Archive for the 'Adoptive Parents' Category

Adoption and racism.

[This post has been revised. I published the previous version by accident when I meant to save it as a draft. Sorry about that.]

I have been reading Outsiders Within lately and it has gotten me thinking a lot about the inherent racism that exists in adoption, even same-race adoptions like my own. It’s pretty easy to spot the racism in international adoption practices, especially in the way some adoptive parents go out of their way to inform onlookers that their non-white children are adopted. I guess the stigma of interracial relationships outweighs the stigma of infertility, at least for some people, and that really bothers me because I think they are perpetuating that stigma by putting signs all over their children stating that they are adopted. I’ve made jokes about this before, but it struck me after reading a particularly clueless comment over on the Resist Racism blog that some people may need this sort of thing spelled out for them.

But even “same race” adoptions are built on racist assumptions. How can there even be such a thing as “same race” adoptions unless there is some kind of social consensus about what constitutes race and what features are necessary to pass for a particular race? I think the key here is passing or at least being close, and I think this can also be seen in international adoption, where adoptive parents balance the skin color of children against the affordability of adoption from a particular country. I’ve also made jokes about this, too, but it was apparent from some of the comments that using humor for cultural criticism can fly over the heads of some people.

What is a “white” baby, except a baby that everyone who sees it will agree is white? I wonder how many adopted “white” babies would not be considered white if they’d been raised by their natural families within their natural families’ cultures and given names from those cultures. I wonder how many adoptive parents who claim to love their children also unknowingly look down upon their children’s people. Of course, there are plenty who knowingly do it, too.

Do white prospective adoptive parents seeking same race adoptions ever try to be more specific than just “white”? Do any of them ever specify nations of origin, or broader groups such as Celtic or Germanic or Slavic? Is it more important to them that their children pass for white, or pass for theirs? Is it more important that they fit a desired social category, or that they share their parents’ heritage? Or is it just that they recognize (perhaps unconsciously) that transracial adoptions are problematic in a racist society?

I don’t think any serious, thorough discussion of adoption, even domestic same-race adoption, can occur without a discussion of race and racism. As if adoption wasn’t enough of a mess already.


Big surprise, “forever families” aren’t really forever.

Okay, so I did all this blogging about how I don’t like the term “angry adoptee” and apparently I am the sort of person whose hijinks amuse the Gods to no end because wouldn’t you know it, today I ran across something that makes me want to tattoo “ANGRY ADOPTEE!” to my forehead and march around carrying a sign that says “ANGRY ADOPTEE!” while I shout to random passers by, “I AM AN ANGRY ADOPTEE! AAARGH!!!” until someone locks me up in the angry adoptee wing of the nearest loony bin.

What could cause such a reaction, you ask? Well, if you’re an adoptee or even just a decent human being and you don’t want to be completely enraged for hours, possibly days or weeks, then do not check out this blog post in which cool adoptive mom Judy discovers, much to her horror, an ad in her local paper for an adoption replacement. Wait, that’s a little ambiguous, let’s hyphenate for clarity: re-placement. As in, placing for adoption again.

Chloe, re-placed adopteeSorry, Chloe. You see, it just didn’t work out. It was time to part ways. After over nine years. Hey, these things happen. We love you, but we’re not in love with you, and maybe it would be better if you saw other parents, and we saw other children. We just can’t deal with all your issues. This just isn’t what we wanted. But hey, we can still be friends.

Tragic, isolated case? Oh, no. This particular adoption agency has a fucking return policy. “When adoption can’t be forever, adoption disruption is an option.” Go read that page. Go read it! And if it doesn’t make you completely sick and/or furious, please do the rest of humanity a favor and throw yourself off the nearest cliff.

I was thinking about going through and listing all the things that are wrong with this, but I don’t even know where to begin. No, wait, here’s the one thing that I think bothers me the most, and that is saying something considering how much everything about this is just wrong. All this bullshit so many adoptive parents spew all over the internet about how they are their adoptive children’s real parents is a big fucking lie as long as things like this are allowed to exist. Real parents don’t need an escape clause. Any adoption agency that offers one should be shut down immediately and the people responsible for it never allowed to work with children again.

