Why are adoptees never asking, always answering questions?

This is the final question in the series: “Anti-adoption month: 30 answers to 30 questions on adoption” [link].

This is the “meta” question that is only revealed after years spent answering such questions as represented by the past month of answers, and which themselves only skim the surface of what need be discussed. Reframed, this might be asked thusly:

When is it our turn to ask the questions? When is it our turn to find answers? At long last, at what point do we assume any kind of position of strength among all of this seemingly endless back and forth, both with others, but more importantly, among ourselves?

Answer: In considering this whole exercise of questions and answers at face value, we ignore the unstated but now quite obvious “dark matter” of adoption discourse. By this I mean to say the systemic nature of what we are up against; its existence whether we acknowledge it or not; it’s actual need for a “useless debate” that leaves us spinning wheels and not accomplishing much; and beyond that—and perhaps most importantly—the intrinsic danger of our own mimicry of that system. As mothers, true families, adoptees, and communities thereof, half of our battle is being aware of how our actions resonate within the abysmal echo chamber of the mediated adoption landscape, and then how we might act in ways that do not in and of themselves exacerbate the societal injustice we are activating against.

I once joked to a friend that the discussion of “Democrat” vs. “Republican”—or of any two-party electoral conflict—was like that of docile cows, awaiting their turn in a slaughterhouse, discussing “ketchup” vs. “mustard”. This maps readily onto any discussion which ignores the context of the debate, or how such a context itself frames its very structure, and thus predetermines its outcome. Despite the positing within the media of a recent “anti-adoption” activism, the roots of this resistance are long and deep. How many decades have adoptee activists been in the trenches trying to change states’ laws concerning birth certificates? A century ago, women were sewing symbolic scraps of fabric onto their absconded-with children in the hopes of reunion. What does it mean that 100 years after this, and after 50 years of my own displacement, that nothing has significantly changed in the world of trafficking/adoption, except for a particularly obnoxious formalization of the process? A spoonful of sugar to help down the bitter pills otherwise very hard to swallow? There exist architects whose sole responsibility is designing slaughterhouses such that entering cattle do not sense their own impending doom; that they do not react, or manifest any fear, so as not to spoil the final “product”. We have been cajoled by similar “architects” to not react by the “designed” and “designer” discourse surrounding the subject of adoption.

But first, an aside on such bureaucratic context, that I know many can relate to: I was working locally for a time with a group that does research for adoptees returning to Lebanon, similar to such organizations in other source countries. They are not an NGO, they are not registered with the government, they are not a non-profit charity. They are working for a local television station, which makes of our life stories much in the way of broadcast soap opera. In the absence of anyone else doing this kind of research, they have built up a network of connections that has no official status outside of the commercial nature of their work. When they move on to something more lucrative, we will once again be forgotten, with no record left behind. This is of course extremely bothersome, but this is how it works. I have been offered many occasions to speak on such television programs, but I have refused.

I had little choice but to work with this group. We went through my collected bogus paperwork, bogus passport, and bogus references and one by one checked off the information contained in them as being useful or not (mostly not). We made full connection inquiries, meaning, everyone within the process was tracked down for any kind of information they might have (or not; mostly not). For the million times I’ve gone through this on my own, it is somehow exponentially more painful when it becomes “official” in this unofficial sense, and is thus the “last ditch effort” before calling it quits. That it is inherently invalid on multiple levels concerning its propriety; its legality; the disturbing reaction of those supposedly advocating for me who still express much in the way of unwanted pity; as well as my wholly absent sense of agency in the matter is viscerally disturbing. Yet there is no real alternative.

The bureaucracy of it all is stunning, and the hoops my lawyers have jumped through—in an effort to “rectify” a falsehood designed to remain unrectified—are rather phenomenal. For just one example, I needed to obtain a letter from a lawyer in order to look into the archives of a government ministry where police reports are kept. This is where the local police say the report made about my purported abandonment (as documented on the two scraps of paper furnished by the nuns of my orphanage, later corroborated by my orphanage register entry when they finally deigned show it to me) would be kept if indeed this is how events transpired. I say “if” because I have my doubts. A lot of doubts. It wouldn’t be so bad if anyone treated my doubts as valid, but this minimum is not forthcoming. I mean to say that I tend to call everything into question, such as my passport (was it made at the orphanage as well? Does it share the same handwriting of all my other papers?); those I work with tend to give these documents credence. Which is my main point here: What does it mean to be an active player in the burlesque charade of one’s own life story?

