When Does an Adoptee Voice Stop Being Elevated Above All Others

“I’m not traumatized by my adoption.”

“Not all adoptees feel that way.”

“You say adoptee voices matter most but I guess that’s only if they have a bad adoption story.”

A year ago I would presume to stick my nose into a debate between adopted people. Today I am very cautious and calculating about doing this because the adoptee voice SHOULD ALWAYS be the loudest voice in the adoption community. They are the ones who had absolutely zero choice at all. They are the ones who grew up separated from their biological origins. Not me. I know what it’s like to be surrounded by genetic mirrors. I know the names of the people who created me. I can sympathize but I can never fully empathize because to do so would mean I would have to have had similar life experiences in order to relate their experiences to mine. 

Nevertheless, when an adoptee asks me to be a voice for them, I will oblige and hope I can do my best to represent their voice. Such is the reason for this writing. 

In adoption communities online a war rages. In simplistic terms, and from the point of view of many adoptees who are content with having been adopted, this could be viewed as “happy adoptee” vs. “angry adoptee.” 

Let’s first go into more detail as to why the adoptee voice should be elevated above all others. The single most important reason to elevate their voices is to prevent heartache and obstacles for those adoptees who are still children. At least, this is my understanding from hearing their voices over the course of several months. Correct me if I’m wrong. Secondarily, we elevate their voices because no one else did. See: was given no choice in being adopted. It’s only fair they are heard now. 

“Well I wasn’t given a choice about who my biological parents would be.”

No, you weren’t. But that doesn’t matter. Because neither were they. This argument becomes invalid if you recognize the unique challenges or issues that arise for someone who is adopted. Even those who are perfectly content with having been adopted. At some point in their life at least one time a challenge arose directly correlated to their adoption. Whether that was a classmate once pointing out that their parents didn’t want them or a lifetime of emotional conflict over having been relinquished. At one time or another, every adoptee has had to face one or more issues or challenges surrounding their status of being adopted. So you don’t get to use the “I didn’t pick my parents either” card. 

“I’m not traumatized by my adoption.”

I’m glad you weren’t. I’m glad you are whole and content. I truly am. And not every adoptee feels as if adoption was a bad thing in their life. And that’s okay. Not every adoptee who rallies for adoptee rights and family preservation had a bad experience, in general, being adopted. Many love their adoptive families and grew up in warm and loving homes. You did not have to have a bad adoption experience to be a champion of equal rights, family preservation, and ethics. 

I see it often assumed that those who speak of the ethical issues in adoption MUST have had a bad experience with their adoption. Then I see them counter an adoptee’s point of view with, “I’m not traumatized by my adoption.” Because, you know, #notall adoptees feel this way. And almost every time I see this, it is to use their status as an adoptee (and the elevated voice the rest of the community is finally giving them) to further elevate their voice over the other adoptee. To “cancel out” their thoughts or life experiences. When someone points this tactic out they will hear, “You say adoptee voices matter most but I guess that’s only if they have a bad adoption story.”

Here’s the thing. If we look to the reasons we elevate an adoptees voice (see above) and your using your elevated voice to dismiss another adoptee who is trying to help prevent psychological damage, you are, in essence, cancelling out the reasons your voice is elevated in the first place. 

-You say you are content and never had any issues with being adopted. Then why do you take issue with others speaking about why they aren’t content to educate other adoptive or birth parents?

-You have a counter story for every story another adoptee has. These adoptees want to remind people why it’s best to err on the side of caution for certain topics. Essentially you’re telling an adoptive parent “Don’t listen to her. I was perfectly fine with not being told I was adopted until I was 8.” Or insert whatever other subject you’d like in those quotations. 

An adoptee’s voice stops being elevated when they use that voice to silence other adoptees who have experienced trauma. Who advocate for equal rights and equal access. Who advocate for ethical practices and ethical reform within the institution of adoption. Why? Because it is counterintuitive to the reason why your voice is elevated in the first place (again: see above). 

You are free to share how content you are. You are free to share how happy you are to be adopted. You are free to share why that is. But you are not free to spread misinformation. You are not free to use your voice to silence others. That is where other adoptees are free to stop elevating your voice above all others. And personally, I will interject, as a first mom, when I see misinformation being spread. This is because misinformation is dangerous. It is my duty to ensure the correct facts are presented. 