I have gone out of my way several times in this blog to say that I am not anti-adoption. However, if we have actually gotten to the point where adoption is not final, where adoptive parents do not have the same commitment to their children as I have to my biological child, then we truly would be better off outlawing adoption because it has become nothing more than trafficking in human lives.

They are scared shitless of us.

Because they know that, sooner or later, their kids are going to find us and talk to us. Adoptees used to be invisible, not just to everyone else but to each other. There were no adoptee gathering places, no “bastard bars” that could be used as starting points for organizing ourselves. It was perfect. Shame, secrecy, invisibility, isolation.

Then along came the goddamn internet. Newsgroups, web forums and blogs, oh my! Totally fucked up a good thing, didn’t it? Adoptees sharing their experiences, finding common threads, finding their own roots, too. Organizing. Opening records. More and more of us talking to each other.

But that’s not all. Transracial adoptions have become so common that adoptees went from being invisible to sticking out like sore thumbs. The cat’s out of the bag and talking to the other cats when nobody else is around to control the discussion. Who knows what they could be saying to one another. Maybe they will pass along those adoption related rumors they’re hearing on the internets.

This is why some people are so eager to silence us, lampoon us, step in and control our own discourse and tell us what to think. Their own adopted children, sooner or later, will encounter an “angry adoptee.” It’s unavoidable now, even for people living on remote tropical islands. And it doesn’t matter how much they believe we are crazy or just bitter or whatever, and how much they believe they will be able to raise their kids to not buy into our crazy ranting or whatever dismissive terminology they apply to what we have to say. They know there’s a chance, maybe just a small chance but still a chance, that their kids will listen to us.

If you are the type of adoptive parent that seems to be prevalent on the internet these days, even one kid listening to defogged adoptees is too many if it’s your kid. Nobody wants their kids to fall in with a bad crowd. And in their eyes, we are a very bad crowd.

We will be here when their Guatlings and their China Dolls, their expensive white babies and their outsourced surrogate kids all come looking for others like them. We will have some very interesting conversations.

This is another reason why I believe cross-“triad” discourse is a big fucking waste of time. The most subversive thing an adoptee can do is talk honestly to another adoptee about adoption. If we are just here for each other, no one can stop us.

They are scared shitless of us, and they should be.

Reunion is discovering how much you’ve lost.

My blog stats page says that one of the search engine terms used to find my blog today was “i wanted to be adopted is something wrong.” I’m not going to pick on this or single it out for detailed analysis, but it made me think about what’s going on now in my life and how much of what I’ve lost through adoption I’m still discovering. I do think it tells us just how much adoption has been romanticized in our society that people wish it had happened to them. On the other hand, if we assume for a moment that the reason for this wish is a desire to be less connected to one’s family (and I can’t imagine another reason for it), then it also tells us that at least on some level people don’t entirely buy the dogma about adoption forming the same connections as biological relation. Otherwise such wishes would be entirely nonsensical.

Things have been going a little better with my adoptive parents. Thank you, all of you who posted supportive comments about that. My a-mother visited again yesterday and played with our daughter for a while. She and I talked a little bit, and I told her that I would be visiting my newfound relatives next month. She didn’t seem bothered by that. At one point she referred to my natural mother as “the mother” which was weird but I let it pass. But I think that no matter how accepting and supportive they try to be about it, reunion always threatens a-parents. I think that, just like the person wishing he or she had been adopted, they know on some level that there are biological connections that can’t be created artificially.

Yesterday I got an email from my brother. My natural brother. I can’t tell you how much that blew my mind when it happened, because I thought I would be the one tracking down him and my sister. We have exchanged emails a little bit now and I already feel a strong connection to this guy who I have not even had a spoken conversation with yet. I think we’re going to get along well. I sure hope so.

Some people might say it’s all in my head. Actually, my wife’s friend pretty much said so, not to me but to my wife when they were talking about this. I can certainly understand this argument intellectually even though it pisses me off to no end. The idea is pretty simple. If I feel like there should be a connection then I will feel a connection. It’s kind of like a placebo effect.

But here’s where it’s wrong: All personal connections are in the head. We feel connected to the other people in our lives through our remembered shared experiences with them and the things we know and believe about them, and all of that is in the head, too. It doesn’t really matter whether we feel connected to our biological relatives because we really are physically wired to feel that way or because we just think we are, the result is the same.