This charade has many bit players. For example, I heard second-hand from the family of the priest who baptized me that apparently they were “touched” by my story. Yet they maintain that he “was not aware” that he was giving children false names. This is patently ludicrous. In Lebanon, there is a finite set of valid family names, and there are Arabic words which are meaningless in this regard. There is no way, therefore, he did not know. Especially when, as we are finding out now, these “names” often moved into the realm of mockery: “Noel Hefleh (Christmas Party) for one child born around December 25, for example.

But a focus on the systemic aspect of it raises further questions: How and when was the list of false family names that were assigned to us produced? By whose banal efforts? Based on what incentives? And by what extent of denial do we not refer to this act openly and honestly? Why are we pretending here? Pretending that I, like most of us, was abandoned, and not, more likely, traded, trafficked, coerced for a sum of money? For what is this pretense, for whom these mythologies? Is it to save my feelings? I’ve been to the bottom of the bottom of the bottom of the abyss in terms of what I’ve learned about the depravity of child trafficking, brokering, and breeding infants for adoption; do my feelings really need to be spared at this point? Please, spare me this greater insult.

This charade has a vocal chorus. This is revealed in the “protective” lies that flow from the mouths of orphanage and hospital workers, many of religious orders, protecting the power structure: “Those archives were burned during the war”. No, in fact, they weren’t. A friend’s stoic resolve resulted in her obtaining her paperwork from a hospital basement after being told such a story. How existential is this inability to find resolution? It was, for example, on the third attempt seeking my entry in the civil registry—and only after making a huge scene in the office—that my lawyer found “me”. And if I had stopped at one? At two? The vagaries of these efforts weigh us down with doubts, and later with regrets. To borrow a visual metaphor from The Wizard of Oz, it’s like being forced to address the overwhelming fire-and-smoke image that glares down at your bodily insignificance when you know there’s a man behind the curtain standing right there next to you. That he maintains his power position after you point him out reveals how Kafkaesque our situation truly is.

I have become hugely sensitive to this need to maintain mythologies. In particular, I am quite sensitive to anything I do that might solidify this mythology, and thus make it more difficult for those coming after me. The path of least resistance is to fall back on the luxury and privilege afforded to me via adoption, but I know this is a trap. I could have continued to hound the orphanage in the hopes of finding a sliver of information after they threatened to destroy all of the records in their possession; but I could not live with such an outcome. I could very easily speak on television in a vain attempt to find family; but this very act supports a super-mediation of our Voice, and it sustains a power structure that I find repugnant, and which I refuse to support to the extent of which I am capable. My “personal” needs must take second place; by this I mean to say that we must err on the side of all, and at all times.

This charade has a large and eager audience. Our stories become trifling entertainment for such an audience’s own psychological and political needs. Our dismissal becomes affirmation for their own maintenance of the power structures we decry. Many who read this will be nonplussed and say that this is “different” from their own concerns as domestic adoptees. For the record, I don’t see a difference between international and domestic adoptions, in terms of class difference and inequality of power. I don’t see any difference between my actions here and domestic adoptees trying to unseal records, or obtain medical information, or who attend the legislators’ convention every year for decades on end, or who in any other way continue to battle for some semblance of justice for what should be rightfully ours, genetically, genealogically, legally, medically, ethically, and morally. I don’t see any difference between this and mothers who feel helpless and unable to speak up about the theft of their children; mothers activated in Guatemala and Argentina and Spain demanding answers; mothers in China who leave their own homes and families to track down their trafficked children. We are united via such dispossession and displacement.

To self-segregate, to see ourselves as a passive audience, to not activate ourselves on this level is to mimic adopters who, with their class status and position in society, are able to do infinitely more than those without such connections. That an immigrant woman—without means, without access to online chats, without the basic societal acknowledgment of her status as a living human being that we all take for granted—still manages to find the energy to fight to have her child returned to her is both an inspiration and a painful reminder of how much of nothing our endless discussions and hashtag passivism concerning the topic accomplishes. That there are infinite parades of functionaries from the various pillars of society who pat us on the head and congratulate our “speaking up” and “speaking out”, but not our “acting up” or “acting out”, should give us great pause. They are functional to this system, active agents of its will, and they have much to answer for.

