Sunday, May 28, 2017

Why You Shouldn't Tell Adoptees to be Grateful

* If you are not an adoptee, or a birthmom...and you think adoptees should be "grateful", this one is for you.*

I am an adoptee and like other adoptees, if I say something unfavorable about adoption, it doesn't take long for the hate-mail to start rolling in. The most common thing I'm told is that I should feel "grateful" for having been adopted.  :::insert sound of gnashing teeth here::::

The experience of being told you should be "grateful" is something almost universal in adopted people's lives ( yet, non-adopted persons always think they're saying something unique or deep when they throw this at us). In reality, most of us have heard this before.

If you have said this to an adopted person, you are in no way unique, special, intelligent, or even exceptional. In fact, by doing so, you've unwittingly put yourself on par with a category that is kind of akin to the way most of us look at people who still fly the confederate flag as a show of patriotism.

Like insensitive assholes.

To many of us, you sound like people that are speaking from a place of privilege that is so deeply entrenched that you cannot even possibly be made aware of how ignorant you are. That's why many of us don't argue-- because we think you've gone so far down the rabbit hole that there's no educating you.

You see, outsiders look at my life and effectively decide for me that I have no right to legitimately grieve the loss of a loving bond with my original mother, to be saddened by the incredibly underdeveloped and permanently stunted relationships with my siblings that were severely and irreparable harmed by this fracture ( I talk to 3/5), aunts ( who may or may not think you are a serial killer by virtue of being adopted), uncles, and cousins (whom will likely treat you like a con-artist when you come out of the woodwork because there's just NO WAY Jeb could have fathered a child without ME KNOWING ABOUT IT!! Julian's in this for the money, I just know it!! ::rolls eyes:::). I'm being quip, but this is often our reality. It's utterly ridiculous, but true. Adoption is the gift that just keeps on herpes. Our relationships with our birth-parents aren't the only ones that get off-track; they all do. And our kids, and our grand-kids...and on and on and on...

I have no childhood memories with my siblings.

I have no inside jokes with them.

I have no memories with most of them. Not a single one.

Adoption is fucking complex.

But seriously, many non-adopted folks really think we have no right to feel anything about the loss of our original heritages, the government's refusal to let us have unfettered access to our birth-certificates, and all the traditions and normalcy included. No right to feel anything about any damned thing. We're just supposed to be robot-people wearing fake plastered-on smiles who move around our Stepford homes saying, " Praise the lawd, adoption saved my life! I'm so grateful...I'm so grateful..I'm so grateful..." like broken records until our faces crumble and fall off.

And when we don't...HOW DARE WE!!! I mean... we had the privilege of losing our entire families, what's not to like about that? How dare we have feelings and complex emotions and... EXPRESS OURSELVES without your approval? GOD DEMANDS YOU BE GRATEFUL for being thrown in that trashcan covered from head to toe in cigarette burns, Bob. Yeah Sally, maybe they called you stupid, maybe you were repeatedly raped beginning at the age of four..but your adoption was a gift from God.  It was God's plan.

( Of course the Holocaust wasn't some divine plan! It was an example of the worst of humanity's willful ignorance. It was free will. It was a result of a bunch of people being violent and terrible, and if they had chosen instead to have been empathetic and kind-- had the Nazis refused to go along with Hitler's evil plans..he'd have been like a raving lunatic in the park with no followers, no one to enact his madness.)

Do you know how ridiculous you sound when you tell us God wanted us to lose our families? You sound like psychopaths.

In adoption, you see, many adoptees are the symptom bearers for their families and a lot of emotional lateral violence happens to us, which is no laughing matter. I knew another adopted girl whose dad used to jokingly say to her, "Your name is ug. UGLY!" and her mom used to sometimes call her P.I.A. It stood for "pain in the ass."

When her dad had a particularly stressful day at work, he'd come home on a hair-trigger. The slightest transgression could result in a severe beating with the end of the belt for her. Living in that state of constant fear caused her to not only NOT attach to her family ( which frustrated them even more), but to develop anxiety, depression, and Post-traumatic stress disorder. She made her first suicide attempt at thirteen years of age because the combination of not feeling loved and abuse was a deadly cocktail.

She wanted to tell someone, but who? After all, her parents had threatened that if she didn't hide how dysfunctional their family really was that they would send her back to foster care...and anyone who has ever been in foster care, knows that just about anything is better than that. So, this adopted girl learned to pretend that everything was okay, even when it wasn't. She was sexually assaulted at a day camp at age 9 and when she came home and told her mother, there was no response. She wasn't taken to a doctor, wasn't even taken to a therapist until years later. She was nine years old. The family was concerned with appearances, and when her well-being was a threat to their image, they ignored whatever she was experiencing, no matter how dire the situation. This plight is all too common for adoptees.

