A Letter To Washington State: Why Are Some Adoptees More Deserving Than Others?

When I found out my adoptee peeps in Washington State are facing disclosure veto legislation, my heart sank. Several years ago when a similar bill passed in Illinois, supporters of clean legislation predicted that it would be held up as a dubious “standard” for adoptee birth certificate access. Sadly, we were correct. You can read about what we faced with the Illinois legislation and my own personal experience with the suckitude that is Illinois’ veto-happy law.

The job of a clean adoptee rights advocate is never done. Not only do you have to face strident opponents, disinterested legislators, and nosy reporters, but you also have to fight your own team when people turn deformer and support bills that will leave some adoptees behind.

What the hell is so hard to understand, people? Don’t support bad bills. We can restore birth certificate access to ALL adoptees if you get off your asses and stop allowing yourselves to be herded like cows into the second-class-citizen barn.

This is the letter I sent to Washington State’s legislators. Whom, I might add, failed to respond save for two lone auto-responder bots – not even a “thank you for your message” from a staffer. So much for common courtesy. I guess bastards get ignored as usual, especially if you’re not a constituent. Hey, left-behind adoptees – feeling disenfranchised much?

You can read more about what’s going down in Washington State:

Dear Washington Senators and Representatives,

I understand you are considering an adoptee rights bill, SB 5118 / HB 1525, which contains a “contact veto” clause allowing birth mothers to deny adoptees access to their original birth certificates. Before you rush to pass such a bill, I hope you will consider the inequality of restoring access to some adoptees at the expense of others.

I am an Illinois adoptee and have been denied my birth certificate because my birth mother signed the veto in this state. I am the face of that supposedly small percentage of adoptees who will be permanently denied birth certificate access under this proposed legislation.

Rep. Orwall explains the need to favor the many over the few: “How sad it would be for some adoptees to not obtain this information while a birth parent may still be alive.”



What about those adoptees left behind by veto legislation? Why isn’t it sad that we cannot obtain our information as well – and in fact are permanently barred from it?



What makes some adoptees more deserving than others?

I was involved in the attempts to halt a similar bill that ended up passing here in Illinois. I have heard the arguments in favor of compromise legislation before: “Well, at least this will help the majority of adoptees.” The assumption is that those vetoes will be such a small percentage it won’t matter.

But the reality is that no state that has ever enacted veto legislation has gone back for those left behind. There’s no sunset clause, no mechanism by which these adoptees will later have their birth certificate access restored.

Rep. Orwall is worried that birth families may die before adoptees have a chance to find them. But this isn’t about search and reunion. It is about access to a critical piece of identity: our original birth certificates.

With increasing security in this post 9/11 world, many adoptees are discovering that their adoption paperwork alone isn’t good enough. Discrepancies in the paperwork, i’s not dotted or t’s not crossed, and adult adoptees suddenly find they are unable to obtain driver’s licenses, passports, and other critical documents.

I had a friend walked out of the DMV because she presented her amended birth certificate. She was told to bring the original – which, being adopted in a closed-records state, she has no way to obtain.

Veto legislation consigns some adoptees to this oblivion of non-access. They have no recourse, no way to obtain proof of their own identities. They are permanently banned.

The matter of birth mother privacy is irrelevant. My birth mother relinquished all rights to me when I was given up for adoption. Why does a stranger now have the ability to come back years later and deny me access to my own birth certificate? Not every adoptee who wants a birth certificate is looking to search. Search is a matter of personal choice and has no bearing on the civil right to obtain one’s documentation of birth.

The only equitable solution is to restore to ALL adoptees the same equal access to original birth certificates as non-adoptees. This has been successfully done in Maine, where everyone follows the same procedure, adopted or not. Everyone pays the same basic fee. No one is left behind.

Maine has suffered none of the dire consequences so drastically described by opponents of original birth certificate access. Adoptees in Maine can walk into the courthouse, heads held high, and be treated the same as everyone else. That is all we want. If Maine, why not Washington?

I invite you to view Maine’s legislation here:

http://www.adopteerightscoalition.com/2011/07/adoptee-rights-sample-legislation.html

It’s no less sad or unfair for vetoed adoptees to be denied birth certificate access than it is for those whose birth families age and die while legislation is being considered.

Because that “small percentage” so casually dismissed? Those are real people like me. We’re not statistics. We exist. And we deserve the same equal rights, too.

Please vote no on SB 5118 / HB 1525.