For how are we expected to handle the systemic nature of things at this, the end game of it all, the end perhaps of our searches, or of our very narratives, when we have absorbed the lies, the deceits, the hideous truth of child trafficking, that require of us that we still pretend that in any way the system might one day be forthcoming? That we still must give the System its due respect and honorific regard? That we still have to work within the paradigm of the adoption mythologies and infrastructure that we know to a despairing degree are false, and to an unfathomable level? A system that we must come to understand is designed and maintained to put us in our place, if not expel us from the body politic, to exterminate our Voice?

“Ketchup, or mustard?”

In a class I teach called “Voice Manifest”, I show a movie entitled Incident at Oglala: The Leonard Peltier Story. One of the readings that came out of research for the class is entitled: “Rhetorical Exclusion in the Trial of Leonard Peltier”; it maintains that the discourse of the courts, laws, media, etc. conspired not just against Leonard Peltier in his case, but against American Indian culture. At the end of his trial, Peltier, fully aware of his own railroading at the hands of the FBI and legal system, made a statement in order to enter into the record the mistreatment of American Native peoples—these were the self-same Natives who were barred from the courtroom. The prosecution rebuts his statement, and Peltier tries to regain his ground. The judge ignores his questions, and then interrupts him to pass a guilty sentence. The article states:

The legal rules, regulations, and language superceded the only informal attempt Peltier or other American Indians made to attain power in the courtroom. Peltier’s cries appear to be a desperate effort to fight for legitimacy, but he is silenced by the very power structure he is trying to fight.

This is our plight. That we might always answer and never ask questions reveals the power differential at work. That we might attempt to “enter into the record” our protest without considering the nature of that record or its audience undoes our effort before we begin. Leonard Peltier remains in prison, and I would be willing to venture that the majority of Americans have no idea who he is, or how he ended up where he is, or in fact that the prison system in the United States is now the equivalent of what reservations/internment camps have historically been for marginalized populations. This acculturation of ignorance is quite willful.

It begs the question: Why would we continue to think that working within the system is a possibility, here or anywhere in the world for that matter? How do we get past this systemic delegitimization, barring an overthrow of every wretched aspect of it that sustains adoption as an industry and a practice? And here we come to those who have no issue with their own inherent ability to heed and heel and point and toe the line in order to acquire a sense of accomplishment. How to explain adoptees who, similar to super-mediating adoptive parents are so completely focused on their own personal narrative that they refuse to see how our stories as adoptees map onto those who are equally displaced and dispossessed? There is no explanation, except to link it to our adoptive acculturation. We are active agents contributing to our own Darkness.

This charade has its hecklers. This is a toxic strain within the adoption discourse, but it needs to be brought to light. For example, what do we make of a “support group” for adoptees that destroyed years of history found in thousands of informational posts? This targeted action resulted in the signing off of the board by many for whom it was too painful to receive from others “like us” the treatment we get from the dominant realm. Furthermore, the destruction of history and the “infinite present” are prerequisites of disempowerment, historically speaking. What then to make of the epithets that flowed behind our backs that we were “acting adopted”? Why would we use the same enfeebling and culturally based diagnostic terms that are designed to keep us Voiceless against each other? Where does that really place us in this battle? To this I counter: “And you are acting like adopters”.

What does it say when adoptees, claiming activist stances, wallow in self-advocacy, self-help, guru-isms, and other disturbing trappings of our narcissistic acculturation? Who don’t see “cultural appropriation” as a feeble stepping stone to something much deeper, but as a goal in and of itself? Who support immigrant deportation? Who state that rioters in London “have it coming to them”? In all cases, again mimicking the dominant culture in all of its ignoble classifications and categorizations and stereotypes? What does it mean when such adoptees determine that the “boat rockers”, the “radicals”, the “vocal” are an impediment to their careers, to their own arrival at the table of power, or to their ability to gather crumbs thrown to them therefrom? Following every other battle for civil rights historically speaking, can we still afford to not have a discussion of what it means to “Step ’n’ Fetch It”—or, indeed, to refuse to do so—within the world of adoption? To accept the basic premise of our “luck” or our “salvation” class-wise or otherwise is to embody the brutality and violence of our adoption and carry it forward a hundredfold.