It is common for not just parents, but entire families to release their stress and anger onto adoptees, because we are the outsiders, and so are the lowest ones on the totem pole in many cases. We are often the most vulnerable and so we make easy targets for gossip, malice, and shit slinging. There is no one in the family genetically wired to be protective of us, as there is no primal bond.

Anyway, there is a difference between divine providence and capitalism, and adoption is a billion dollar for-profit industry. It was once about protecting children, but it is now about profit...OR...childless couples buying the experience of being parents. It is no longer configured to be in the service of the child. It is a big business, and most of the participants are there because they want to maximize profits.

Non-adopted people, I need you to understand that. You see that number up there? We're not talking about chump-change. We're talking about something on the level of Microsoft. Please don't be naive enough to think that the best interest of vulnerable kids are unconditionally protected when we're talking about this level of the billions.

If adoption was only about the child's needs ( as it should be), white babies wouldn't cost more than black babies. Disabled children wouldn't get passed over time and time again, marked as undesirables, in favor of their able-bodied counterparts. Kids with difficulties would be routinely chosen too.Older children would be chosen too. If it was really about the kid, parents wouldn't be ordering up their perfect child like they're ordering a gourmet meal a la carte. "I'd like a Caucasian please, under 2 years old, preferably blue eyes.."

If that's not objectification, I don't know what is. 

Adopters are typically looking for their perfect child, which is symptomatic of a huge thinking error...b/c... there is no perfect child. No adopted child will ever fit into the fantasy of what an adoptive parent wanted them to be. They'll only be able to be themselves.

You see, adoptive parents generally want children to fit into their lives, to assimilate to their traditions, to be more like them...and we learn that very young. This is how we lose our cultural identities. Because, even though we're good pretenders...we are wired in many ways to be like our original families. Many of us will lose our original languages and customs because of our adoptions. Then, as adults we're alienated from both cultures--as we will be able to fully experience neither. Then, add the fact that adoption is big business into the mix and you have a recipe for disaster.

But you tell us to be GRATEFUL...

And then many people acrimoniously tack on, " Well, you're lucky you weren't aborted." ....Not knowing that a great many adoptees secretly wish they had been, and that many adoptees commit suicide each year because the pain is just that deep.

What the hell are you guys thinking? Like, what we adoptees really need is a firm hand to just slap us into reality? Like, maybe if you just TELL US WHAT WE SHOULD FEEL we can stop feeling what we actually feel b/c you've decided for us that our feelings are socially unacceptable? Like...maybe if you scream loud enough and keep telling us to be grateful, we will be? Um...that's cray cray.

And yet you still do it.

Cuz let's be real about this, when you're telling us to be grateful, you're reprimanding us.


It's like the equivalent of telling a depressed person not to be depressed....

It doesn't work.

If that's all we had to do, there would be no need for zoloft or prozac or mental wards or therapy.

Treatment often helps, medication might take the edge off...but ultimately, every person either finds their way through the adoption minefield or doesn't, and the pathway is as unique as the person and when the person has endured trauma ( as ALL ADOPTEES have see: The Primal Wound), we need treatment for that trauma both at an individual and societal level, and empathy. Not you pointing your crooked finger screaming, "BE GRATEFUL DAMN IT!"

Every adoptee is different and every adoption is different. But for most of us, our emotional life-cycle doesn't even follow the same progression as yours does. Instead of Erikson, we get this ( adoptees start at the bottom of the chart):

You see "identity cultivation" on that chart? Experiencing the complexities of either being grateful or not being grateful, is a part of that. The way we name our experience is a part of our identities (not yours). Sadly, some of us never make it through the adoption fog though... in my opinion, those are people who psychologically can't handle having any negative feeling about their own adoptions. Plus, it's really hard to be a dissenter. I think foggy adoptees are like Stepford people to me, they aren't emotionally integrated. They think in terms of absolutes, like you gratitude-people do.

But in life, there are innumerable complexities.

Have you ever walked up to a person that has lost all their arms and legs and said, "You should be so so grateful!" Probably not. Why? Because most of us accept that even if you're a kick-ass amputee who sky-dives and climbs mountains, living life without your limbs is fucking hard. Yet you don't consider that in many ways living life without a racial identity, without a biological family, without your mother's love, without  emotional connections, without parents is like the emotional equivalent of that for many of us. Like, the fake limbs help us survive..but they don't feel the same and most of us always miss our real legs. They don't feel the same because they aren't the same.

Adoptees who grieve themselves to death don't do it, because they just woke up one day and said, " Oh seems like a great day to die!" NO. It happens because they needed your help and you judgmental "gratitude" shamers were too busy telling them how they SHOULD feel, rather than listening to them and offering actual support.

I think many of you confuse condemnation with support. They're not the same thing.

You make room in society for gratitude, but not realism.

Realism, involves having complex multi-faceted emotions.

