Secondary Rejection In Reunion: An Adoptee Perspective

Claudia D’Arcy has written an excellent post on her Musings Of The Lame blog: Secondary Adoptee Rejection In Reunion: Hearing The Rejected Adoptee’s Pain.

Claudia is a first mother, adoption rights activist, and all around groovy person. It may be one of the best things she’s ever written. And it was also the most difficult for me to read, because I live it each and every day.

Secondary rejection happens. It’s one of those things adoption dissolution (aka the “returns department”) that the adoption industry doesn’t want to admit.

Claudia reminds us, rightfully so, that adoptees who are rejected twice are not rejected for ourselves. We are rejected because our mothers simply can’t handle being mothers. They were told to go on, to forget it (us!), that their lives would “go back to normal.” Some of them need to believe it so much that they must deny anything that threatens it.

But there is no normal in adoption. And, despite understanding on the philosophical level that it isn’t about me… I don’t think I will ever be able to convince myself of that.

To understand my perspective you need to read my story: Caveat Emptor On Confidential Intermediaries and Case Closed! Another Adoptee Becomes A Confidential Intermediary Statistic (which has a timeline of events).

To be surrendered for adoption is one thing. To be rejected twice – to be rejected as a person, not a theory; to be rejected as an adult and not as an unexpected pregancy is something totally, utterly, abhorrently different.

When your contact is limited by laws and intermediaries, you feel like you have to pack a lifetime into a brief window of opportunity. You’re afraid you won’t have another chance to ask the questions to which you’ve always needed answers. It’s a horrible Catch-22 and one of the reasons I despise intermediaries and compromise legislation (that, and the fact that they criminalize us for demanding rights that are basic to all human beings).

I may never know why my mother chose to deny so abruptly and completely. But I know how it feels to me. It’s so much worse than simply being adopted. It is to say to your mother, “I exist” and for her to respond, “I wish you didn’t.”

It wasn’t like I was expecting some kind of rosy reunion. Upon hearing my story, some people think I was demanding that she come and be my mommy. Believe me, after my experience with my adoptive parents, the last thing I wanted was another parental unit. All I wanted were answers. All I got was a door slammed shut. Worse – a door partially cracked, then slammed shut. Which only makes me feel all the more like it was something I did, something I said, something I **AM** that makes me unworthy of the same basic rights – identity, heritage – that other people take for granted.

It does no good to hear people, even someone I admire and respect as much as Claud, say “it’s not you.” My brain understands that. My heart never will.

Some may not like my use of the word “rejection” (see Claud’s post for the reasons  why she chose to use it). I’m using it because that’s how it feels to me. Yes, I know, my first mother didn’t really reject me when she surrendered me for adoption, but it’s another one of those brain-heart matters that adoptees understand on the philosophical level but not on the emotional level.

How can we? Breaking the mother-child bond is the most destructive thing that can happen to either mother or child. We shouldn’t be cavalier about it and invent euphemisms that make it sound less bad. That’s the adoption industry’s party line, to make adoption more palatable.

The truth is, adoptees often feel rejected, no matter how good their adoptive circumstances are and no matter whether they eventually reunite, happily or not, with their original families. We have to deal with issues of rejection and abandonment every moment of our lives (and no, I’m not saying first mothers abandon, I’m saying this is how adoption makes many adoptees feel). Getting rejected twice feels like a confirmation of all those bad feelings.

To me, it was proof of what my adoptive mother used to say when I would come home crying because the other kids teased me for being a weird adopted nerdy girl (and yes, some of the teasing was specifically due to being adopted). I would be sobbing and she would roll her eyes and say, “You must have done something to make them not like you.”

I must have done something to make my mother not like me.

To all you first mothers and adoptees out there who may be considering a secondary rejection: Don’t. However you may feel, whatever happened to you – we’re not to blame, and rejecting us again hurts so very much. We’re not trying to “out” you or make your lives miserable. All we want is existence. All we want is for someone to say, “Yes, you were wanted. Yes, you were loved. Yes, I will answer your questions.”