These are, I know, rhetorical questions, and painful ones at that. Given the amount of time I spent in my own fog and happily drinking my own soma and Kool-Aid cocktails, I do not bring this up as an accusation, but as a plea. I am not concerned with whether someone agrees with me or not. I simply aim for a true starting point to the debate; an even playing field. I do not buy into the idea that we “are all entitled to our opinions”. It shuts down any discussion before it even has a chance to occur; it destroys any kind of moving forward. Linguistically and sociologically speaking it is an invalid premise that comes from a particular cultural context; an affectation of our acculturation. For our statements, actions, and agency as such all have repercussions on all whom we are connected to, directly and indirectly.

I have said this before: Unlike adopters, unlike the adoptees beholden to them, I would give anything to not write on this subject. I would give anything for one minute of one day to not think about adoption. I would do anything to avoid the constant reminder of this status, especially as it expands out to others equally displaced and dispossessed, with whom I feel great common cause. I would love to be able to understand what it means to “enjoy” this status as they seem to; this in-fact stasis. I look back at the past two months of words posted here and I am left completely and utterly undone. There is no catharsis to be found here.

Our voices, in the separate and in the singular, are but whispers in the void. Our voices, as active as they might seem to be, are not Action. Our Voice, not necessarily united, but seen as an aggregate whole, a spectrum valid only in its completeness, going from most docile to most radical, is a powerful tool for the actual change needed in society to rectify the injustice of our adoption. At the end of these two months of musings and questions/answers, I might only ask that at the very least, even among our disagreements and disaccord, can we not acknowledge the validity of this, our Voice? Not what I say, but what we say, collectively speaking? Is there any hope to be found by remaining firmly entrenched within and wholeheartedly affirming the status quo that was the direct cause of our adoptions in the first place? If so, can those happy within this Matrix at least formalize their actions, and admit to themselves the effect this has on the rest of us, with a dropping of the pretense of “activism” where none exists, and an acknowledgment of the desire to see us silenced? Can we not pretend we are changing the System until such a time that we actually have managed to change it? Me, I want to be done with this charade.

Is this even possible? This is my question.

About Daniel Drennan ElAwar

Adoptee, rematriated.
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19 Responses to Why are adoptees never asking, always answering questions?

  1. janmarie says:

    I hope so. But adoptees need empowerment in finding their voice and using their voice. I think support groups can be helpful when they open up the floor to the discussion that it is okay to challenge the beauty of adoption. Many adoptees aren’t even aware that such a discussion exists until they stumble upon these groups, usually by accident because they’re looking for search help.
    Daniel. I cannot tell you how much I admire you and how grateful I am for you and others like you who are so dedicated in the fight against child trafficking/adoption. Your writing is beautiful. I wish there was no need for it but there is need for it and you do it because it has to be done. You inspire me. I want to help you and I hear your sense of urgency. I wish you could be rewarded with a feeling of great accomplishment for everything you are doing

  2. Daniel, this is such a wonderful analysis today. I’m probably going to comment more on it later, but I’ve got time restraints at the moment. I will say, though, that we addressed some of these issues back n 1996–97 with The Psychology of Self-Defeatism in the Adoptee Rights Movement written by Damsel Plum. It’s different from what you wrote today, and geared to the US, but related. Not much has changed.

    There were great opportunities to change in records access in the US after 1999, , but certain elements of the so-called movement refused to take the chance. They preferred the old way of doing things. They even refused to support Oregon Measure 58, claiming it would set back “adoptee rights” 20 years. As if they’d done anything of value in that 20 years they had. They still argue that line. They’re still holding their hats in their hands begging for crumbs. Are they afraid to ask for what they want? Or worse, get what they want? I have no idea. NJ has had a freaking bill going for 40 years and have gotten nowhere with it, no matter if it’s clean or highly compromised. I appreciate their perseverance, but they’ve sold out too many times to be taken seriously.

    For now I want to echo janmarie’s thought about your work. It is inspiring and tenacious.The sad part of this is that the people who are writing the truth and acting the truth are dismissed or even attacked for “raining on our parade” or taking chances blah blah. Some days I wonder if it’s worth it. Well it is but you’d not know it by the stats.