Sincerely,

Triona Guidry

Who Controls Adoptee Narratives?

I have been thinking a lot about Amanda’s recent posts at Declassified Adoptee. Through her experiences as an adult adoptee and her training in social work, she brings a lot to the table on how practices can and should be changed.

But, reading her blogs about adoptee narratives and the responsibilities of social workers to maintain them (here and here), I have to ask: What happens to adoptee narratives when agencies and social workers aren’t even involved?

My private adoption was handled by three people: the delivery doctor, an attorney who took my mother’s relinquishment… and my adoptive father, also an attorney, who handled all other legal aspects of my adoption including the altering of my birth certificate and the sealing of my adoption file.

Someone is going to tell me that a social worker had to get involved at some point. There was a social worker who came and did the home study on my adoptive parents, prior to the finalization of the adoption – which amounted to glancing around their picture-perfect home and declaring everything A-OK. As far as I know there were no social workers or agencies involved in my surrender. Certainly there was no one advising my first mother of her rights or options.

Instead, there were three laymen who had absolutely no interest in maintaining my narrative (or hers), and a vested interest in burying it.

They also had no training in social work. Basically you had three amateurs who were able to use loopholes to facilitate a private adoption, under the radar of those governmental entities whose job it is to make sure kids are safe.

I have no narrative prior to my adoption. I was born, my mother surrendered me to the custody of the delivery doctor, I stayed with him and his wife for a week, I was picked up by my adoptive parents. That’s it. No agencies, no social workers, nobody double-checking to make sure i’s were dotted and t’s crossed.

It took most of my life for me to learn that much. My adoptive father lied to me until I forced the issue in my late twenties. He told me he knew nothing of my past other than the fact that my mother was Catholic and wanted me raised that way. I haven’t been able to confirm that. What I did confirm, and what he was eventually forced to admit, is that he handled all aspects of my adoption and therefore knew the complete contents of my file. He also had a copy of my original birth certificate, which he appears to have ordered destroyed upon his death.

Not only did these men not perserve my narrative, they actively went out of their way to destroy or conceal as much of it as possible.

As it stands now, I’m in limbo. I am legally barred by denial of contact from obtaining my original birth certificate. The narrative these men worked so hard to deny me may be forever out of my grasp.

I worry that, as long as secrecy is a staple of the adoptive process, there will always be situations like mine where the people who control the narrative are the same people who want it suppressed.

The ONLY solution is to cease altering adoptee birth certificates immediately, and to restore the rights of ALL adult adoptees to access their original birth certificates. Only then will the power to control narratives be returned to the people to whom they belong.

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.)

My Response To Negative Comments About The Avengers Adoption “Joke”

Well, hasn’t this been interesting. Two weeks, thousands of hits, and hundreds of comments to my previous post… and the overwhelming majority of people think adoptees are nuts to be angry over the adoption “joke” in Avengers.
Well, boys and girls, put on your flameproof undies because I’m responding to those comments and more on my fantasyworld blog. Come over and read it… if you dare.

I must have struck a nerve because people responded in droves, primarily to tell me to fuck off. What you fanboys may not have realized is that I am a fellow fangirl. I’m such a big comics fan I close every plastic bag in sight with two small pieces of Scotch tape. Comics are a regular part of my world, as adoption is a regular part of my world. This is my rebuttal to the snarky remarkers…. (read more)

Avengers: Why Is Making Fun Of Adoption Still A-OK?

[Updated 05/19/2012: I’ve written a response to the many, many comments I’ve received to this post. You can find it on my fantasyworld blog: An Angry Adoptee Fangirl Responds To Avengers Adoption “Joke”]

Ah, adoption. Is there anything you can’t spoil? My husband took me out on a very nice date to see the Avengers movie. You’d think that would be safe from adoption triggers. You’d be wrong.

Background: Avengers is a group of kickass superheroes who, uh, kick ass. They’re in the same universe as the X-Men, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. In the Avengers, Thor’s god of thunder. Loki’s his brother – adopted, a point which becomes crucial – and Odin’s their God father. They’re Asgardians, a supposedly more advanced race (whom you’d think would be more civilized than to have sealed records, but there you go.)  The rest of the Avengers, for the purposes of the movie, are Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man, Hawkeye and Black Widow, with Nick Fury (everybody’s favorite badass Samuel L. Jackson) as the leader of military organization S.H.I.E.L.D.