My first mother may one day change her mind, but I’m not holding my breath. I think she is in such a state of denial that she simply can’t accept my existence without her entire world falling apart. It’s as though, by denying contact, she erased me from time and space – if I was ever there to begin with.

Sometimes you have to back away from a relationship if it’s toxic. I know some first mothers and adoptees who have had to do this because the other party overstepped or refused to accept boundaries. That’s a different matter. I’m talking about rejecting to keep the blinders on, to maintain the falsehood, to pretend the big nasty A word never happened. All that does is foist your baggage onto someone else. We all have to deal with our own shit, no matter how much it stinks, and we are better off for it once we do.

And, for the record, those denial of contact vetoes that are so helpfully mislabeled “preferences”? They put a permanent ban on the adoptee’s ability to gain access to their original birth certificate, which may prevent them from renewing drivers’ licenses or getting passports (or, in the latest twist, running for public office). There is a real and legal implication for the adult adoptee that the Powers That Be may not have explained.

Please have some basic human compassion when – not if – your adoptee or first parent seeks you out. You don’t have to embrace them wholeheartedly into your lives, but don’t send them back out into the cold with no answers. It’s cruel and unnecessary on top of all the other cruel and unnecessary aspects of adoption.

UPDATE: Claudia’s started a listly on this topic, you can read more here and be sure to add your blog if you’ve posted on this topic.

Image courtesy of dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How Conditional Birth Certificate Access Rewards “Good Adoptees” And Punishes Bad Ones

In her classic book Lost And Found: The Adoption Experience, renowned adoption expert and adoptee BJ Lifton describes how adoptees are classified, by the adoption industry and by society, as Good Adoptees and Bad Adoptees.

“We have seen that adoptees played the Adoption Game in various ways… Some were aware that they were trying to be the Good Adoptee, while it seemed to others, in retrospect, that they were always trying to be the Bad Adoptee… The Good Adoptee was placid, obedient, didn’t ask too many questions, was sensitive to his parents’ need to make believe he wasn’t adopted. The Bad Adoptee was rebellious and constantly acting out at home and in school.”

Here is how she describes the Adoption Game. She quotes author R. D. Laing in his book Knots:

“They are playing a game. They are playing at not playing a game. If I show them I see they are, I shall break the rules and they will punish me. I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game.”

I am an advocate for clean adoptee access laws – laws that restore the rights of adult adoptees to access their original birth certificates in the same manner and for the same modest fee as non-adopted adults. The reason I refuse to accept compromises like passive registries, confidential intermediaries, and mandatory counseling is because conditional access is specifically designed to reward Good Adoptees while punishing bad ones.

Here’s how the game works. Good Adoptees aren’t supposed to search for their origins because doing so questions (and threatens) the Great And Powerful Adoption Industry. So the way you weed out Good Adoptees from Bad Adoptees is to find out which ones want to search badly enough to defy that industry – and then punish them when they do.

Adult adoptee access is in its naissance in many states. As a result, adoptees who are early adopters (ha!) of their state’s access procedures pay the price for those who follow. There are no mechanisms to redress this injustice or to go back for those adoptees who had the misfortune of being their state’s beta-testers.

The Bad Adoptees who prove their disloyalty by being too eager for their information get the dregs of access: whatever the adoption industry feels like trying to shoehorn into whatever conditional crap legislation they come up with.

This is a disgusting and evil mindgame that has gone largely ignored in adoption reform circles, just as left-behind adoptees go largely ignored by those who either don’t realize or don’t care about clean access. What boggles my mind is that some people (deformers) are perfectly willing to continue to play this game as long as they get to reap the rewards of being the Good Adoptees.

This insidious industry strategy pits adoptees against one another, and is a cause of the infighting and backstabbing we see in adoption reform. You have one set of people who want to pass legislation that’s almost-but-not-quite-good-enough-we’ll-fix-it-later, and people like me who insist upon holding out for a clean law each and every time, even if it means yanking bills if they become tainted.