  3. Yep lots of good house slaves and lots of do nothing complainers on-line, that never get off the couch. NJ is brutal because adoption is de-regulated (a lawyers game) and the Catholic Church moved “father” priests to NJ, not to mention the ACLU and the largest newspaper advocates for secret adoption.

  4. janmarie says:

    I think to imply that we are couch potatoes is counterproductive.

    We’re dealing with all kinds of adoptees in all stages of nightmare or healing.

    Not everyone is cut out to be an activist, or a leader. But they can be supportive in other ways. No bit of support should be considered too small.

    It reminds me of being on the subway, feeling sad or crabby and a beggar passes asking for anything, even a penny or a smile. And I put on my even crabbier leave-me-the-funk-alone face and he senses my sadness and says something funny and makes me laugh. He smiles. I smile. No money changes hands and we have a better day. It was all we could do at the time.

  5. In no way do I mean to imply that everyone need be an activist. Nor do I deny the lifetime I spent trying to make sense of things (an ongoing process, to be sure). The inequality found in scrambling up a ladder and then pulling it up after oneself, though, puts the burden squarely on the divisive one’s shoulders, I think. I mean here to say that acknowledgment of one’s “humanity” is a given for those in power, who then decide who is seen as valid, and who isn’t. When we mimic this internally, we do their work for them. This isn’t new; this is the history of activism. It just seems as though the “inversion” I’ve often gone on about has caught up with the adoptee movement. This need be called out, not in terms of denigrating others, but in terms of honesty. The racists in France I gave credit to for acknowledging their racism. The Anglo-Saxon version—sublimated and reversed—is much more insidious.

    janmarie, you sum it up beautifully for me. An equivalence was found; however fleeting, and an honest acknowledgment of each other’s humanity. This would be a minimal starting point.

  6. This is beautiful and astringent and needed.

    Marley is correct: too many groups settle for the “cap in hand” approach. I don’t see how leaving some out to be rectified later will help. At all. Nor do I see in my home state of Missouri how perpetuating the horrid idea that we need permission slips from adults or the meddling of other adults in the form of social workers is at all helpful. NO. I cannot see or support this at all. To have adoptees saying, “Well, it’s a start.” No, it’s more of the same. It’s also usually the people who benefit who say, “It’s a start.”

    I see where janmarie might have been confused, but I truly don’t see this post about pushing us all to be activists. It’s about how “activism” is defined, and how people are left in or out to please the dominant group so that certain people can get positive feedback from the community-at-large (pulling up those ladders that Daniel mentioned). The not rocking the boat, so that APs don’t get their feelings hurt, or adoptees don’t get their feelings hurt, or first parents don’t get their feelings hurt. The problem is that it’s impossible to please everyone, and once down that path, one ends up selling out one’s allies. It’s possible to have allies without sharing their beliefs 100%. It’s possible to disagree like adults without cutting off communication. On the other hand, if one’s goal is to be the beloved of the larger group, probably not. If one spreads oneself extraordinarily thin to placate each segment of the “constellation,” however, one’s message is less powerful. It is truly impossible to make everyone happy, a lesson one learns with age.

    This post is about being aware of the power we hold, and how we wield it. Like Daniel, I also hate being told, “You’re acting adopted,” as if that completely explains my being angry about an injustice. I said it once to someone and have always regretted it.

    I love the story of the subway, janmarie. I’ve had those moments, myself: I am so deep in my bullshit and someone unexpected pulls me out of it. If we can connect with others on the level of humanity, we are getting somewhere.

  7. Is it possible?

    I think yes, and I think you are spot on with how you think things out.

    I consider myself an activist, in multiple areas; anti-trafficking, anti-colonialism, pro-environment, etc etc etc. I see these issues throughout activist circles. There is little community, if any at all amongst most activist circles. Historically, it was, hey, lets spread ourselves thin, meet at all these protests / rallies, and yet, we never seem to accomplish much of anything.

    Maybe I am at the point now where I’m a couch potato activist. I don’t go to rallies or protests anymore, because these are the dominant cultures way of saying that dissent is acceptable. It’s the dominant culture’s way of saying what it is that is acceptable, and whatever is acceptable is what doesn’t change the structure of the dominant culture.