[Very minor spoilers ahead…]

So there I am, forgetting my woes, laughing at the gang and drooling over Chris Hemsworth, when we get this lovely little tidbit. Thor is trying to explain to the others that Loki is his brother and his responsibility.

Black Widow points out, “He killed 80 people in 2 days.”

Thor explains, “He’s adopted.”

Cue entire theater laughing…. except for me. (And my husband, who knows better.)

I missed the next 15 minutes of the movie because I was seething. Joking about adoption isn’t funny. Joking about being adopted isn’t funny. Making fun of a late discovery adoptee is especially not funny.

Because that’s what Loki is. In the movie Thor, Loki finds out he was adopted as an adult. Odin All-Father (ha!) kept the truth from him, because he thought it was better for Loki, because he wanted adoption not to matter. Sounds all too familiar, doesn’t it? And it always, always backfires.

What bothered me is that this is a prime example of how adoptees are one of the last fair sources of discriminatory humor. We can have a black Nick Fury, we can have a female assassin, but the bastard remains the accepted butt of any joke. Think about what that one dismissive little line says: “He’s adopted.” In other words, it’s not Thor’s fault that Loki is such a jerk. Loki’s not a real member of the family. He knows it. His brother knows it and feels guilty. His father knows it and wants to make sure his “real” son is the one to inherit his throne.

Worse – Loki is not only adopted but he’s actually a Frost Giant, the Asgardians’ ancient enemy.  In other words, his birth family is the sworn enemy of his adopted family. His birth father is the enemy leader. His birth mother is nonexistent. His birth family are ugly monsters whereas his adoptive family are beautiful, blond, and godlike. Stereotype City!

Loki is also a textbook example of “bad blood”. He’s destined to turn evil, and he can’t get away from it no matter how much he tries. Think Damien from The Omen, another textbook example.

“He’s adopted.” Why is this joke acceptable? Why did the audience laugh? Why didn’t they rise up in HULK SMASH anger like I wanted to and scream, “Hey! That’s not funny!”

Because they don’t get it.

Why don’t they get it?

Because the adoption industry doesn’t want them to.

Look at Loki’s character from another perspective: You’ve grown up all your life with this strange feeling that you don’t quite belong. Your older brother is literally the golden boy, the one who will inherit your father’s legacy. You’ve lived all your life in his shadow, struggling just to be acknowledged by your family. Then suddenly one day your dad lets drop that you’re adopted. Would you, perhaps, be upset? Would you, perhaps, be angry?

It’s far more difficult to sell the idea that adoption is perfect when there are human faces on the victims. If we felt sorry for Loki, that might imply that not telling him the truth of his origins was wrong. If we accept that, we have to accept that concealing the truth from all adoptees is wrong. People might start to put themselves in the shoes of adoptees and their first families. They might start to question why adoption agencies are so vehement about keeping the records sealed. And if adoption isn’t perfect, and if families are hurt by it, then maybe there is another reason why the agencies want the records sealed – something they want to hide.

If Odin had told Loki from the start, the plots of Thor and Avengers would never have happened and Marvel would have been making money off Dazzler or Longshot or some other unfortunate Marvel superhero. If the adoption industry allowed people caught in the adoption trap access to information, the world might find out what they’ve been hiding: the coercion, the corruption, the lies.

Did Marvel think of all this when coming up with that joke? Of course not. The problem is that nobody ever thinks about it. It’s not even on their radar. If I had tried to explain this to the majority of people in that theater they would have thought I was nuts. How could that silly little joke possibly be upsetting or dehumanizing?

But it is. And mostly we just have to suck it up. I sat in that theater, furious, gripping my husband’s hand and growling under my breath. It’s like being under surprise attack. You never know when your enemy, Adoption, is going to jump out at you with a nasty-looking weapon and try to take your head off. And the people around you think you are fucking crazy because you keep ducking all the time.

Until our society as a whole decides these supposed “jokes” are unacceptable, we are not going to make any headway fixing what’s broken about adoption.

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?

Dreading Birthdays III: Descent Into Despair, Restarting The Search

It’s that time of year again… my own personal descent into despair. I’ve written before about adoption depression and birthdays:

I didn’t really start dreading birthdays until I started asking questions about my adoption, questions that were misdirected or answered with (as I later discovered) outright lies. Before that I just had this vague unease that got worse as the calendar crept toward January. I wonder if my birth mother suffers like I do, from what the shrinkwrappers call “seasonal affected disorder” but I believe is simply part of the human experience. One of the most shocking moments during my brief contact with my birth mother was her revelation that depression runs in our family, in fact one of my uncles suffers severely from it. Don’t ask me what that means because it’s all I’ve got. To be given that tidbit and then left in the dark makes me feel like spring will never come. Maybe depression was imprinted on me in the womb. It’s in my blood, an unknown poison.

