don’t stop believing, adoption activist friends

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“I hope to accomplish better writing because I want to be a young adult book writer. I think writing is a good way of expressing yourself in a way that makes me feel good. You don’t wake up a writer. You’re born a writer.”

I found this the other day, buried and forgotten with an assortment of other journals I’ve kept. The hilarity and coincidences life throws us are so bizarre they seem contrived. And yet, here we are. The lesson? Don’t EVER give up and don’t let people discourage you, ever. Especially with writing, where sometimes the rigors of high school suck the fun out of the creative craft. Let your passions rest sometimes, but don’t forget from where they came.

Fifth-grade me would be proud, I think.  I’m not into the young adult genre–the youthful mindset’s long been scared out of me–but hey, after decades of meandering, I stayed true to the path.

Thanks for sharing this journey with me!

what my first launch party taught me about adoption writing

Hello, adoption activists: We’re begging the non-adoption community to #JustListen, but I think they might be hearing us.

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Thank you, Tilde: A Literary Magazine and The Spiral Bookcase!

Before reading “the lucky ones,” I introduced myself as what others would consider an adoption activist, but I told the crowd that I just call myself a writer. I explained that adoptees are desparate to be heard, but we’re speaking to a crowd already familiar with our struggle.

But art, I said, is a great unifier.

Through “the lucky ones” and other pieces I hope to release (including the upcoming “playground ghost,” due out next month by Parhelion Literary Magazine), I present, in what’s intended to be a relatable way, our pain and loss and longing. All of those heartaches are easily identifiable by anyone, adopted or not,  who circulates among us throughout this sometimes-wretched hive. But by weaving the subject within words recognizable by any human who experienced abandonment, people will, I think, find themselves behind the same mask adoption activists wear and understand our small niche’s large undertaking.

I encourage you to use whatever skills or talents you have to keep pushing for an audience. Knit hats for struggling young mothers, donate diapers to women’s shelters, create pottery for baby mementos–it doesn’t matter. Our art will resonate with the greater community–just speak to them and they will listen.

It will happen–we won’t give up.

A special thank you to Frank and Stephanie and Reshma and Lynelle and Rochelle and Marcie and Suzan and Lana and Adam and Liz and countless others who have helped get my work off the ground. Much appreciated!

it’s a matter of perspective

The internet is up in collectively confused arms (do we increase our tissue box supply or dust off our pickets?) over this latest factoid:

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Tear-faced children: The perfect antidote to critical thinking.

On the one hand, proponents for adoption reform or cessation are thrilled. On the other, adoption supporters or those who just don’t understand why adoptees are skeptical about such a seemingly heart-wrenching newsbite should then read the troubling responses like this:

There are a few errors here, but the assumptions (and rhetoric) stated above routinely plague adoption activists and hold us back. Let’s break it down:

  1. “the cost”
    • Implies financial barriers prohibit “getting” a baby, as though a baby was an inanimate object or another status symbol; commodifies a human being
  2. “3rd world places”
    • Ethnocentrism implying undeveloped countries can’t care for their own
    • Partially racist
    • Outdated terminology (very telling)
  3. “[give] Americans their unwanted”
    • WHAT.
    • Reinforces the idea that adoptees began life as truly unwanted, partially upholding the “perpetual child” myth
    • Does not support in-country social services or family support
    • Ethnocentrism, and like there isn’t an adoptee issue here in America?

We MUST continue dispelling the myths surrounding adoption. From an adoptee perspective, this is a huge sign that we have miles to go before people understand the damage done by adoption. What’s worse is that attitudes demonstrated above discourage support for struggling mothers and fathers, framing adoption as the only ethical solution to their temporary problems.

As long as dialogue like this continues, control will steadily be wrested from families, as they remain convinced they cannot or should not seek help from their own governments. Shipping children out to the U.S. is not the answer.

Adoption, when it works as intended, can be wonderful. But supporting family preservation is an excellent solution as it empowers mothers, fathers, and children, rather than reducing them to desperation and lifelong trauma.

Like this? Want more? So do I! Find out about my upcoming ventures on my Patreon page!

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.

Like this? Want more? So do I! Find out about my upcoming ventures on my Patreon page!