I have a niece and three nephews I’ve never met. I have been an uncle for 15 years and I never knew it. My daughter has had cousins all along. It’s like coming home to a place you’ve never been, to a family you never knew, and realizing how much you’ve missed out on.

And how much you’ve missed them.

What’s so funny?

One thing I’ve noticed about adoptees is that most of us seem to have a wicked sense of humor. Anecdotally, at least, I can’t think of any other aspect of identity that seems to correlate to a person’s tendency to take comedy a little too far (for most people, anyways). And I wonder why that is.

A long, long time ago I remember catching part of a TV interview with comedic actor Dom DeLuise in which somehow the topic of overweight people’s sense of humor came up. This was at a time when being fat wasn’t quite as common an experience for most Americans as it is today and I guess the interviewer was trying to get the fat person’s point of view. In any case, DeLuise said something to the effect that although heavy people may seem funny and like to laugh a lot, they are usually very sad on the inside.

Well, I am overweight and adopted, and people tell me I am hi-larious, so maybe there’s something worth looking into here. When I started this blog, I really didn’t anticipate adding a humor category but now there is one. I wonder if this is a laugh-or-cry type of thing. I haven’t blogged about my mother or about grieving in a while, and I wonder if I’m trying to avoid dealing with it.

I think that humor is an amazing defense mechanism. I remember a couple months after 9/11 when I first saw that photoshop of the Death Star blowing up the World Trade Center and I just laughed and laughed, even though I had been horribly affected by the actual attack. It was a release; a huge weight lifting off my shoulders. When we live in a world where people openly call their adopted children from Guatemala “Guatlings” or dress their adopted children from China in shirts that say “Made in China” in big letters on the front, where people talk about adoption as charity or engage in obvious collecting behavior, where children are reduced to commodities and anyone who says anything critical about that is called bitter, well I guess we could either lose ourselves in despair or make jokes about it.

But I wonder if what we’re really defending ourselves from (or at least what I’m defending myself from) is the real, inescapable tragedy that lives within each of us and is lived by each of us daily. 9/11 photoshops only started to become funny (for some people–for others they’re still not funny) after time had put enough distance between us and the actual tragedy. When a tragedy is right there staring you in the face, humor just isn’t going to help. But maybe if we can laugh at something else, something related but not too close to our own inner tragedy, then we can deal with the painful facts of our own lives that can’t be laughed at.

I can’t laugh about my adoptive parents not calling me at all since the day I told them I’d found my mother’s identity, in spite of feeling closer to them on that day than I had in a long time and in spite of their claimed support of my search. I can’t laugh about my two phone calls to my adoptive mother being so short, her lack of interest in talking to me so obvious, or the one time since that she came to visit with my daughter but didn’t stay long enough to talk to me or my wife. I can’t laugh at how much closer my adoptive parents are to my sister, their biological child, than they are to me. Closer to her fiance, even. And I can’t laugh at how none of those things really bothers me all that much, even though they all should bother me a lot.

Of course, I can’t laugh at the things that do bother me, either. If my natural mother were still alive, we would laugh and laugh at how much we looked alike. A picture of her at 18 could be a picture of me at 18 dressed in drag. But I’m 8 years too late to share that laugh with her. I can’t laugh at all those times someone in my adoptive family would remark on two relatives’ family resemblance in my presence. I can’t laugh about my 3-year-old daughter wondering why she sees so little of one of her grandmas, all of a sudden.

And then I see these people out on the internet, these idiots, talking about adopting a child like it’s the same as adopting a puppy or even a highway and what am I supposed to do? My adoptive parents were actually pretty good, just human, and their human mistakes made adoption into a pretty big clusterfuck for me, one that only became apparent years and years after I became an adult. Most of these people aren’t even that good. But of course they all tell themselves and each other how they’re different, they’ve got love, or God, or wealth, or something on their side and it will be different. Oh, sure it will. You are a beautiful and unique snowflake. Whatever.

So I can get mad at these people and sad about all the kids who will be raised by nincompoops. Who won’t know what a family resemblance feels like when they’re growing up. Who will be told that they are loved as much as their parents’ bio-kids but will secretly know better. Who will have a wicked sense of humor.

Or I can laugh and make jokes about how dumb these people sound. It probably won’t change anything they do, but what will? And maybe it’s that laughter that will carry me through my own pain, just as similar laughter will carry each of their adopted kids through, too. Maybe that’s what’s so funny.

