Over at “The adopted ones” blog, this question, slightly edited for length, was posted. I started to respond in the comments and realized I was way too wordy to do it there. Go read the original post and comments.
What does an adoptee owe to adoption? By adoption, I mean the institution of adoption, how the public views adoption as a cultural practice, or custom if you will.
What do I, an adult adoptee, OWE to adoption?
Nothing. A legacy of misunderstanding, heartbreak, and confusion for me, my adoptive parents, and my first parents, as well as our current relationships, good and bad, come out of this “life choice” they all made for me. I owe my parents — ALL of them — the respect they have earned by their places in my life. I owe adoption NOTHING. Adoption did not “save” me. Adoption took me from one family and placed me in another. I had a different life than nature intended. That’s as much sunshine and rainbow as I can put on it.
Must we be the ambassadors for adoption and allow our stories, pictures to be broadcast to the public? Are we fair game to be used to promote adoption? Is how we act, feel, always to be scrutinized in how it may be regarded or impact adoption?
Nope. Nope. And Nope. The things that were “wrong” with my adoption fall on the institution more than any of my parents. The misinformation they were all given about how adoption would affect me comes from this culture of denial that adoption is trauma.
The way I see it, as an adoptee, as one of the minority of people who has lived through this institutionalized and denied trauma, I owe it to adoption to speak my truth. If I can say what living adopted has felt like, how adoption has affected me, maybe there is a chance for change. Maybe other adoptees won’t live with the same level of trauma if we can learn to acknowledge there IS trauma.
I know that there are some children who will need families. I don’t want them in the same system that took me in. I want potential adoptive parents to know that we are not blank slates. That genetics matter and everyone gets to acknowledge this except adoptees. That we will be sad about the family we lost — yes, even if that family is made up of criminals and drug addicts and child abusers. That we will worry about being “bad” if you think our original families are/were “bad.” That we wonder how we fit in, how we could be given away, and since we were, why won’t everyone do that to us?
I want potential adoptive parents to know that their losses should be dealt with before adoption is on the table. We know that adoption is a backup plan, most of the time, and you can either show us that you were adaptive or that you’re in denial.
Other adoptees who found their voices helped me to find mine. I am forever indebted to them, as their courage in speaking out against the dominant narrative of the unmitigated “good” of adoption helped me. I discovered that I was not alone, that I was not crazy or insane or in danger of losing my mind. I wasn’t bad or evil for wanting to know my whole true story. I wasn’t wrong to want to know my first parents. My wanting to know was normal and natural and I did not owe it to my adoptive parents to deny this part of myself.
We owe the world our truth. I’m sorry it’s not what you want to hear sometimes.