    We are all human, all in need of respect, all in our traumas, all in different stages of healing.

    And, I see what happened with the Veronica Brown case, and saw, like with Leonard Peltier, the colonial system ripping apart promises to native people. They never intended to have it protect vlunerable people. Laws were put into place to protect / keep the power structure the same. to keep those in power, in power.

    It is possible, but I think it will take a great amount of creativity to see solutions outside of the current paradigm. Which is difficult to do, and so seeing the spectrum of who we are is a chance to see the paradigm for what it is, and then we can use our creativity, as one way, to creat something different. Perhaps back to the partnership society, or something else entirely.

    Thank you for asking the question, Daniel.

  8. BB Church says:

    Yes, Daniel. Yes.

  9. janmarie says:

    There was background I hadn’t considered and I was confused.

    I had to ask myself why I didn’t ask questions? I must have known deep down there was something dark but I chose to stay in denial because I could not stand to have the truth shatter my safe little world. So I allowed a person of great significance to be taken down because I was carrying out my own needy personal agenda where I thought I needed the system in place.

    And the adopters won in the end anyway.

    Perhaps next time I will have learned my lesson. Ask questions.

    Yes Daniel. I’m beginning to understand. It is good this is being addressed. Thank you.

  10. janmarie says:

    Sorry. I forgot something…

    Huge lesson learned: ask questions and never accept the pay no attention to the man behind the curtain answer.

  11. Kate Reinke says:

    Daniel, I can hardly believe what I am reading. You know full well that nothing was destroyed, it was simply archived. As for your accusation that a support forum, that never promised to be anything but a support forum, was not political or activist enough for you, well, fine, start your own. We did not lose “many” members when we archived the forum. We lost you. There is a fine balance when you are trying to help an entire sector of society who all have different experiences. Forcing them to hold a particular view in order to receive support is counter-productive for a support group. The process of de-fogging is difficult and being beaten over the head with the most extreme views will send people running back into the fog and who does that help?
    You know that certain members of that support forum worked tirelessly to get open access to records and are horrified when those bills are tampered with and non-contact provisos are added. You also know that that support form, whose administrators you are attempting to shame here, provided you yourself with years of support and validation and encouragement. I am shocked and disappointed beyond belief.

  12. Hi Kate, thanks for posting. I’m not sure where to start. Perhaps by saying that I’m not sure what the semantic difference is between “archiving” and “destroying”. Instead of my overly hyperbolic statement I might have said “removing almost completely from any ability to be read by members”, which is pretty much the same thing to me. What I remember is signing on and seeing that my posts had dwindled from thousands to mere hundreds, which was like a kick in the stomach. I imagined that this was shared by others; I’m not singling myself out. In any case, in none of my correspondence with admins did I express anything approaching anger about it, and bringing it up here is not about shaming anyone. I’m asking simply, “what does it mean?” In the big picture, and covering many examples given here and not, what does it mean?

    You needn’t lecture me about support, or de-fogging, or trying to reach many people from different sectors of society. I know the difficulties here. Yet it is interesting that you use words such as “extreme” and “beat[ing] over the head”, which pretty much corroborates my sense of having overstayed my welcome. I defy anyone to point out where I might have implied that I believe in “forcing” anyone to think or do anything. But this focus on me is beside the point. What this post is trying to say, and what these months of posts are trying to say is that the full spectrum of voices is required come hell or high water. Selecting a band from within that spectrum, in the long run, is what becomes counter-productive. This is all I’m saying, and I used these boards as an example of this. I’ve said to many people who asked after me that I cherished very much those boards, and they were there for me during many hard times, and you could chart my “journey” as it were historically speaking by reading my posts. That is, until that day. Just for the record, I also continue to maintain all of my links to those boards from my web site, and to this day recommend that people join there when they ask me for online support sites.