Homofauxbia and the Third World Womb

Or: Hot Girl-on-Girl Colonialism and Exploitation!

This is the continuation of a previous entry in which I started analyzing a post from a blog called Subversive Writer (which is about as subversive as a minivan) that is just so chock full o’ what’s wrong with the current culture of adoption (especially international adoption) that the first two paragraphs were enough to generate a whole post’s worth of criticism. At long last we can move on to paragraph three:

Asia is now officially off the map in terms of singles adopting – China, South Korea and India all demand that couples be married (and of course, heterosexual). As if it wasn’t heterosexual couples who had abandoned those little girls in the first place!

Well, this is telling. There are two different things going on here, in addition to the continuation of the previous theme of adoption as entitlement. First, we have a covert attempt to frame adoption as a gay and lesbian moral imperative: those breeders are abandoning kids left and right–it’s up to upstanding gay and lesbian couples to save the children! Only a completely irrational, homophobic person, then, would dare interfere with this noble attempt by adoptive gays and lesbians to clean up the straights’ messes. This is really just another version of The Wrong Tummy in which heterosexual reproduction is God’s screw-up and the resulting helpless little bastards are saved by gay angels. No wonder Rosie O’Donnell likes that stupid story so much.

Second, we have the overt construction of child abandonment as something done by heterosexual couples. Wow, can you really be a lesbian without being a feminist these days? How much ignorance does it take about the realities of heterosexual relationships in highly patriarchal societies, gender roles in traditional Chinese culture, and the population policies of modern China, to actually try to claim that heterosexual Chinese couples are coming to mutual decisions to abandon their daughters, and that those decisions are made without any external pressures? Now, I am not defending child abandonment here (being an adoptee, that’s pretty low on the list of things I would try to defend). I’m saying that no honest, thoughtful person would dare try to imply that it was a casual choice that two people arrived at mutually without any social context.

“Honey, what do you say we go dump that baby girl in an alley and then return quickly so we may resume having vaginal intercourse without birth control?”

“Sounds good to me, snookums. Can we stop for a bite while we’re out? All this irresponsible sexual reproduction is making me hungry.”

Um, yeah. That’s totally how it goes down, every time. Not only does this allegedly subversive writer ignore the systematic oppression of women in patriarchal societies and the social institutions that perpetuate that oppression, she wants to reap the fruits of it. Yes, I guess you can be a lesbian and an overt misogynist at the same time! I blame The L Word. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

HOWEVER, a new wave is on the horizon. Surrogate mothers, both in Asia and India, are now presenting a new way for gay couples (and heterosexual singles) to have a family – at a much lesser price than even the cost of going through conventional adoption agencies.

Reproductive tourism” is a booming business.

The irony here is that reproductive tourism is exactly the phrase I would have used to disparage this practice, as I have called some particularly shallow international adoptive parents “adoption tourists” in the past. I guess there’s something to be said for just being overt about it.

I’m just going to leave you with that. I was quite disappointed (but not really surprised) to discover that our “subversive writer” is just a little too hungry for attention and is now going out of her way to provoke adoptees. Clearly the two or three dozen additional blog reads that came from her blog’s mention on an adoptee forum have gone to her head and I’m not going to encourage her anymore. Instead, I will let this serve as a segue to the much more interesting and important topic of international surrogacy and the globalization of human reproduction.

Farewell, Elisa. Keep on raging for the machine!

I don’t care if fat old gay people can’t have kids.

And it really pains me to say it, too. I’m not exactly in great shape myself, and I’m hardly a spring chicken. I have always believed in respecting the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people, and in cherishing the diversity of living and loving that is possible among human beings.

I do care if fat old gay people are discriminated against in the workplace. I care if they are denied the same access to housing and health care that everyone else has. I care if they are humiliated, intimidated, insulted, or in any way not treated with the dignity and respect that I believe all human beings deserve. I support the right of fat old gay people to marry other fat old gay people, or whoever else is willing, I mean, hey, whatever man. And I will never just sit idly while the rights of fat old gay people are infringed.