As an adoption reformer you typically don’t end up on the clean-law-or-bust side unless you’ve had personal experience with the system in its most broken form. Or, in other words, if you’re a Bad Adoptee. So once again, the adoption industry turns us against one another by pitting conditional-legislation advocates, the Good Adoptees, against the clean-law advocates, the Bad Adoptees. We might as well have team t-shirts.

(You could also say that the same process turns mothers into Bad Birth Mommies and fathers into Bad Baby Daddies – at least those who question the adoption industry or try to assert their rights within it.)

Great And Powerful Adoption Industry, this is Dorothy on speakerphone. I call shenanigans on your bullshit.

See, I’m already labeled as a Bad Adoptee, so I can get away with this. I was an early adopter of Illinois’ conditional access. I paid thousands of dollars and spent over a decade of my life attempting to assert my rights using the legal procedures provided to adoptees in this state. I played by the rules of the game and I lost, my first mother lost, other adoptees and mothers who went through that system lost. Today adoptees can get what I strove for, but I can’t because the system that was in place when I tried prevents me from doing so. I shone a spotlight on the flaws in Illinois’ system by forcing them open their procedures to adoptees born in Illinois but adopted out of state. Mine was the first Illinois Confidential Intermediary case of an adopted-out-of-state Illinois adoptee.

(more on my story here and here)

And I was punished, like other Bad Adoptees in this state and elsewhere, because by asserting my rights I branded myself a troublemaker, a bad seed, a naughty girl trying to buck the system.

This is ancient thinking about the psychology of adoptees which is completely outdated and yet still guides legislative decisions about adoptee access. It’s why adult adoptees are constantly referred to as “adopted children”, even (especially!) in legislative session. If an adoptee speaks out, shut ’em down. If a bastard tries to act like a human being, put them in their place.

When you support conditional legislation, you support this. You aid and abet an industry which doesn’t care one whit for you, and will turn on you as quickly as a rabid dog. And you assist that industry in dehumanizing your fellow adoptees and first mothers/fathers.

(Comments welcome but moderated against spambots and trolls. Bear in mind if all you’re trying to do is convince me why conditional legislation works, don’t bother. After my own personal experience I refuse to support anything less than clean legislation.)

I’m Not Going To Day For Adoptee Rights Chicago 2012 – But I’m Still An Angry Adoptee

I’m not going to Day For Adoptee Rights in Chicago this year. That may strike some as strange. I’ve been a voice for Illinois adoptees for years now, so people are expecting me to be there. I’ve gotten a few emails from a few people asking my plans, so I thought I’d explain why I’m not going.

Although there has been controversy about DAR in the past, my reasons for not attending are solely personal and have absolutely nothing to do with that. I’m not going to address past issues since I wasn’t involved then and really don’t want to be now. This is about me and where I am on adoptee rights.

There are lots of logical reasons I should go. The little voice in my head keeps reminding me that it’s right here in Chicago for pity’s sake – I live out in the sticks but it’s still only a couple of hours away. There are lots of people I’d like to meet in person. There are a handful of people I REALLY want to meet in person and am kicking myself over missing the opportunity.

I keep reminding myself that I should be there to stand up for left-behind adoptees, in Illinois and elsewhere. I should be there to remind the Illinois politicians that we’re not done with adoptee rights in this state, and to tell other states not to do it this way. I should be there to warn everybody to stay the hell away from the Illinois CI program. I should be there to do my part for adoptee rights.

But I’m not going to, and the big reason is…

Fear.

This has been a year of major personal crises for me. I suffer from depression and anxiety at the best of times, which these are not. I’m not feeling much like marching off waving the Class Bastard banner at the moment.

There are other reasons. It’s close to one of my kids’ birthdays, and I’ve already had the experience of worrying about adoption crap through one of my kids’ birthdays. I’m not going to do that again. And I have things that I should be doing here, although truth be told I could get around that if I tried.