I don’t tell casual acquaintances about my birthday. People always want to know, put it in their calendar, send you an e-card or invite you to a little office celebration with stale cake. But adoptee birthdays invoke too many well-intentioned questions that are conversational for others and heartbreaking for us, like”Where were you born?” (some of us don’t know) and “Are you celebrating with your family?” (which one?) In short, birthdays are stark reminders of what may be our most traumatic experience: losing our mothers, our blood relatives, our cultures, our heritage. I don’t mind sharing with people who know my adopted status and understand that trauma. What I don’t like is the automatic dismissal of the uninitiated: “Oh, you’re adopted! You must feel so lucky.” And I’ll admit, I’m no fun. When people ask me straight out I give them a straight out answer: that I’m adopted, that my birthday is traumatic, that it brings up a lot of feelings of loss and I don’t really like talking about it. Talk about putting a damper on the party.

I didn’t even write a birthday entry last year, I was so fed up with it. This year feels… different. Still depressed. Still descending into despair, and I’m not going to say there’s hope at the bottom. It’s more of an icy determination.
I’m starting up the search again, trying to find not only my origins but the details of my adoption. So many lies and misdirections, so many half-truths and hunches, I don’t even know what’s real anymore. So I’m laying it all out, trying to discern fact from fiction. By Illinois law I am forbidden from contacting my mother – a total joke, as I have next to nothing about her yet she has my complete contact information due to the Illinois CI program’s screw-up. But I’ll be damned if anybody tries to tell me I’m not allowed to piece together my own past within the confines of the strictures placed upon me.
The holidays were harder for me this year than January is now, which is odd. Maybe it’s the weather. There’s been very little snow and with temps in the 30s it feels more like November. I can handle November. My pansies are still blooming and there’s lettuce in the cold frames in the veggie garden. But there’s always that awful feeling in the back of my mind that the hammer will fall, that November will become December will become January and the world will lock into ice and cold and loneliness.
Among the adoption paperwork (that is, the paperwork my adoptive father deemed acceptable for me to see, as opposed to the papers he lied about/destroyed/concealed) is a yellow sheet of legal paper. It’s a transcript my adoptive father (aka the lawyer who sealed my file) took of a phone call he had with his old college pal (aka the delivery doctor). I feel sick just looking at it. I decided to post this because it’s a little piece of BSE (Baby Scoop Era) history.

(Sorry if Blogger is sucky about embiggen. You can find it full-size here.)
Words jump out at me. “Nov Dec Jan,” reflecting the personal countdown to hell I still experience every year. “Girl very reasonable.” Of course she was, she had no resources or support! “How could it be done in Illinois?” That is the man I once called Father, concealing my origins.
Note carefully what is going on in this transcript (which has been edited by me for my own privacy). My adoptive father was told they had to go with a private adoption, presumably because they’d been rejected by all the agencies they approached. Private adoption was legal in Illinois, but that they couldn’t adopt me there because it was limited to Illinois residents. So they found a loophole by finalizing the adoption in Ohio, their state of residence. My adoptive father was an attorney licensed to practice in Ohio and arranged matters there himself. Because of this, he ended up controlling the process of my adoption as well as the contents of my adoption file, including my original Illinois birth certificate. I am told this would never be allowed today due to conflict of interest. Later, he became the person to whom I had to apply for non-identifying information, according to revised Ohio state law regarding private adoptions. You can imagine how well that went.
The sickest line, to me, is this: ““Have to arrange to have mother take child w/her & physically turn child over to us & take to Ohio.” To my understanding, my mother was forced to walk me out of the hospital (to fulfill laws saying only she could do so) and turn me over to the delivery doctor, who kept me for the first week of my life then turned me over to my adoptive parents. Elsewhere there is a notation about having to hold off on finalizing the adoption because of the waiting period for my mother to change her mind. It’s all so reprehensible: the careful application of law contrary to its supposedly intended purpose of giving a mother the chance to make an informed choice.
My adoption is gray market, legal as far as I know. But no one could look at the above scenario and consider it objective or ethical. This is the heart of the Baby Scoop Era: legal and illegal separation of children and parents. Except it never ended, because the same tactics continue to be employed today. They get you coming and going, both when the child is first adopted and later when the now-adult adoptee attempts to reclaim his or her birthright.
Icy determination and anger; that, to me, will always be January. This year I’m depressed but I’m also refocused. Adoption will not stop me. Depression will not stop me. Discrimination and stereotypes of adoptees will not stop me. Deformer laws, apathetic reporters and disdainful politicians will not stop me.
All adoptees deserve the same equal, unfettered access to their original birth certficates as the non-adopted. Nothing less is acceptable. Nor is our society’s prejudicial treatment of adoptees acceptable. I have had it with people speaking for adult adoptees and first mothers, putting words in our mouths, refusing to listen to our voices even though we are STANDING RIGHT HERE, blogging and tweeting and making ourselves heard.