    But this is what makes what happened and what I am reading here most difficult. I don’t expect from those who share a given situation in any way to effectively marginalize others in a manner similar to that which occurs from within the realm that attempts to keep them down. This is an inversion of the “ungrateful adoptee” epithet, in this particular case. I’m not sure why it should be that there is no sense here of dialogue or compromise or consensus; it was decided—and correct me if I am wrong—that certain viewpoints became less welcome shall we say than others, in an effort to “help the largest number”. I understand the logic here, but at the same time I am saying that this doesn’t make sense for a variety of reasons, especially given the amount of people who lurked and never posted, but also and more importantly in terms of the self-selecting feedback loop that becomes the net result, but which you are instead misstating I advocate for. This is the farthest thing from the truth.

    Nothing in our communication, or in any of my communication with any of the admins, or with anyone since about what happened should lead anyone to any of the conclusions that you have come to here. I never said that the boards were not political or activist enough for me. Much of my posting there was in a light-hearted vein, and I appreciated this aspect of the boards. I’m simply attesting to what I’ve witnessed dozens of times in the past in other activist circles, and what I continue to see as the ultimate Achilles heel of any activist or support group of any kind: drawing lines. That’s all! For me, in the organizations that I’ve worked on, and drawn up bylaws and charters for, and elaborated rules of consensus for, losing one member is losing one too many. Not only that, but any “self-cloistering” is unhealthy. Others may not see it like this, which is their prerogative, but they can’t berate me for seeing it this way, and this is what I’m trying to express is problematic. Not in terms of just this one board, but in terms of all of our work. And not just in our realms, but in the overlap between activisms. I don’t know how to make this more clear, that I am trying to speak of inclusion, and bridging, and interconnectedness. Of community.

    I am grateful for the years I spent on those boards, and for the friends that I have made there. I bear them no ill will, and wish them success. I am the first one who is willing to bow out if that is what is needed for the “common good” as it were. But as I’m leaving, I’m going to point out that this, in and of itself, is a sign of something that perhaps should be given heed. Not in terms of judgment, or accusations, or anger, or spite, or what have you. As a plea, for unity. That’s all.

    I hope this helps clear things up, and thanks for raising these concerns here.

  13. Kate Reinke says:

    Hi Daniel, I appreciate your reply. Regarding the archive, it is accessible to members – there is a link on the main forum where any member can access all of the past posts. The reasons this was done was to make the forum manageable for the admins, because many topics are discussed over and over as new members join and ask the same questions and because one of our members’ biological family members were threatening legal action that was possibly going to involve the forum. We felt that archiving those posts so they could be removed would protect the privacy of members who were not discreet about sharing information.

    I felt that your leaving the forum was a great loss to all of our members and I told you that privately – the loss of one member was too many that day, you are right. But I do feel that you expressed your anger to me in our correspondence, especially when I mentioned our TOS at the forum being primarily for support, not politics. You even implied that you had been wasting your time on the forum. I guess I felt when you started your paragraph about the forum in this blog post with the words “This charade has its hecklers” that your were referring to us. The words I chose, extreme and beating over the head, were specifically with regard to what happened on the forum at that particular time when a few new members joined. I do not mean extreme as in aggressive, I mean extreme as in on one end of the spectrum. The fact is that some of our members believe that there is a place for adoption in our society. The majority believe that reform is essential and that sealed birth records are unlawful. The extreme end of the spectrum do not believe there is any place for adoption at all. There was never a move by the admins to make the board more “friendly”; we have always asked everyone to respect each others’ beliefs. The problem was that new members were getting multiple replies telling them why they were wrong, before they even had a chance to get to know everyone. You know from your time on the board that the more senior members would always try to show the other side to those members who joined and only talked about how happy they were to be adopted. We would dig carefully to find out why that person had joined a support forum if they were so happy and more often than not, they would realise what had led them to us. Inclusion and bridging and interconnectedness can only happen if you can get people to hang around and talk to you.

  14. Just for the record, it was you email that referred to the “archived” messages as “deleted”; I took it hyperbolically to “destroyed”. In my email I said I was “…astounded. Shocked and angry”. The truth? This was me trying to actually express this emotion which has posed problems for me my whole life. I see it as a valid emotion now, and its expression as valid as well. For what that is worth. To be clear, this wasn’t directed at anyone personally, but at what had taken place. Imagine you come home and your stuff is packed up into storage; furthermore you have to request your most personal item from that “storage”.