The thing is, being an adoption reform activist – a volunteer of any kind – is a sucky deal. You have to be in a good place in your head to deal with what comes at you, especially if you are advocating from an unpopular position – in my case, that of being a left-behind adoptee. Everybody’s against you: politicians, lobbyists, fellow activists, the general public. You have to explain your position, over and over, with a polite smile and a stack of literature, while they spout every goddamn stereotype until you want to strangle them.

I am not in the mood at the moment to listen while people repeat the myths about birth parent privacy, or refer to adult adoptees as “children”. I am not in the mood to put up with jubilation over Illinois adoptees getting their birth certificates because not all of us are. I don’t want to talk to legislators. I don’t want to talk to reporters. I don’t want to be the token left-behind Illinois adoptee in every conversation.

And then there are the people who should be on your side, but who for some bizarre reason have decided to compromise away all sense of self-worth, not to mention bona fide civil rights. I’m not in the mood to be polite to deformers, and I know some will be there – people who supported the compromise bill in Illinois, people who supported compromise bills elsewhere. I am not sure I could keep my mouth shut in their presence because I think it is absolutely abhorrent to barter away somebody else’s OBC access just so you can get your hands on yours.

I’m sure people who are less than fond of me are rubbing their hands with glee, seeing this as a capitulation on my part. Go right ahead, if it makes you feel better. This does not, by any means, indicate that I am done with adoptee rights. On the contrary, I’m continuing to advocate for full and equal rights for ALL adult adoptees in ALL states and for our internationally adopted peers, as well as for the rights of first parents and families.

I intend to remain an angry adoptee with a blog, which is sort of like a madman with a box only not as much fun.

One of the ways I am contributing to the cause is by writing. I’m a freelance writer by trade so it’s a good fit. If you have a publication, blog, or site and want me to write for it, let me know. You can see my professional writing clips here – most of my adoption-related stuff is not on that list but it will give you an idea. However, bear in mind that I am a GDI (god damn independent) with a lot of loudmouth left-behind-bastard opinions about adoption that I don’t censor. Also, I am not affiliated with, nor will I affiliate with, any particular adoption reform organization. Freelancer to the core, that’s me. If that sounds good to you, great. If not, then I suppose I don’t need to worry about writing for you.

Now, if you want to see what I’m really up to, come on over to my fantasyworld blog and we can talk science fiction geekiness until our little fandom hearts explode. After all, who wants to deal with legislators when you can read the latest Pern novel and the Doctor Who/Star Trek crossover comic?

As for my next moves in the adoption reform world, I’ll leave my detractors to wonder what they may be…

I Am Adopted. I Am Shame.

I hate holidays. I get this innate, overwhelming knowledge that somewhere nearby, in this very city, my birth relatives are gathering for tradition and celebration. Except me, of course, since I’m not supposed to exist.
Except I KNOW. I can feel it in my blood, like a rising tide. I should be with them. Blood calls to blood. But I’m not, and even if I knew their names or where they were, they wouldn’t welcome me.
I’m a secret.
I am shame.
I’m a bastard.
My distant Irish ancestors weep. They want to know why I am severed. I have no answers. I’m not allowed to have answers.
My children ask me questions. I have no answers. They’re not allowed to have answers, either.
My mother’s brief contact revealed little about my life.
It was a mistake.
I’m a mistake.
I don’t exist.
My mother doesn’t want me to exist.
If I did know who and where my birth family was, and I was stupid enough to go there, they could easily have me arrested. My mother filed denial of contact with the state, criminalizing me for wanting my original birth certificate. Never mind that I have zero way to identify her. Never mind that the incompetent Illinois CI program gave her my identifying info without my consent. She knows exactly who and where I am yet I still have nothing.
I am a criminal for wanting to know my origins.
I am a criminal for continuing to want to know my origins after being told to shut up and go away.
I am a criminal for publicly disagreeing with adoption policies and practices.
I am a criminal for standing up for myself.
Meanwhile, everyone’s talking about all the lucky Illinois adoptees who are getting their birth certificates. Oh, except those who were denied. And those from certain adoption agencies who are essentially filling in the blanks with, “We don’t feel like telling you.” And those whose information was never recorded, was recorded in error, was falsified, was destroyed, is mysterously “missing,” or exists in another state or country. Hmmmm. That seems like a lot of exceptions for a law that gave “all” Illinois adoptees their rights.
I am a pariah for not sacrificing myself so others can have access.
I am a pariah for standing up for left-behind adoptees.
I am a pariah for not accepting the status quo.
I am a pariah for insisting upon equal rights for everyone.
I hope my mother is reading this. I hope the Illinois politicians are reading this. I hope every single person who is getting their Illinois OBC is reading this. I hope every last one of you who has ever supported a conditional law is reading this.
And I hope all my fellow nonexistent denied bastards and our counterparts, those uppity hell-raising first mothers, are reading this.
If we are shame… then so are the people who shame us.

Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Killjoy Responds To Complaints About Why I’m Not Happy For Illinois Adoptees

I’m sure you’ve heard that Illinois adoptees are throwing off their shackles as fast as Sara Feigenholtz can round up cameras to film their joyful receipt of their birth certificates. Everybody knows I’m the killjoy at the party, and people have started to complain. Apparently my inability to shut the fuck up is interfering with others’ ability to bask in the moment.
The following is from a conversation on a public Facebook page. I’m not going to identify the people and I’m only going to paraphrase the conversation, because my intention here is not to point fingers at any one person. This is not the first time someone’s said something like this to me. On the contrary, I hear it every day, usually from fellow Illinois adoptees who happened to luck out under the new rules.
I posted the following on my wall:
“Quit supporting conditional adoptee rights legislation! Study the bills and understand the difference between true adoptee rights (Maine) and conditional bills that leave some adoptees behind (Illinois). Don’t just throw your weight behind a bill because it has the word “adoptee” in it.”
This was reposted to the page by its owner. I responded with “thanks for the repost.” The page owner commented asking why there had been so many likes and few shares, reiterating the importance of equal rights for ALL adoptees.
Someone else answered: “I am 64 and one of those Illinois adoptees who is waiting for her OBC. Please don’t deny some of us our happiness.”
The page owner said: “A favor is not a right and can be withdrawn on whim.” (And a big THANK YOU for that.)
The other person answered: “whatever. you depressed me today, thanks.”
Let me get this straight. This person is getting her OBC via legislation that blocks me from getting mine… and she’s upset with me because I’m not happy about it?!
What. The. Fuck.
Adoptees face discrimination. Left-behind adoptees face discrimination from their peers as well as from everyone else. Now, let me ask you this…
What makes one person more deserving of identity than another?
What are the criteria? Is it when they were born? Where they were born? Whether they were an agency or private adoption? Should we have different rules for interstate adoptions? International adoptions? Transracial adoptions? Situations involving rape? Who gets to choose these criteria? Who enforces them? What options remain for those left behind?
I will answer.
  1. The rules are arbitrarily enforced.
  2. They are chosen by the adoption industry.
  3. There are no options for those left behind.
Because they don’t know! And they don’t care. Adoptees are a repressed and silent population. No one notices when we complain because the adoption industry has taken great pains to make sure that adoptees who question are considered mentally dysfunctional. Left-behinds who complain are even more mentally dysfunctional.
Shall I tell you what makes me mentally dysfunctional? Bullshit like that.
And bullshit like this. Also in the news this week, the duo of Feigenholtz and Mitchell (sort of like Simon and Garfunkel without the musical talent) is having a par-tay for those Illinois adoptees who now have access. (None of the left-behinds I know were invited, go figure.) Jean Strauss is going to be there filming what I can only assume is going to end up one hell of a one-sided viewpoint on Illinois adoptee access, if there are no left-behind adoptees in it. Without that it’s just more propaganda.
(And, to answer another complaint people have made about me: that was not a plug trying to get myself in the film. I really don’t care who’s in it as long as the left-behind viewpoint is given a fair shake. Truth be told, I hate telling my story in public and especially hate being on camera. Yes, I tell my story in public all the time – because it sucks so bad that I don’t want it to happen to other adoptees, not because I like the limelight. And I know certain people aren’t going to believe that no matter how many times I say it.)

