please tell meMost of us go through life being labelled many, many times. For adoptees there are additional labels – bastard, illegitimate, ungrateful, needy, evil, speaker of vile words and so on. Those who frequent the blogosphere, facebook etc will be more than familiar with them and with the insults and ridicule which regularly come our way when we speak out about the truth of adoption for adoptees or express a view about some aspect of our lives. For instance as someone who accepted the South Australian Apology for forced adoption, not just for myself, but for my deceased mother, since no-one else was entitled to do so, I have been the target of sustained criticism and insult, all from parents or fellow adoptees. I have been labelled as having a psychiatric disorder for my beliefs and for expressing them honestly and openly. I have received instructions on how I should conduct myself, how I should live and what I should write, say and do.I have been questioned on my ‘eligibility’ to make a Submission to the Inquiry into forced adoption and told a number of times I had a ‘good’ adoption! I have been labelled as someone who is not entitled to call themselves a ‘woundie’ i.e. suffering from the primal wound, because I am assumed to have had a ‘good’ adoption and am one of the founder members of a group for all adoptees, regardless of their experiences which has been assumed to be only for adoptees with ‘good’ adoptions.
In America, psychiatrists regularly update the criteria for categorising and labelling those with psychiatric difficulties. The latest edition of their diagnostic publication has broadened categories and groups of conditions to include what most people would describe as ‘normal’ behaviour. As one critic said, there will soon be no recognised ‘normal’ behaviour and it will “be harder and harder to be normal”. The incidence of diagnosed ADHD continues to rise dramatically in children and those as young as two years of age are prescribed drugs never intended for children and often ‘off-list’. 10% of 10 year old boys are said to have ADHD and are on heavy-duty drugs for behaviour such as inattentiveness, anger, impulsivity, inability to concentrate and hyperactivity.Those things which were once seen as accepted behaviour for young boys and were worked round, attended to and known to be relatively transitory, usually. The DSM-V is proposing to replace the diagnosis of ADHD with a new one called “temper dysregulation disorder with dysphoria”. TDD, named by some as “a new monster”
Many decades ago, when your blogger worked in schools, ADHD had not been invented. I worked with classes of up to 50 kids and occasionally found one with an intellectual disability or who was suffering abuse within the family. I worked in a variety of schools in both Hemispheres, with kids who came from the full spectrum of family backgrounds and socio-economic groupings – the severely impoverished, the rich and famous, children who suffered from a lack of parental love, care and attention regardless of background. The richest were often the most impoverished. I saw many distressing situations, many sad kids, but never ADHD.
Labels make people manageable, put them in handy boxes so that they can be dealt with, “understood” and dismissed conveniently and without continued discomfort to the observer , labeller and commenter. They stigmatise, attempt to disempower, make deviant and ‘outside’ and enable the labeller to feel better about themselves since they can conveniently discount the subject, the labelled.
For adoptees the sense of being made an outsider, a ‘fringe dweller’ can sometimes be intense and profound. It comes from all quarters, is relentless, often unexpected, cruel and without mercy, compassion or thought. The popular ‘jokes’ we see about adoptees get thousands of likes and the non-adopted seem to find them hilarious. While it is often a sign of a movement making progress when it can laugh at itself and the painful aspects of it’s features, as it is for individuals, there are some jokes that are just too serious to be funny, because they strike at a very painful place which doesn’t have easy resolve. Why it is funny to announce to a child that they’re adopted is totally beyond this adoptee and attempts to elicit an explanation that makes sense from non-adoptees have so far proved fruitless. Labelling and stigma in action? Any ideas?

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