Who Speaks for the Children?
an interesting article with some concerns which need to be raised at many levels by many who take the ethics seriously.
Yet again, we see on Facebook one of those ‘discussions’, in which adoptees are described as ‘bitter’ and ‘unhappy’ and assumptions are made about what adoptees want, including that we’d rather see children live on the street and in orphanages than be adopted by families internationally. Why put those things together? Who would want to see children live as they have to because they have no choice, because they have been abandoned, discarded or are the victims of poverty, war, government policy or misunderstanding about what adoption actually means? It is ridiculous to suggest that adult adoptees would want to see young children suffer either all of the above or the trauma of adoption, the losses of adoption. It is a cleft stick which people hold over us to beat us with when we suggest that adoption has an underbelly, is not the beautiful gift some adopters and adoption enthusiasts like to think it is.
As someone who was a ‘misconception’, it’s no wonder I find the misconceptions about adoption and the adopted life irritating, irrelevant or frustrating to hear for the umpteenth time. Before you non-adoptees jump on my back about being bitter or getting a useful life, let me make it clear that in all other areas of my life I feel very relevant and not at all a ‘misconception’. I’ve had a full, rich life, have made a contribution and despite all odds, continue to be ‘an engaged realist’ and an optimist about many things. The things I would like to see disappear are the same things I would have liked to see disappear when I was twenty – poverty, famine, war, lack of rights for children, inequalities, bad coffee, selfishness and the hardships of the adopted life. We adoptees hear the same things over and over, now that we are out and talking about adoption, labelled the Johnny-come-latelies’ by those who, instead of encouraging us, understanding that victims of abuse need time to talk/reveal/disclose, knock us at every opportunity. They don’t thank us for our disclosures about how it really is or for setting the record straight, for contributing to the understanding of the effects of adoption. They criticise us for speaking our truth, a right it seems that belongs to others but not to adoptees! Our truths are unpopular, they challenge, destroy popularly held notions, shatter myths and show others up for liars, cheats, manipulators and also for the damaged, wounded people they are. Most of us understand that, have compassion and do not judge the individual. What we will not accept, is being told we are abusive for speaking the truth. Our alternative is to retreat back into silence, to maintain the lies, the myths and misconceptions. I am reminded of that shockingly graphic description of the bayonetting of prisoners of war by Japanese soldiers, they were ordered to run until they dropped. It seems sometimes we are ordered to do many things, some of them contradictory, given our instructions on how to live, how to talk about adoption, what to say and what not to say. When we do spill our guts, tell it how it is, we get bayonetted for that too.
All of these non-adoptees seem to have overlooked the fact that it is our call, for us to make of it what we will and what we have to, in order to get our rights. We’re not asking for anything extra or extraordinary, just the same rights as other people to know who we are and where we came from, to know the truth of our identities. I guess many of us long ago gave up on the idea that we might learn the truth of our conception, our birth and our early months. Even in a situation that appears to be open, we get the version our mother or someone else wants to give us, we may have no means of checking it’s veracity. Non-adoptees don’t seem to think it matters or is important. Remember the adopter nicknamed Binky? He believed we should all forget the past, because it was not important or relevant! Some of us don’t have that luxury, because we never knew anything about it nor will we ever know. Easy to say for those who have a different relationship to the past, their own history and know their story. Time to imagine what it must be like cast adrift, alone with no sail, nothing to steer by and no known departure point or destination.
Another misconception, usually held by mothers, is that adoptees are competitive about suffering and believe they suffered more than mothers. Suffering is suffering, it is not comparative, competitive and does not have some sort of league table. All who suffer deserve compassion and it would be wonderful to see that compassion extended to adoptees – real compassion, not pity or the false words which say they wish us well in getting over our ‘bad adoption’ or words which invalidate, ridicule and belitle. Adoptees live their whole lives under the cloud of adoption, mothers from the time the idea of adoption is raised after they have conceived in their teens of early adult years. Yes, it must very inconvenient to have adult adoptees telling it as it is, but accepting with good grace, humility and dignity would improve credibility, understanding and good-will. It immediately establishes a base of truth, builds trust and takes away that rather uncomfortable aspect of adoptees appearing to be punished for speaking, being honest and existing. No doubt we changed a lot of lives, forever, but it was not our fault and never will be. Those very same words we say to victims of other abuse we say to adoptees – it was not your fault, you were not to blame! That acknowledgement goes a long way towards setting a base-line for victims of adoption to become survivors and eventually, hopefully thrivers. For some, the Australian Government Apology may be a beginning. Others may need other interventions,other recognition and validation. Hopefully that too will come in time.