Steve Jobs And Offensive Adoptee Stereotypes

Steve Jobs was one of my personal heroes. I probably wouldn’t have gotten into IT or started my own business without his influence. But my grief at his passing was marred by the constant references to his adoption. And the adoptee stereotypes I’ve encountered made my jaw hit the floor with the speed of the Tevatron. (Not the LHC, because I live near Fermi so I’ll give some love to the home team.)
What scares me is that I didn’t even notice myself at first, and trust me, my adoption-BS meter is finely tuned. We all saw what the news coverage was like. Steve Jobs, gone! Such a visionary! Such a genius! And did you hear he was adopted?
Even adoptees mentioned it, talking about Jobs as “one of us.” I started to do the same thing. I was proud of Steve for being adopted, for showing the rest of the world we’re worth something.
And then I realized, holy shit, what we’re really saying is, “Steve Jobs succeeded even though he was a bastard.” We’re praising him, not because he succeeded, but because he Succeeded While Adopted (SWA).
Bastards have to work harder. We’re never good enough. Not even Steve Jobs was good enough.
It’s even more obvious in the Walter Isaacson biography, which has more adoptee stereotypes than an NCFA convention. The first chapter is the incendiary “Abandoned And Chosen,” loaded words which epitomize the primary adoption stereotypes: that birth mothers abandon and that adoptees are “chosen” for “a better life”. Notably, a biography of an adoptee begins with the lives of his adoptive parents. The adoptee is always a secondary character in his own story.
Steve’s first mother found out he hadn’t been adopted by college graduates as she stipulated, and refused to sign the papers. “The standoff lasted weeks,” Isaacson writes, and describes that Jobs’ mother eventually “relented” (read: gave up after constant pressure and coercion) but made the a-parents “sign a pledge” that they’d send him to college. Yeah, about as enforceable as any of today’s supposedly “open” adoptions. Then Isaacson goes on to interview Steve’s friends about his feelings about being “abandoned” (even though his mother obviously fought for him). Like many adoptees, myself included, Steve internalized abandonment because everyone in his universe told him he was abandoned. The rest of the chapter is equally repugnant. Steve Jobs lived the adoptee stereotype and, in death, he’s become the epitome of it.
This is a best-selling book! What the hell kind of message is this for adoptees, especially young ones, that a wildly popular book about a wildly popular person is riddled with stereotypes? I’m not talking about a stray remark here or there. I’m talking screaming misogynistic anti-adoptee lunacy. If anybody brought us to the 21st Century it was Steve Jobs, yet his authorized biography reads like a 19th Century handbook on social work. Go read even just the first few pages and you’ll be as appalled as I am.
In the vernacular, OMG. *deep breath*
Another underlying message I heard in the buzz surrounding Steve’s death was that adoption redeemed him: that if he had been raised by his birth mother he wouldn’t have succeeded. We don’t know that. Maybe he would have been an even greater success. Adoption is trying to take credit, when the credit is due to Steve for fighting the societal restrains of being a bastard.
Steve Jobs succeeded despite adoption, not because of it.
Many of the less-desirable personality quirks attributed to Steve, in particular his control issues, are traced back to his adoption. As adoptees our lives have been controlled for us. Is it any wonder we want to take that control back? Why is that seen as a bad thing? Is it because allowing us to do so might acknowledge our humanity, and the inherent problems in adoption?
Words are powerful. If you say something it is likely to become true. (Or, as Wang Chung said: “The words we use are strong; they make reality.” Profound advice from 1980s pop.) I thought we were making some progress on adoptee stereotypes but now I’m realizing we’ve only scratched the surface. It’s so ingrained we can barely get people to acknowledge it much less treat us with some level of respect.
Jaw still on floor, gathering neutrinos.