Because, in order to have to be honest with yourself.

We adoptees need to be honest about our experiences, and you should treasure that honesty because if you actually listen to us, you will greatly improve the system and you'll be able to help children that need it.

So, let we adoptees be honest about our experience. Let us define our own lives.

Especially on our own fucking Facebook pages.

You don't get to make it taboo for someone to share their truth, and then sit around saying, "why didn't Bob tell me he was going to kill himself." Um...because you created a culture of shame. You communicated to Bob that he wasn't allowed to express anything negative about his adoption, so he had no one to turn to. There was no one Bob could talk to about his depression b/c you were too busy screaming, " BE GRATEFUL" in his face.....reprimanding him for being brave enough to express pain.

We adoptees are brave as fuck.

Like really.

Many of us know what it's like to feel completely and totally alone.

Even with you shamers in our faces telling us how we should feel, many of us still have the courage to stand up for ourselves and our community.

We understand what is at stake.

So many of you offer us no real help, no love-- only judgment, and somehow still think yourselves the good guys in this...all because you're defending adoption, just like Sister Mary Margaret told you to in the first grade. Most of you don't even know why you're defending it in its current iteration!

Ask yourself why you defend adoption? Have you exposed yourself only to happy endings? Have you bought into the myth of the perfect adoptive family? You know somebody who adopted a kid and the kid is always smiling in their cute facebook pics?

Why are you ignoring the data?

Why are you ignoring what we adoptees are telling you?

::le sigh:::

Most of us have a bunch of feelings about our lives. For me, sometimes I feel gratitude and sometimes I don't. It's something that is always in flux.

Most of us have a bunch of feelings about our adoptions.

Yet, I'm always a little baffled when some of you fucks think I hate my adoptive parents just because I express something distasteful about them.

Some adoptive family members are like " YOU DISLOYAL UNGRATEFUL BASTARD..." cuz like, if you just target me and further alienate me a little more, then maybe I'll FINALLY feel like I'm bonded to you. Like...all that hate makes me love you that much more? Yell a little louder, then maybe I'll give a shit? That's the thinking here?

To me, it doesn't look like you're thinking at all, ape brain.

I'll let you in on a secret about a lot of us adoptees: many of us feel no bond to you at all because we're not biologically wired to. We just pretend one. What many of us feel is akin to what hostages feel. Except that you are literally the strangers that the law forced us to live with, without our consent forever. And then society says, "oh how lovely" if we dare say something.

I digress.

That said, when attacked for my viewpoints on adoption, I'm sometimes tempted to start explaining myself. Like.. to start spilling all the details, the nitty gritty that none of you gratitude shamers even have a clue about because I never told you ( or anyone other than my doctors). Not my best friends. Certainly not my adoptive family. For the first 6 years, not even my husband.

Sometimes I almost blurt my reasons out.

But then, I realize...gratitude shamers are assholes. Why would I want to be that vulnerable with assholes?

But you shouldn't need to know my personal truths in order to be a decent human being.

Plus, my story is my story. Not yours. You don't get to demand that I explain myself.

If one day it's a part of my healing process to speak curtly about my reasons for feeling the way I feel, I will, but as of today, I know that isn't in my best interest to open myself gratitude shaming assholes.

Because make no mistake, you are assholes.

Ass. Holes.

()--- that's you.

Ass + Holes.

3 + () = You.

Donkey +Pit= Asshole.

Generally, non-adopted persons think of we adoptees who are screaming at you from the rafters, to pay attention, to listen to us,are thought of as brats. After all, losing our mothers, fathers, sister, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins really couldn't have been that traumatic for us, right? As long as we had a good replacement family ( even though we could never bond with them and they could never bond with us)? We should be thankful for that jacked-up prefrontal cortex? That's what non-adopted people tend to think.

Statistically speaking, adoptees are six times more likely to land in a home where they will experience physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. So, there is a high likelihood that the adoptee that you're shaming and demanding should feel "grateful" is actually a victim of one of these crimes. There's a strong possibility that the person you're sanctimoniously demanding needs to feel "gratitude" is a victim of child rape or some other insipid atrocity. Would you really sit down in front of a child who has just been raped and tell them that, " They NEED to feel GRATEFUL because they could have been aborted"?  Of course you wouldn't...yet, you do...when you do this to us, that's exactly what you're doing..

Have you ever considered that maybe many birth mothers didn't want to give up their children? In fact, in a great number of adoptions which occur in India and South America, many of these women DID NOT legitimately give up their kids. That's right, a lot of the kids who end up in the adoption system got there because of criminal activity, deceit, and lies. If you adopt from these countries, you have no way of knowing what you are getting. That Indian child you think you saved, could very well have a mother out there looking for him right now that will grieve herself to death, all because you wanted to be a mom. Kidnapping babies and then selling them on the black market and providing procurers false papers is still an industry unto itself abroad.  

