When Adoption Collides With The Rest Of Your Life

This post isn’t spurred by any particular incident, just the fact that my worlds are starting to collide. I’ve been having some interesting conversations lately about adoption with, of all people, my business associates. You see, some of them are friending me on places like Facebook and LinkedIn, but I also use Facebook and LinkedIn to stay in touch with the adoption community. Even if I wasn’t participating in social media, the amount of letter-writing and blogging I do about adoption draws attention. “Triona Guidry” is not exactly a common name, and people are asking me questions.
Being in the IT industry I’ve watched as the Internet in general, and social media in particular, has caused the various parts of our lives to intersect in unexpected ways. It used to be that you would have a business persona and a family-and-friends persona, and never the twain did meet. These days, it’s all a great big jumble. I’ve never hidden my interest in adoption reform. I’ve been known to stuff envelopes to legislators before business meetings, and tend to spread the word wherever I go, should the subject arise. I think it’s important to put a human face on the issue of adult adoptee rights. But this is getting more convoluted. How much do we tell people? What do we share about our personal lives? When do we go too far?
For those who don’t know, by “adoption reform” I mean the struggle, of adult adoptees, birth (aka first or natural) families, and adoptive families, to change the way adoption is practiced in the United States and elsewhere. It includes, but is not limited to, eliminating corruption in adoption as well as the restoration of original birth certificate access. (Adoptee birth certificates are legally falsified “as if” our adoptive parents gave birth to us, and the originals sealed in all but a handful of states.)
Coincidentally, BlogHer just had a post on a similar topic. It’s interesting reading. Personally I don’t worry too much about what other people think of my adoption opinions, but I’m in a unique position. I run my own company, so I can’t get fired; the worst that can happen is losing a client or two. It doesn’t matter if my adoptive family finds out because they already know, and besides we’re estranged anyway, in part due to my searching for my origins. I doubt there’s any more damage I can do on that front that I haven’t already done. I do worry about what my birth mother would think of my sharing so much of my experience… but it’s MY experience to share. I have never named her, can’t anyway since I don’t have her identifying information (although she has mine), and even if I did I still wouldn’t out her or the rest of my birth family in public. My family in the here-and-now is my husband and kids who are entirely supportive, as is my mother-in-law. So there is no real danger in me expressing my opinion. Others are not so fortunate. I feel that I have an obligation to speak out for those who can’t, for whatever reason. I talk about personal aspects of my life, but these aspects are nothing I wouldn’t share at a cocktail party. My hope is that by sharing my experiences others will begin to understand more of what it is to be an adopted adult–that we exist beyond childhood, that we are as capable of being neighbors or friends or business-people as anyone else.
Yes, I know. I could write under a pseudonym. I could adjust my Facebook and LinkedIn settings so my business contacts don’t see the adoption stuff. But I don’t want to. For one, it’s a pain to set permissions for every single thing I post. For another, it doesn’t always work. I started doing that on Facebook at the beginning, but the privacy controls aren’t always functional. Besides, I don’t think I should have to hide my adoptive status. The honest truth is that I am a bastard, and I’m not referring to my illegitimate birth. I have been bastardized, as have many others, by the laws that coerce expectant mothers, lure prospective adopters, and falsify and conceal adoptee records. I think that’s wrong, and I want it to change. The only way to do that is to publicize our plight and gain support.

Why should my status as an adoptee, or my interest in adoption reform, change how others see me? I know it does sometimes, and I think that’s sad. For the record, I also watch Star Trek, listen to Duran Duran and write fantasy stories for teenagers. Does that change how you see me too, and if so, why? Wouldn’t it be a boring world if we all watched the exact same shows, listened to the exact same music and read the exact same books? Isn’t it more interesting to know what makes each of us unique, what drives us, what we feel passionate about?
All I ask of anyone is that you keep an open mind, and remember that other people in your life, your family, friends, neighbors and business associates, doubtless have a connection to adoption too. Just because I am a vocal advocate of adoption rights, that doesn’t affect my ability to fix your computer or design your web site, any more than does your interest in your church group or your animal shelter or whatever. We all have causes we support, and we don’t necessarily expect others to agree with them. Adoption reform just happens to be one of mine.

Comments

  1. I’ve begun calling Facebook “The Great Integrator,” as it puts all parts of me on display.

    And I know some people who don’t use FB for that reason — they don’t want their worlds to collide.

    I hope to meet you in that ROYO in August. 🙂

  2. I hear you, and commend your decision not to separate the two aspects of your life. I bet your colleagues benefit from listening to you and that you are a great ambassador for adoptee rights.

    It’s a struggle sometimes to figure out how far to go in the blog and when I think of some colleagues reading my stuff, there’s the temptation to a) laugh hysterically or b) lock myself in a closet. But you know what? It’s their tough luck. Why be apologetic over being passionate about something. (Though I do remember someone telling me early on that once I was parenting I would forget all this nonsense and concentrate on what was really important. Never happened.)

  3. As usual, you put our unique situation in perspective! I, too, talk about adoption reform every time I get the chance!

  4. I have been OUT as a birthmother – a lot more stigmatized than being an adoptee – since the last 1970s, when it was UNHEARD OF!!

    I think each of us has to find our own comfort zone, but the more people we can speak to about adoption – either professionally and academically (which is my preferred approach) or personally, the better for them, for the future of adoption practices, and for ourselves!

    Being out and proud is far healthier than living under a shroud of shame and imposed guilt. We have nothing to feel guilty about. Nor ungrateful.

    Remember the words of Eleanor Roosevelt: No one can maker you feel inferior without your consent.

    Speak out, even if your voice shakes!