In the Doctor Who episode The Happiness Patrol, the planet Terra Alpha is run by people who insist that everyone must be happy all the time. Dark colors are forbidden and only cheerful music is allowed. As a result there is an underground of people who believe in expressing their sadness and despair, called the Killjoys. The Happiness Patrol exists to kill the Killjoys and thus keep them from making the rest of the population unhappy. As the Seventh Doctor points out, “There are no other colors without the blues.”
We left-behinds are so inconvenient. Here we are, living proof that Illinois’ new law is flawed and discriminatory. Better make sure no one hears about it.
So yes, I’m a fucking killjoy. I’m dressed in dark colors playing blues on the harmonica while everybody else is eating their cotton candy and listening to elevator music. Lucky, lucky bastards…. haven’t you ever seen a horror movie? Don’t you know that nothing in this universe is picture-perfect? Don’t you know that this so-called “access” is going to come back and bite someone in the ass? I guess it doesn’t matter if your ass isn’t the one bitten. But it could be. And how would that make you feel?
How does it make you feel to know that the law that restores your access denies other people theirs?
While some people are getting their OBCs, other Illinois adoptees remain in the dark. (Not to mention the first mothers who aren’t even on the agenda.) We still have to struggle with our searches, relegated to tidbits and hearsay and the leavings off the plates of the more fortunate. Don’t patronize us by saying you’re coming back for us. Not only does the new legislation continue to deny us, it makes it infinitely harder to restore our rights.
The message is clear: Access for some now is preferable to access for everyone later, even if a few end up permanently denied. And you knew that from the beginning, yet you still supported the bill.
I am stunned that you can look yourselves in the mirror. Shame on every single one of you.
I am not going to shut up, as some would prefer. I am going to continue to speak out for those left behind in Illinois and in other states that have enacted discriminatory compromise legislation.
And I encourage the rest of you to become killjoys too, for the sake of those who remain without access and who continue to be discriminated against by people who, a short time ago, were in the exact same boat.
How fast do the oppressed become the oppressors?

My New Adventure, My New Blog, And Some Snarky Adoption Remarks

Most of you 73adoptee readers know of my passion for fantasy and science fiction, and I mentioned in my previous post that I’d taken a sabbatical and decided to focus on writing full-time.
Now I have a brand-new blog where you can follow my (mis)adventures in writing and fandom. Find out more at www.trionaguidry.com/blog.
And yeah, there’s gonna be adoption stuff. Of course there is. You can’t be adopted without adoption stuff oozing over everything like toxic waste. Maybe I should make it a game. You guys can have fun giggling over all the subtle and not-so-subtle adoption subtexts on my other blogs. I’m sure there are some there I’m not aware of myself. Like the old Internet drinking games… one sip for snarky remarks only an adoption insider would get, two for deliberate jabs at the adoption industry, whole drink for full-blown rants about corruption and failed reform. Substitute your favorite beverage if you don’t drink, fun for the whole adoption community!
Case in point: The other day I was halfway through a short story I’m working on, when I suddenly realized that the ENTIRE plot was a veiled potshot at adoption. Maybe veiled with transparent wrap, because it was dead obvious when I re-read it. Is it just me or do other people find themselves inadvertently incorporating their anger/angst/frustration at adoption into other aspects of their lives?
As the 7th Doctor’s companion Ace said in Survival (as she was transforming into one of the Cheetah People): “I don’t even realize it! I don’t even feel myself go.”
Anyway. Come read my new blog. I’m going to be unabashedly nerdy over there, and hopefully I can keep the snarky adoption remarks here where they won’t unnerve the uninitiated.