of this creates an environment inviting outside stakeholders to enact change. If we’re not united, it’s challenging for others to hear our cries. But adoptees know it’s near impossible for us to agree on a stance, but we concede that adoption is not a self-directed choice.

 So, as a thought experiment, I’d ask you to consider how hearing “I’m sorry you had such a negative experience” would feel if someone said that to you if you struggled with infertility before you adopted, or any of the other hard life experiences people live through that they had no control over.

Adoptees are the experts on being adopted.  Still, our lives are frequently illustrated by a partially informed public, or by those whose experience doesn’t align with our own.   Adoptees haven’t yet defined the line between objectifying ourselves and becoming consultants.

How do we use our voices as vehicles for meaningful change? Here’s my idea:

  • Temporarily set aside our anger and acknowledge that adopters and adoption agencies, like us, believe in their mission. People are more likely to listen to rational speakers.
  • Feature different adoption activists in our blogs, supporting each other even if we don’t 100% agree with a nuance in another’s view
  • Stop arguing about terminology amongst ourselves and focus on our real goals

I don’t suggest forgetting that certain terms are debatable or abandoning our passion projects. Our conversations absolutely have merit and will enact positive change. But we’ll likely never agree; adoption is too personal an issue for that to happen any time soon.

Instead, for now, I argue for coherency and collaboration. Idealistic, sure. Results-oriented? Absolutely.

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6 thoughts on “the challenge in adoption writing

  1. Love this and thank you for sharing. I believe that we can change the conversation if we stop speaking out of anger- instead using it to help others understand the complexity of adoption.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. People will begin to listen when we speak from what is in our hearts and not from anger, and speaking from our own experiences. Our stories are very unique to each of us, we cannot be lumped into the same box and no one can speak for us. I am a step-parent Adoptee, so I cannot speak for Adoptees, but I am a Birth Mother in a closed adoption and I can speak about my journey.

    The voices will get louder, stronger and with more clarity so the uninformed will start to listen…at least that is my dream.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you all for your comments. I 100% agree–we can feel as angry as we want, but if we speak from anger, no one will listen. But the same is true for the reverse: Overemotional defensive reactions won’t facilitate discussion, either. We’ll get there, slowly.
    -Sunny

    Like

  4. This is a hard subject, I was adopted, but I’ve always been confused as to how I’m supposed to express my experience, especially considering its latest chapter from only a few months ago. Thank you so much for your words here.

    Liked by 1 person

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