Ad For New Illinois Law: Adoptees Pay To Pray… That They Get Their Info

Here it is, folks. The oft-promised, much-ballyhooed ad for the new Illinois adult adoptee pseudo-rights law (click image to enlarge). It’s being included with driver’s license renewal forms, and I was “lucky” enough to receive one with mine. Those who read my blog know that I fought against this bill because it divides adoptees into haves and have-nots, and further entrenches the expensive, ineffective, inaccessible, and thoroughly unnecessary Confidential Intermediary (CI) program. You can read about my experience fighting this law here as well as the reasons why I strongly disagree with any legislation that does not provide equal, unconditional access to adult adoptees and the shenanigans that occurred surrounding passage of this bill.
It’s clear to those of us who have taken the time to comprehend adoptee rights and the concept of Class Bastard that CIs are merely another way to make money off original birth certificate (OBC) access while paying lip service to our civil rights. This ad, like the law itself and the majority of the media coverage that went with it, fails to acknowledge the reality of this law. Far from “opening” adoptee birth certificates as claimed by sponsor Rep. Sara “Token Adoptee” Feigenholtz, this law continues to dehumanize adoptees. It also continues to conflate contact with access.
Contact is a matter to be decided between the parties involved. Access to one’s identity, on the other hand, is a basic right that should not be denied.
Although Feigenholtz says that Illinois’ law is equivalent to Maine’s, the truth is that in Maine, adoptees can access their OBCs using the same process and paying the same modest fees as everyone else. Thus, Maine’s law puts adoptees on equal footing with non-adoptees. But in Illinois and other states where conditional laws have been enacted, we adoptees must subject ourselves to humiliating processes which may or may not result in OBC access. We may be subjected to to disclosure vetoes that bar us from that documentation, or information may be redacted from our OBCs. Now, if Illinois had enacted a law that was truly the equivalent of Maine’s, in that adoptees could go to the courthouse and request their OBCs using the same process and paying the same fees as “normal” citizens, the state could actually be MAKING money from OBC access.
But no, in Illinois it’s pay-to-play, or in the case of adoptees, pay-to-pray… that you get your information. In other words, deformers’ reassurances aside, Illinois bastards are still bastards.
Not only did I receive this notice with my driver’s license renewal, I actually received several of them. Extra copies to give out to my bastard buddies, perhaps? What a waste! Considering the state can’t even pay its own bills and is contemplating a major tax increase just to make ends meet, the whole thing — the law, the ads, the spiffy new web site — is reprehensible.
This program is being advertised when they don’t even know how to implement the new law. For example, they have no idea how to handle adoptees who have already gone through the Illinois registry and intermediary program and been denied access via disclosure veto. They say we can have access when a birth parent dies… but, if you don’t know the names of your birth parents, how are you supposed to know when they die or obtain a death certificate? We don’t even know how many adoptees have been rejected from the CI program, or why; the state keeps no statistics on that, nor do they fully disclose to participants the risks inherent in participating in a CI program.
At bare minimum, the amount of money being spent on this ad campaign and everything else related to the implementation of this new law needs to be revealed.
What no one is acknowledging is the real intention of this law and the Illinois registry (IARMIE): to funnel unwitting applicants into the state’s CI program, which is maintained by a sole-source, no-bid organization run by Feigenholtz’s pals. For an explanation of all the reasons why CI programs are wrong, read this (and my own personal experience with the CI program here). The Advisory Council for the implementation of this law is long on adoption agencies and “professionals,” and short on actual adult adoptees. (One of the organizations included in the council and claiming to represent adult adoptees is the American Adoption Congress; don’t forget the brouhaha over Feigenholtz crony Melisha Mitchell’s assertion at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last spring that she represented AAC, when she had actually been ousted as their Illinois rep prior to the hearing. According to AAC’s web site, as of today the position of Illinois rep is still vacant, so I’m not sure what use having them on this council is. The above link will also tell you about how Feigenholtz or one of her staffers showed true colors when referring to adult adoptees as “ungrateful bastards.”)
I talked about the problems inherent in this new Illinois law when it was still a bill. Now, we’re stuck with it. Illinois lawmakers consider adoptee rights in this state a done deal. Good luck trying to pass REAL adoptee rights legislation like Maine’s in this state anytime soon. This is the danger of deform.
There are many questions that have yet to be answered, but the advertising campaign continues, at the expense of the Illinois taxpayer and the adoptees left behind.