    For me this was requesting my introductory topic, which was still active at the time. Who would stay in this environment? I ask this in all honesty. This is a devil’s bargain of no small proportions. My implication was not really of having “wasted my time”–time which I stated was worth it–but of what was missing from the “contract” with users, which I realize all the more now is only apparent in retrospect. But this is trifling and not as important as what I maintain is the bigger picture.

    This bigger picture still remains in my opinion, for any group of those marginalized for any reason, anything that mimics in any way the dominant mode of things that they find themselves going up against. Whether this takes the form of the inversions I’ve described these past months, or levels of inclusiveness/exclusiveness, or structural controls on expression, or limited definitions of what counts as “politics”, etc., there is danger here. This is compounded by a technology which is in and of itself “leaning” in a particular direction in terms of all of the above, adding to it communicative skill, ability, access, etc. As always, I tend to focus on bias that is unseen, unstated, unexpressed, but nonetheless there.

    Listen, in all ruptures/splits/breakups/however we define it there is blame for each side, and there is agency for both sides as well. I assume my agency for having misunderstood the focus of the boards, as well as for deciding to remain away. By “hecklers” I was referring to those who claimed I might be “acting adopted”–this required a bit of a lead up. But again, I don’t think this is the issue, and I’m trying extremely hard to make this clear, because I also know there are Adoption Piranhas (throughout the spectrum) who love this kind of thing. I categorically refuse to burn bridges, or hold grudges, or what have you. I’ve learned my lessons, and I was just hoping to make of that another learning experience, come what may. People are free to take it or leave it as they wish; and the future manifestations of this might surprise us all.

  15. Daniel,

    Where do I begin?

    So much to say. I, too, “would give anything to not think about adoption”. I long to be normal. But I am not. I had the shit kicked out of me that evening in March of 1974 when I answered the phone only to be told that the woman on the other end of the call was a sister I had never known. My so-called loving adoptive parents had lied to me for the 18 years of my whole life up to that point! That moment was the most devastating moment of my life. People assume I must be happy and joyful to have been reunited, and I was, but then, non-adopted people do not want to hear my anger over the situation – the entire situation. Non-adopted do not want to hear my questions. They do not want to hear about the defective systemic problems that led to entire family systems and political systems joining forces to entrap me.

    There are many issues you raise here that I would like to address. Some I will come back to talk about. Some issues I cannot comment on publically, and you know why. The hunted is still being hunted. I left the group you mentioned to protect the group as a whole. I will go back someday when other matters in my life are cleared up. I wasn’t asked to leave, but the situation caused me to back out of much of my life for over a year now. Indeed, this comment will cause flare-ups elsewhere.

    In being as outspoken as I have been since being found in 1974, I didn’t realize that this made me a whistleblower. I didn’t realize that this job would be so hard. And I didn’t realize that so many people would take issue with the angry adoptee will not be quiet. I can’t be quiet when, in a supposedly free country, the government can, and does, confiscate adoptees’ actual birth certificates for no crime committed, but because of adoption. If that weren’t bad enough, adoptees are then subjected to be re-born, on paper. I repeat this over and over.

    Surprisingly, in the past few years, some people are actually taking notice of the severity of the problems. These people ask me, “They aren’t still doing this, are they?”

    I answer, “Oh, yes they are.” (Sealing and falsifying birth certificates).

    Then I ask, “So, now that you know, what are YOU going to do to stop it?”

    Some people are asking me the RIGHT kind of questions on what can be done about the problems.

    Soon, very soon, another article I wrote will be published. It is very direct. I am surprised that the editor will publish it. She is open to the implicit hard questions my article brings to light. By stating facts. Implying the questions. I’ll be back here with the link.

    Yes, I see adoptees arguing, discussing, in and out of fog. I see adoptees doing their own form of change, even if it is searching and finding and being in reunion. Even the quiet ones tell their stories to others. And the activists, well, I don’t know how I did it this long. I just know that the moment I heard the truth from a stranger who really is my sister, I knew that this thing called adoption is way bigger than I am.

    This isn’t about me. I am one voice.

    One voice. Broken record. For forty years.

    BTW: Thought you should know that by logging in to comment using Twitter, I cannnot click on the boxes to receive follow-up comments or posts. Glitch? (Been off my main email accounts, too. Will catch up with you on this later.)

  16. PS Happy New Year! And with that, I am off to a gathering!

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