    I will say that has always been easier for me to speak s a “professional” armed with statistics and quotes of “experts” than from my own personal, more vulnerable place.

    Even after having appeared on national television, when my daughter passed away in 1995, I sobbed at my desk at work but told no one why. I simply was not ready to share that and go into long interrogations.

    I feel a right to be protective of my personal “story” which is somewhat atypical and irrelevant anyhow. I can speak out – loud and proud – for the “cause” without embarrassing myself or causing myself pain…yet without lying either… and that is a good ability I have developed.

    I don’t hear gay rights activist discussing the details of every same sex love affair they had and when they first discovered their proclivity and I do not know whey I always asked about my personal “story” of how I lost my child to adoption.

    To be an advocate, one needs to develop solid SOUND BYTES and ways to avoid painful questions you don’t want to – and don;t nEED to answer. Suppose you are reunited but have been painfully rejected. You can simply say:

    “I don’t care to discuss that, the results of any individual reunion are far less important than the issue of denied civil rights.”

    Sound bytes! Focus on the ISSUES!
    And allow yourself the right to protect what you want to when you want to to whom you want to!

  5. I’d like some help/feedback with a problem I am currently experiencing:

    http://familypreservation.blogspot.com/2010/02/loss-is-loss-is-lossexcept-when-its-not.html

  6. Hi Triona-

    I think that much of the “collision” experience has to do with our expectations. When sharing ourselves in the context of our experiences as adoptees, our vulnerabilities can have us waiting- unconsciously- for responses that may not come forth. We could be waiting for the listener to rally for the cause, to empathize with our pain, or even to reach out and “help” or “save” us somehow. (As an adoptee, I tend to wish for all of these things at times.)

    I share my adoption experience openly, when I’m so inclined, as you do. I’ve developed a practice for myself that has really helped me stay balanced. In fact, it’s worked so well that my “adopted-ness” doesn’t feel like a world outside of the rest of life- I have sense of centeredness that comes from having a sense of control.

    My “practice,” or strategy, or whatever you’d call it, is based on a traditional Japanese understanding of role of a Teacher. The principle is that a student can only learn what he/she is ready to learn. The teacher doesn’t begin his/her work by “doing” anything- the teacher waits quietly and work begins when the student asks a question. The teacher responds and then simply waits for the next question (if there is one).

    I find it really helpful to see my communications about adoption in this context. If I can think of myself as an “educator” of sorts, I’m setting myself up to communicate without feeling at risk. I have first hand experience that I can share and people can do what they will with it. If a response is defensive or combative, I can see is as a vulnerability within that person, it doesn’t become my vulnerability. After all, I’m talking about my experience, and no one can dispute that.

    Hope this idea is fun for you to think about. I love following your blog (and enjoy your excellent writing skill). Take care.

    Joy

  7. AdoptAuthor, I like your approach of saying the individual results of reunion are less important than the issue of denied civil rights. That allows discussion of the topic without getting too personal. I tend to share my birth mother’s denial, not because I particularly want to share such a painful aspect of my life, but because I want to illustrate the point that my mother’s choice regarding contact should not preclude me from access to my original birth certificate.

    Adoption Experience Workshop, I like your “Teacher” outlook also. I think I’ve been doing some of that unintentionally, because I started talking about adoption as a way to educate others.

    Thank you all for your comments!

  8. Hey Triona:

    It is interesting that you wrote about this topic at this moment. My husband, Ed, and I talk constantly about how being adopted is now almost hip. We have noticed how everywhere you turn it is in your face. Clearly, we may notice it more as I am an A.A. But, it is everywhere you turn and crops up in all facets of our lives.

    So yes, it does pose the question you must ask yourself, “How am I going to handle this part of whom I am with the professional part of my life?”. For example: I have as my IM id the green ribbon thumbs up logo. Many professionals IM me. So what will I say when they assuredly ask me what it is?

    I myself have chosen to be totally open about it. I hide nothing. Not to criticize anyone else whom chooses another avenue, but I WILL NO LONGER leave any part of me in a closet. There is absolutely no shame in being adopted or being the one that relinquished. This is me, this is such an enormous part of what makes me ME. So take it or leave it.

    As for focusing on the issues I am not in disagreement. However, I can tell you from my own experience that the reason I have many ask me questions or am on the news as I have been several times in CT. or was sought out by journalists I truly believe was because I bled everything out on the floor while attending events focused on adoption or reform. My entire experience with the good, the bad and the ugly was out there.

    Let’s face it, plucking one’s emotionial heart strings gets attention. It humanizes the subject. It gains sympathy and helps those uneducated on the matter of reform connect why the “SUBJECT” is so important.

    I will add you must have a tough skin. It took me years to harden myself. You know the questions: “Don’t you want to find your REAL PARENTS?”, “Do you think your REAL MOTHER thinks about you?”, “I wonder if I would love an adopted child as much as I love the kids I gave birth to?”, etc. Much of this kind of talk about adoption poured salt into my bone deep wound that wouldn’t heal. Well, not anymore as I think those comments come from ignorance. So yes, I will educate them! It can only help the cause.

    I am luckily enough to work in the fashion industry and in the field. Which means I am often out of town with colleagues. You are with each other pretty much round the clock except for bedtime! So a lot of subjects come up. I now just talk right out there on the table and I have seen minds change, a level of higher understanding take hold of ignorance and even many whom reached out when we were voting for Illinois offering to vote and asking how they do so.

    I am amazed how empowered and free I felt when I didn’t keep this part of me tucked away. So I say more power to you! I am with you sister! Oh, and by the way…YES, I listen to the Psychadlice Furs while doing dishes!

    Always Love Your Writing Girl,
    Chynna