You have no issues with the current practices of adoption? Fine. But this is where we split ways. This is where I no longer value your voice. Because anyone who thinks it’s okay for birth records to be falsified and the original, accurate ones to be sealed away forever (or until birth parents give permission for those records to be released) doesn’t deserve an elevated voice. Anyone who thinks it’s okay for the way adoption works today to continue as it is wont get an elevated voice with me. Or any others like me, adopted or not. You are part of the problem. And your willful refusal to see the very real problems in adoption makes you an active participant in the trauma that so many adoptees DO experience. You fuel the flames, perpetuate the cycle. If ten adoptees say, “Please don’t do this. It was done to me and it hurt me deeply” all it takes is one adoptee voice to say “That happened to me and I turned out fine.” An adoptive parent or birth parent reads that and says “see, it’s not that bad. She turned out fine.” 

And then they do it to their adopted children – whatever it may be. And maybe they turn out fine too. Or maybe they don’t. But the butterfly effect is strong. Your one irresponsible statement, (most times to appease an adoptive parent who IS in fact doing it wrong, or maybe sometimes for your own appeasement that life wasn’t all that bad, right?) could be the catalyst in a child’s life. Your one statement could be the thing that finds you, in twenty years, in an adoption support group on Facebook…

The child of that adoptive parent from twenty years ago; the one you said “That happened to me and I turned out fine.”

And then that adoptive mother thinks to herself, “See, it’s not that bad. She turned out fine.”

And then she takes your advice and applies it to parenting her adopted child…

You might find yourself telling that child, “But I wasn’t traumatized by my adoption. Why are you so bitter? #Notall of us feel that way.”

Because it comes down to this. 

In every instance that I can think of where adoptees have a disagreement? The one arguing to err on the side of caution is never arguing for something that would ever have the potential to harm a child, emotionally or otherwise. 

But the other adoptees seem to always argue “But I’m okay.” And what they should be saying is “But I’m okay IN SPITE OF…

Why would you chance:

-Not telling your child they are adopted until they are older?

-Not allowing your child to be in contact with their otherwise safe birth family?

-Not being aware of the signs of trauma in an adopted child?

-Unethically obtaining your child and having to answer to that child one day?

The list could go on and on. 

Adoptee voices are the most important. When they are wearing their adoptee hat and advocating for ethical and fair treatment. Sometimes adoptees wear a birth parent hat. And sometimes they wear an adoptive parent hat. Even if they aren’t either. Their fierce need to protect the institution of adoption drives this. I cannot begin to understand why and I’d love to find out but they aren’t giving up their secrets thus far. 

I don’t want anyone to get the impression that I don’t fully support adoptees sharing their lived experiences, whatever they may be. What I don’t support is using those lived experiences to silence those who have experienced inequality or hurt from adoption. I don’t support that at all. 

Let’s look at this without the emotion. 

It’d be like if someone was seriously injured skateboarding without a helmet. They’d be all over the place saying “WEAR A HELMET!! This could happen to you!” Will it happen? Maybe. Maybe not. But I know for me I like people to have all the info – the helmet if you must. Since there’s already a million people talking about how great skateboarding is I may as well be the one screaming to wear a helmet. And when someone posts a story about how awesome their last skateboarding outting was and didn’t mention that helmet I’d be commenting “but don’t forget your helmet! I didn’t wear one once and it hurt me!” 

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4 thoughts on “When Does an Adoptee Voice Stop Being Elevated Above All Others

  1. Pingback: When Does an Adoptee Voice Stop Being Elevated Above All Others | Adoption & Birth Mothers*

  2. I think perhaps what some of the “not all” adoptees are reacting to is the gross generalizations being made on the anti-adoption pages. I can certainly understand that adoptees who feel positively about their circumstance should still (one would think) want to fight against unethical practices. But what I see is birthmothers or adoptees saying in those groups is that ALL AP’s (or excuse me, “adopters” or “adopteraptors”) are abusive, no child can bond with an AP, all AP’s are narcissistic sociopathic selfish baby traffickers, birthmothers are selfish people who took the easy way out, etc. (They also use incorrect data to back up some claims). So some adoptees are raising their voices to say those generalizations should not be applied so broadly. But, when an adoptee voices a dissenting view, no matter how pleasantly they present it, they are harshly shut down by others who tell them they are in denial, in the fog, etc. As if a “content” adoptee’s truth is somehow invalid and only an “angry” adoptee’s truth is valid. If all adoptees are going to come together to fight on such issues as birth certificates, then one group may need to stop insulting the other group member’s parents, both birth and adoptive; I know I personally would have a hard time joining forces or feeling aligned with someone who was constantly saying hateful things about my loved ones.