Why do you pretend it doesn't exist, or that it only happens in rare circumstances?

Of course, America is more regulated, right? As far as relinquishment--yes, as far as ensuring the safety and well-being of adopted kids--hell no. My parents had to take a class, get 4 letters of recommendation, and had to provide some bank statements. You have to do more than that to get a job nowadays!


So basically, as long as you could pass yourself off as a semi-sane person for a few hours in the 80's you were approved.


And of course now in the US, folks usually have to get cleared by a psychologist-- but come on-- it takes years to really get to know someone...years...and even after that, we all have our private selves and our public selves. Do you really think that adopters who have harmful agendas are going to sit in those interviews and be like, "oh yes...I believe very much in slapping, spanking, waterboarding, starvation, and torture..." For as much as I love both psychology and psychiatry, they haven't provided us with even ONE definitive cure for a single mental illness. Treatments yes...but not cures. Not even one. If you can't stop pedophiles from re-offending, why are you so confident that you're able to reliably detect them?

Psychology is generally great after damage has already happened. Maybe they can screen out the folks who are obviously disturbed ( talking to imaginary people during session, paranoid, ranting and raving, etc), but I don't believe science is advanced enough to detect more complex disorders, which are equally as dangerous to children, especially with sooo many theoretical orientations. Picking out good parents for someone means you need a specialty in psychological profiling, but the people conducting these assessments are just your basic run-of-the-mill counselors. And why don't we require the screening psychologists to specialize in profiling? Because it costs too much money.

You see how we're failing kids here? See how we could do a lot better?

So, there is NEVER a guarantee that an adopted child will be placed with good people. It's so weird to me when people are like, " I picked her parents based on their photo book...I just knew." you really think someone is going to don a meat-cleaver in one of those things and tell you that their favorite hobby is dismembering roadkill? Probably not.

There's so many people that just have a lot of unresolved shit around infertility and unconscionably put that on their kid.Then, there are some people that are just assholes.

And people that are narcissists and adopted b/c they wanted to use the child to fill unmet needs.

You don't get to know someone from a photobook. I wouldn't let someone babysit my dog based on a photo-book. Why the hell is that the gold-standard in adoption?

The system is antiquated as fuck, and broken beyond belief.

Gratitude is a very personal thing. Nobody chooses to have depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder....and adoptees are disproportionately affected by all three disorders, yet... we're supposed to abandon our process and feel grateful all because you say so? Have you ever told a grieving widow to shut the fuck up and just be grateful? How about a kid whose dad just died?

No, you don't....just us.

It's not totally your fault though. After all, you've been sold the lie that we inherited perfect families and lived idyllic lives...anyone with a perfect family should be grateful?


There is no such thing as a perfect family.

All families have secrets. All families hide dysfunction. But if you've already suffered the horrendously traumatic loss of your entire family, you're starting with a huge gaping primal wound. You're starting from a place of amputation, and you're still actively bleeding while people around you are laughing and smiling and telling you how grateful you need to be and lucky you you're bleeding to death.

Many of us may feel gratitude at some point, and many of us won't. Gratitude is not what adoption is about. Adoption is about loss--because in order for that child to be placed with adoptive parents, something bad happened beforehand. Something so deep and primal and traumatic that most non-adopted persons can't understand it. A mother and child lost each other, sometimes forever. Most of you will never know what it is like to go through life without a single biological relative, because most of you grew up with at least one ( a sibling, a grandparent, etc.).

We need our allies. We love our allies. Allies are incredibly actualized, wise people.

But you are not an ally, or even a friend if you tell us to be "grateful".

Our experiences are ours to define, just as they were ours to live.

1 comment:

Serb 101 said...

You told my life story. I wasn't adopted but I was a victim of paternity fraud, which produces exactly the same symptoms ad adoption. I was bro8ught up by Anglo-Celts in Australia. My family life was dysfunctional.

To add insult to injury my biological father is Serbian, and I was brought up by non-Serbs. I was the alien in the family... the only Slav among Anglo-Celts. I was at the bottom of the packing order until, around my 20th birthday, I'd had enough and left the family I had grown up in. I was rejected by my relations on my father's side including my father. Also, being illegitimate is a handicap among Serbs. Serbs do not accept illegitimates. I feel somewhat accepted among Russians, who seem not to have a problem with "stray Serbs". Otherwise I call myself an Omega Slav (#OmegaSlav). I'm sure I'm not the only #OmegaSlav out there, considering the adoption industry's plundering of Eastern Europe for it's children after the fall of communism.

I started my own blog about intercountry adoption (ICA), although my blog is more political and I talk about the sociology and geo-politics of ICA. You can check it out at Feel free to follow my blog and comment. I also cover topics related to adoption/ICA. Good luck.