But I will never, ever support the idea that fat old gay people–or, for that matter, skinny young straight people, or any people–are entitled to have children. In fact, it’s really quite shocking to me that anyone would claim otherwise. However, many adoptive parents and other adoption industry cheerleaders (whether gay or straight or anything in between) do this quite frequently by implication. While this is often a source of annoyance or amusement for me, depending on my mood, it was not until I ran across an astonishingly arrogant blog post on the topic of adoption and surrogacy that I began to grasp the scope of this vast sense of entitlement.

So let’s take a little walk through this bit of sophomoric spew and see what it can tell us about the ideology of adoption as entitlement. It’s not that the post in question is worthwhile in and of itself, or that the author is anyone of consequence, but rather that it is an exemplary coalescence of the disparate components found throughout modern adoption ideology: narcissism, avarice, privilege, dehumanization, self-righteousness, deliberate obfuscation of the issues, and more internalized misogyny than you can shake a stick at. It is, in fact, a discourse analytic gold mine, with ore so rich (and revealing) that I will not be getting past the first two paragraphs in this post:

As of June 1st of this year, China has barred singles from adopting their abandoned children – along with couples over 50, overweight persons or those with more than 2 divorces and less than $80,000 income.

Under the pretext of “we have less babies available”, Chinese officials have found a way to exclude gays and lesbians from having families. Along with everyone else they deem as “undesirable”.

Three little words tell you everything you need to know about where this post is going, and it ain’t pretty. PretextWe know you can give us more babies, China. We see through your flimsy excuses. Stop being the OPEC of adoption and hand over those goddamn babies. They deemThese people are considered undesirable only because China says so, and China is being a dick. The exclusion of people who might die soon because they’re old, fat, or both, or who might split up soon because they have a pattern of doing so, or who might not have the greatest financial stability, or who might keep the kid in childcare all the time because they’re single and working, is completely arbitrary. How are any of these people less deserving of having a child? They’re entitled, too!

The exclusion of old, fat, poor people in unstable relationships can be understood as unfair only if the adoptive parents’ “needs” are given priority over the needs of the child, which is exactly what is being expressed here. Maybe, just maybe, China does not want to put children through the difficult transition of an international adoption only to have them wind up in orphanages or other unpleasant circumstances again. Perhaps, instead of using some trumped up excuse to exclude people they don’t like, the Chinese government is simply no longer as desperate as it once was to find homes for these children. If you think that’s bad news, then you need to stop gazing at yourself in the mirror and see the world around you.

Now, I am not trying to make excuses for China. The communist subsidiary of Wal-Mart is not known for being terribly concerned about human rights. And I am not going to even try to defend China’s exclusion of gay couples who are otherwise qualified to adopt. What I am saying, though, is that it doesn’t matter one bit how much this decision “hurts” gay prospective adoptive parents, because–and this is the part that prospective adoptive parents, both gay and straight, really seem to be unable to grasp–it’s not about them.

If the restriction against adoption by gay and lesbian couples results in a deterioration of circumstances for children in Chinese orphanages or a reduction in either the quantity or quality of adoption placements (assuming such placements are an improvement over existing conditions, which is questionable but I’ll go along with it for the sake of argument), then it matters (and by “quality” I mean the quality of home for the adoptee). Because that’s the whole point of adoption, or at least it’s supposed to be: the well being of children born into difficult circumstances. But that’s clearly not what it’s about, here:

Chinese officials have found a way to exclude gays and lesbians from having families.

I’m sure this sounded like some kind of justified outrage at the time it was written but really it’s quite hilarious. Gays and lesbians did not materialize out of thin air; they already have families. What have Chinese officials actually excluded gays and lesbians from having? Kids? No, I know lots of gays and lesbians with kids and none of them had to be ordered from China. Gays and lesbians have been excluded from adopting orphans and abandoned children from China.

Well, thanks, I already knew that. And I agree that it is homophobic and that there is no reason to believe it is anything but against the best interests of the children. But suppose, for whatever crazy reason, that this really meant that gay and lesbian couples could no longer have children. Would that make it any worse? No, not one bit. Adoption is not based on serving the needs of adoptive parents, it is about finding ways to make the needs of adoptive parents serve the needs of children. That’s the difference between adoption and trafficking in human lives.

Tune in next time for part two: The Third World Womb – or – Lesbians Who Think Patriarchy Is Just Fine As Long As It Is Far Away And Works In Their Favor.