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  3. I think what you’ve said is very balanced and well thought out. Thank you, because I’m adopted but I don’t like all these generalizations being applied to me. I’ve had a hard time because of adoption but I’m not messed up for life or permanently depressed or any of those things. In some ways I think it’s given me gifts and special qualities as well. If I said that on some of these forums, I’d have so many people jump down my throat.

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  4. I disagree that Adopted people’s voices should be heard over everyone else. How about lets start with elevating adopted people and their relatives to simply the position of equal? Equal rights is justice. No one person within a family is more important than another. Did you know that everyone has an equal right to obtain vital records of their relatives because the existence of our relatives dictates who we are in relation to other people in the world? Our relative’s vital records are of vital importance to us which is why a person can obtain the birth, marriage and death certificates of their parents, son’s, daughters, grandchildren, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins all without needing permission of the relative the record documents and all without needing the permission of the relative’s parents if they are under the age of 18. That means a parent who seeks to conceal the existence of a son given up for adoption from their relatives has no authority to prevent relatives from discovering the existence of that son relinquished for adoption, they can go obtain his birth certificate in its original form because they are related to him and that makes them an Aunt, Uncle, Grandparent, Sibling, etc. What they can’t get is a copy of the birth certificate with that adopted relatives adoptive parents names on it and any new name the adopted relative may have, so the issuing of the false certificate interrupts their ability to locate and make contact with their own relative. This kind of blinding impacts an entire family from making their existence known to the adopted relative to say, prevent them from taking a 1st cousin or sibling to prom. This kind of blinding impacts an entire family from learning from one another’s health and educational histories. This blinding of falsifying birth certificates is bad enough when it’s just one adopted relative but try having a sibling who was a sperm donor for ten years and your sons and daughters have 250+ 1st cousins living in the same metropolitan area.

    Regardless of how happy one or two adopted people might claim to be with never meeting their mothers fathers and relatives, there is the glaring issue of different rules being applied to certain members of society in order that they can be permanently bound to serve in the roll of child to unrelated individuals. All people with offspring need to be required to be named parents on the birth certificates of their offspring and the birth certificate should never be altered to add the name of an unrelated individual as their parent because it undermines the rights of an entire family to obtain medically accurate vital records that inform them of who they are in relation to other people in the world.

    Certainly it is the adopted person who has additional rights reduced because it is them that are forced to go through life with a falsified identity. But adoption laws create a class of people who don’t have the same rights and it matters not whether the oppressed among us are loud or quiet, content or enraged, its an injustice that they don’t have the same access to information that the rest of the population has. It’s unjust that adopted people and their relatives are not legally regarded as family simply because their parents have lost their authority over them. There is no reason to reduce the rights of the son or daughter just because the parents rights are terminated. Its unjust that adoption is permanent when there is no longer a reason for the son or daughter to be separated from their families. If the parents were 16 and jobless and now they are 25 and gainfully employed the reason for the adoption is over and its unjust to force the adopted person to serve out a term of duty that won’t just end at 18. An adopted person’s loss of rights outlasts their state of dependency and they are forced to pay for their food and shelter not just as minors but for the rest of their natural lives.

    They should not need to be the loudest nor should their views need to be heard the most, they should be deemed equal to every other person in society and the laws should be changed to equalize their rights. Minority rights majority rule….if even one person in society is being discriminated against it’s not OK. There is a fertility doctor who I argued with on his site about the unequal rights of people whose mothers were egg donors. He is of the belief that we need more research before laws are changed so that they could come up with laws that are “fairest to the most people”. I replied that equal rights does not work that way, you cannot oppress and reduce the rights of a small group of people in service to a larger group and suggest that the action was fair because the oppression is fair to the larger group. If all people with offspring are equally obligated to be named on birth records then all people will have an equal right to the same information about those that they are related to.

    So whenever anyone mentions adoptees rights trumping the rights of parents who relinquished I say that if we have equal rights there is no trumping.

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